RIP Nick Menza

Damn. I did NOT expect to wake up yesterday and read this headline:
Menza was performing with the band OHM at the Baked Potato in Studio City, CA when he reportedly collapsed from a heart attack. [...]
Mustaine wrote on Twitter: “TELL ME THIS ISN'T TRUE! I woke at 4 AM to hear Nick Menza passed away on 5/21 playing his drums w/Ohm at the Baked Potato. I’m gutted.”
I remember the day I first listened to Rust In Peace all the way through almost like it was yesterday. I was in college at the time. At that point, the album was well over a decade old- and yet, despite the fact that many younger and far more aggressive bands had come along, nothing I had heard before, or have heard since, topped its high-octane combination of speed, aggression, virtuosity, and acutely topical lyrics.

In many ways, that album was the pinnacle of technical melodic thrash metal. The only album that I think surpasses it is another MEGADETH album- Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?. And, not coincidentally, the only MEGADETH drummer that I think surpasses Nick Menza is also dead- Gar Samuelson, one of the finest drummers who ever lived.

Nor is it a coincidence that the reason both of these drummers were so great is that they didn't start out in metal. Gar Samuelson started out as a jazz drummer, and you can hear those jazz sensibilities all over the first two MEGADETH albums.

As for Nick Menza, well, he was a student of the late, legendary Buddy Rich. (When Neil freakin' Peart calls someone the greatest drummer of all time, as he does call Buddy Rich, you know he really is the best.) His drumming style reflected that heritage- it wasn't just pure speed and power; there was a level of complexity and subtlety to it that made listening to those "middle-years" MEGADETH albums a real pleasure, even when they weren't very good. (I'm lookin' at you, Cryptic Writings...)

In memory of a fallen legend, then, raise your horns, my friends, and let us relive some truly classic thrashterpieces:


Popular Posts