DFW Music News

Lamb of God Remakes Megadeth, Recalling the Time Rigor Mortis Nearly Kicked Megadeth's Ass

A new release by Lamb of God is bringing back many local memories of metal.
A new release by Lamb of God is bringing back many local memories of metal. Travis Shinn
The metalhead had been visiting his lover Diana for several hours, rendezvousing in the backseat of his rusted old sports car. Dawn approached, and his actual girlfriend would soon wake up and discover his absence. His only option was to sneak into the house, creep into the bedroom and slip into bed without waking her. It was a difficult situation, but not an unusual one. In the 1980s, sneaking out and returning before dawn was typical for a weekend night in the suburbs.

But the metalhead had been gone long enough to start to wonder if his girlfriend would find out and kill him. His imagination began getting the best of him. "Wake up dead, you die," he thought. "Wake up dead and buried."

Not many people would be happy to discover that their significant other is using them for a place to live. For Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine, it was a personal situation that inspired his metal masterpiece “Wake Up Dead,” the lead single from Megadeth’s 1986 album Peace Sells… but Who’s Buying? The song captured ’80s metal perfection and Mustaine’s musical genius, inspiring a legion of guitarists with his unconventional song structure.

“The structure is real unusual,” says Rick Perry of local metal acts Gammacide, Warbeast and Iron Jaw, who was among the legion of North Texas metalheads who saw Mustaine play the song on stage in the ’80s. “It doesn’t go back to the same thing. It keeps changing into several different sections, starts fast and mid-pace yet never returns to the earlier parts. It proceeds in a linear fashion.”

At 60, Mustaine is still surprising fans more than 30 years later. He recently partnered with heavy metal powerhouse Lamb of God for a remake of “Wake Up Dead.” In the official music video, posted to Lamb of God’s YouTube page April 1, Mustaine wields a flying V guitar and ignites the solos with his signature vocals, which have only gotten better with age. Lamb of God’s Mark Morton and Megadeth’s Kiko Loureiro pitched in.

“‘Wake Up Dead’ was a massively important song for me as an aspiring young guitar player,” Morton said in an April 7 press release for the remake. “It was one of the first songs that began my lifelong love of thrash metal and helped reinforce for me that, while solos may be fun, my allegiance is to the RIFF! So you can imagine what a thrill it’s been for Lamb to cover this legendary song with Dave & the rest of the Megadeth guys. Truly an honor. We all had a lot of fun putting this together and I think you can hear that energy in the track.”

“Great to see Dave shredding away,” wrote one fan, who was among thousands of YouTube commenters igniting the likes (77,000, last we checked) and 1.2 million views. “The composition on that solo is just so good. So melodic and catchy, going back & forth between pure shreds and call & response parts. Just awesome.”

Another shared, “Dave is the reason I play guitar, the man’s a walking face melter. Sick collaboration.”

Lamb of God recorded the Megadeth classic remotely. According to the press release, they recruited Mustaine who lent his signature vocal to the track. Megadeth’s Loureiro, Dirk Verbeuren and James LoMenzo also contributed vocals. They’d all been jamming onstage together as part of The Metal Tour of the Year, which Lamb of God and Megadeth kicked off in the summer of 2021, offering one of the first stadium tours since the pandemic erupted.

“Can you hear that sound of armies on the march — of destruction on the horizon?” Mustaine asked in the long-awaited announcement. “That’s this tour coming for you. We cannot wait to return to the stage, and I promise you, you do NOT want to miss these shows. You’re not going to know what hit you!”

The first installment of the tour hit 29 cities, including Dallas in August 2021.

In early April, a week before the second installment of The Metal Tour of the Year, Lamb of God released the “Wake Up Dead” remake on Epic Records and the official video on YouTube.

“We had a blast playing with Lamb of God on their cover of ‘Wake Up Dead,’” Mustaine said in the press release. “Almost as much fun as we’re going to have playing every night on the Metal Tour of The Year. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone!”

Blythe agreed. “What better way to kick it off than a little inter-band jam session? All nine members of Megadeth and Lamb of God are on the thrash classic ‘Wake Up Dead.’ Turn it up, and we’ll see you on the road.”

The first stop of their tour occurred April 9 in Las Vegas with special guests Trivium and In Flames. The groups will be in Corpus Christi on April 14, but no Dallas dates have been announced yet.

The first time Mustiane played “Wake Up Dead” in Dallas, he appeared on stage at The Longhorn Ballroom, an iconic Texas dancehall near downtown. It was November 1987, a few years after the collective paranoia known as “Satanic Panic” swept the South. The Dallas Cowboys still sucked (with a 7-8 record that year). Teenage vampires with mullets dominated Dallas movie theater screens. Glam metal bands were shedding their hairspray, makeup and spandex for Levis, black concert T-shirts and Chucks. Thrash metal, which had been mostly underground, was gripping the rock n’ roll industry, fueled by thrash metal pioneers from California.

