The stories behind the songs on Megadeth – Dystopia

In honour of Megadeth’s fifteenth studio album Dystopia, out this week, Dave Mustaine gives us deep insights into some of his favourite songs from the band’s blistering new return-to-form.

Fatal Illusion

“That was a fantasy thing about somebody who was an outcast, who wasn’t following party lines, who was going against the grain – maybe this song is a little autobiographical in certain aspects. But instead of dealing with it, this authoritarian society says ‘Don’t try to understand the problem, just get rid of it.’ It’s like, my dad was alcoholic and I often wonder, if he went to AA, would he have lived longer? But back then, people viewed alcoholism with the stigma that these people were weak, not that it was a disease. When I was a kid you couldn’t have interracial marriage, someone who was divorced was awful, so a lot of people have evolved in their thought process. And in the song, the person’s supposed to be executed, he doesn’t die, he comes back and says ‘Okay, you don’t wanna deal with me? I don’t wanna deal with you’.”

Poisoned Shadows

“I wanted to write a really dramatic song, to try and capture some different emotional stuff. It has a lot of sadness to it, and Kiko’s playing, like the riffing during the verses and that haunting melody at the end on the piano, is really refreshing. Lyrically it’s about people hiding from themselves. There are some songs on this record that were influenced by a certain circle of people who were around me in my life. I may not be a very good guy, but my god, I’m not like them. I don’t ever wanna be like them.”


“I don’t want you to think I sit around watching movies all day! But when you see a movie that clicks with you, not only do I remember the scenes, I can recite the lines. Certain movies make that impression. When I was a kid I watched Planet Of The Apes, it was the scariest movie I’d ever seen. One of the only other scary movies I’d seen up to that point was Bambi. Who sends a little kid to watch a movie where the mom dies?! But I digress. I sent stuff to the artist doing the cover, explaining what the song was about. I said ‘Dystopia is about this world that, if we don’t take it back, it’s like Total Recall. It’s gonna be a world that you’ll never recognise, a world so fucking unbelievable that you’ll hate yourself for not having done something when you had the chance.’ So I kinda took that idea of an underground fighting movement from Total Recall, Twelve Monkeys, Terminator; there’s a theme running through those movies, an ‘us and them’ kind of thing. In the beginning there was no chorus at all, I didn’t want to clutter it up with a bunch of words, so I just say ‘Dystopia’.”

Lying In State

“That song is about how it is here with almost every single politician. It talks about how I’ve seen the world change in the 54 years that I’ve been alive. I guess the double entendre came from watching a lot of these politicians, you just know when they’re asked a question the answer is such spin, somebody that doesn’t know shit is gonna go ‘Oh, I get it’, because they don’t wanna say ‘I have no idea what he just said’. But for me, since I watch a lot of political pundits to try to get inspiration for songs, I see when people are spinning stuff. Then you got John Kerry, his wife is the heir to Heinz Ketchup over here, so that dude’s a billionaire. He don’t need to be working! But then he comes out and says the Paris shooters should have been able to be justified for what they did like at Charlie Hebdo, and the world went nuts on him and then he back-pedalled it, and to me that’s ‘lying in state’.”

Bullet To The Brain

“That’s one song that I got stuck on. At the time it was called Where Generals Go To Die, and I wanted to write something about when you programme these men to fight and kill, then they come home and what are they? They’re fighters, trained to kill. You’ve got to take that into consideration and reintegrate them into society, you can’t just make ‘em feel like shit, that’s not only dishonourable but dangerous. I was thinking how to write about that, and totally confused how to do it. Then I spoke to a friend of mine who was a military policeman in the Gulf War. He was in a vehicle in a firefight and the guy in the top turret had been shot from above a whole bunch of times, saving his life, and now he has PTSD. So then I scrapped all the words I had, and that’s where Bullet To The Brain came from. That was the last lyric.”

Me Hate You

“That was a riff that reminded me a lot of Fast Eddie Clarke, from Motörhead when it was Lemmy, Philthy and Fast Eddie. That’s the Motörhead I was weaned on, and I really loved that riff styling, so I naturally gravitate towards it. Every time I pick up my guitar the first thing I do is a Fast Eddie kind of riff. I don’t know why, but I do. The other part during the verses was inspired by old Scorpions, the song Don’t Make Me No Promises. In the band I was in before, Panic, just backyard goofing around, we used to do Scorpions stuff and that was one of the few riffs that made an impression on me. Sometimes you have something in the back of your head, a sentence, a phrase, and the opening never presents itself. Well, this was the perfect time to do that kind of riff with that kind of feeling.”

Melt The Ice Away (originally recorded by Budgie)

“I’m sure you know those Welsh boys! I heard that song in 1976 when the record Impeckable came out, I was 15 – this was even before I’d heard AC/DC! I was hitchhiking from my friend’s house to my mom’s house and I got picked up by a guy who was a programmer for a local radio station, and he had that record. I heard that first song and I was like, ‘Oh my God, that’s the coolest thing in the world!’ It was really bizarre too, they’ve got some weird jazz progressions. In fact Foreclosure Of A Dream has a little bit of flair from Napoleon Bona Parts One And Two!”

Dystopia is out January 22, via Universal.

Megadeth: Dystopia

Chris Chantler

Chris has been writing about heavy metal since 2000, specialising in true/cult/epic/power/trad/NWOBHM and doom metal at now-defunct extreme music magazine Terrorizer. Since joining the Metal Hammer famileh in 2010 he developed a parallel career in kids' TV, winning a Writer's Guild of Great Britain Award for BBC1 series Little Howard's Big Question as well as writing episodes of Danger Mouse, Horrible Histories, Dennis & Gnasher Unleashed and The Furchester Hotel. His hobbies include drumming (slowly), exploring ancient woodland and watching ancient sitcoms.