How Did Megadeth Get Their Name?


Metal band Megadeth posting in darkness.

Megadeth – Author Anne Erickson, photo by Travis Shinn

One of the most common questions in an interview is always about how that band got their name. That’s especially true if the band is new or not well known. But, when you’re talking to a band like Megadeth, you probably won’t ask them about the origins of their band name. The time I interviewed Dave Mustaine about his guitars, I certainly didn’t ask him about why he named his band Megadeth. I mean, they’ve been around since the 1980s, so it’s not like people are just now discovering them. But, just how did Megadeth get their name?

What’s the official definition of “megadeath?”

Well, megadeath, which is spelled slightly differently from the band name, is “a unit used in quantifying the casualties of nuclear war, equal to the deaths of one million people,” according to Oxford Languages. “Even in an era conditioned to megadeaths, the thought of hundreds of thousands of babies dying could not go unchallenged.” If you look at the graphic of how the word has been used over the years, it started going up in use in the 1950s and peaked in 1986. Wonder why? Yes, that’s being sarcastic. It totally fits the band’s music and motifs.

What was Megadeth’s first name?

Megadeth wasn’t the initial band name of Megadeth. Before they settled on that moniker, the band was called Fallen Angels. That’s catchy, too, but Megadeth is definitely more unique and fits Mustaine’s nuclear war themes.

How did Megadeth get their name?

In his book, “In Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir,” Mustaine describes settling on the Megadeth band name. He wrote, “In the beginning, I was skeptical about my own singing ability, so we brought in a vocalist named Lawrence ‘Lor’ Kane. Lor wasn’t in the band long, but give credit where credit is due: it was Lor who suggested Megadeth as the band’s name. It happened when we were driving around one night, talking about finding exactly the right moniker. Lor knew I had already written a song entitled ‘Megadeth’ and thought it would work equally well as a band name. And he was right. So, thanks for that, Lor.”

Also, a Q&A page on Megadeth’s website adds some reasoning behind the name. It states, “After Dave Mustaine’s untimely departure from his former band, Metallica, he was on a four day cross country bus ride home to the bay area and was jotting down some lyrics on the back of a handbill to pass the time. The pamphlet was from California Senator Alan Cranston and was a political discussion of the dangers of nuclear armament. One quote said ‘The arsenal of megadeath can’t be rid no matter what the peace treaties come to.’ This line also influenced the lyrics to ‘Set the World Afire.'”

So, there you have it. That’s how Megadeth became Megadeth. The name certainly suits the group’s epic, heavy thrash style of playing. Also, it’s nothing like any other band name out there. So, I give these guys an A+ for their name choice.

Anne Erickson
Latest posts by Anne Erickson (see all)
Posted by Anne Erickson | Features, Metal, Music