Mustaine was one of those pioneers. He’d been part of the biggest band in heavy metal history when it was in its infancy, slaying riffs on Metallica’s 1983 debut album Kill 'Em All. Sadly, their relationship crashed and burned shortly after the album’s release, in part because of Mustaine’s struggle with alcohol and drugs and his aggressive behavior. A few years later, Mustaine formed Megadeth, offering fans a glimpse of what Metallica could have been. Megadeth has sold more than 38 million albums, including five consecutive platinum albums, and earned a dozen Grammy nominations and a Grammy win for “Best Metal Performance” in 2017 for the metal song “Dystopia.” The band’s 16th studio album The Sick, the Dying and the Dead is slated to be released this summer.

“I knew they were going to be something special.” – Former Rigor Mortis manager Jeffrey Liles on Rigor Mortis.

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In the ’80s, Megadeth was supporting its second studio album, Peace Sells … but Who’s Buying? when the band appeared onstage at the Longhorn Ballroom. Dallas music industry legend Jeffrey Liles had been booking shows for six months at the dancehall when he booked a still relatively unknown Megadeth for only about $3,500.

The dancehall had hosted shows by country artists Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson and blues legends B.B. King, Nat King Cole and Al Green. About 10 years earlier, the Sex Pistols played a leg of their tour there. The 800 people who attended didn’t favor the punk rock legends. When Six Pistols' bassist Sid Vicious began taunting the crowd, a woman, as Liles recalls, climbed the wooden fence separating the crowd from the stage and head-butted Vicious, earning the punk rock band several headlines in the morning newspapers and a 2017 article in D Magazine.

“[It] passed into local lore as one of the wildest and most surreal shows in Dallas music history,” wrote former Dallas Observer music editor Jeff Gage.

That was, at least, until Rigor Mortis opened for Megadeth in November 1987.

Liles had brought in other legendary acts — from the Ramones to the Flaming Lips and the Butthole Surfers. He had booked a Motorhead show, but Megadeth would be the first thrash metal band to appear on The Longhorn’s stage.

He originally tapped Texas noise rock group Scratch Acid to open the show. But when Bruce Corbitt, lead singer of local thrash metal band Rigor Mortis, got wind of it, he and Rigor Mortis guitarist Mike Scaccia, who would later join Ministry, went to the ballroom and knocked on Liles’ office door. They told him who they were and asked him to check out their demo. “Put it on the stack,” Liles recalls telling them.

“Mike was like, ‘Fuck that, man, we want you to listen to it now,” Liles says.

Within 30 seconds, “Reanimator” started playing. “It just jumped out of the speakers,” Liles says. “They were so tight, and their music was twice as fast. The guitar solos sounded so immediate. The guitar player (Mike Scaccia) was on his own planet. Instead of playing notes, he was playing a flurry of harmonics. It was like the first time hearing Eddie Van Halen … like a virtuoso violinist. Incredible composition. Mike wasn’t just some guy wailing away. He planned every single note. He had such a gift.”

Liles moved Scratch Acid to the Motorhead show and scheduled Rigor Mortis to open for Megadeth. He eventually became Rigor Mortis' manager and helped them land a deal with Capitol Records, the same record label representing Megadeth.

“I knew they were going to be something special,” Liles says.

Years later, after Gammacide guitarist Rick Perry joined Corbitt’s local metal supergroup Warbeast, Corbitt discussed that Longhorn Ballroom night in November 1987. Perry recalls that Corbitt mentioned how naive they’d been to think that Megadeth would want to party with them after the show.

“Megadeth didn’t talk with them at all,” Perry says. “One of their friends was videotaping Rigor Mortis’ set and then recording Megadeth’s set, and pissed off [Megadeth’s] road manager. He confiscated the tape and got into an altercation with them.

“The Rigor Mortis guys were raising hell and calling them pussies.”

After the show, that altercation would lead Rigor Mortis members and some of their fans, Liles says, to try to tip over Megadeth’s RV into the tributary of the Trinity River that ran behind the Longhorn Ballroom. It’s unclear if Megadeth was inside. But it does explain why when, shortly after the Longhorn show, Mustaine saw Rigor Mortis’ cassette tapes on a desk at Capitol Records, picked one up and blurted out, “How the fuck … They signed these guys? I can’t believe it.”

He didn’t realize that Rigor Mortis’ band manager was sitting not far from him.

“Bruce thought that night was badass,” Perry says.

After a short battle with throat cancer, Corbitt died in late January 2019, a few years after Scaccia’s heart attack on stage at The Rail Club in Fort Worth.

Mustaine had his own battle with throat cancer in 2019. In February 2020, he announced that he had beaten the disease. A year later, Megadeth went on tour with Lamb of God for The Metal of the Year Tour.

Though they haven’t announced a Dallas stop yet, tickets are still available for their Corpus Christi show on April 14 at the American Bank Center Arena. On April 30, they’ll be in Tulsa at the BOK Center.

Corbitt and Scaccia will probably be there in spirit, too, no doubt trying to tip over Megadeth’s tour bus after the show just for laughs.

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Christian McPhate is an award-winning journalist who specializes in investigative reporting. He covers crime, the environment, business, government and social justice. His work has appeared in several publications, including the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the Miami Herald, San Antonio Express News and The Washington Times.

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