Since forming nearly 20 years ago, Megadeth has seen its ups and downs. There was a time when the guitar virtuosity and political posturing of frontman Dave Mustaine were a force in the metal arena, and the band attained critical and popular success. Mustaine posed -- with his silver Harley-Davidson Fatboy, his dogs, and his expensive furniture -- in glossy popular magazines. Despite being thrown out of Metallica, a band he helped found, Mustaine was the epitome of rock success. Then came the dark period. It began in 1994, with the release of Youthanasia,
and is marked by mediocre albums made all the more alienating by Mustaine's persistent loud mouth and vanity. But Megadeth's fortunes appear to be on the upswing again. The latest lineup -- which, in addition to Mustaine, includes bassist David Ellefson, drummer Jimmy Degrasso, and guitarist Al Pitrelli -- has adopted a modernized look and a slightly updated sound designed to put it back on the metal map. It's been no easy task. Touring in support of its 11th album, The World Needs a Hero
, Megadeth had to cancel a summer show in Malaysia after the government found its violent imagery unfit for mass consumption. Departing the country, the band was delayed for 12 hours by a broken-down plane, making its Taipei, Taiwan performance at 3:30 a.m. There, it played a full show and left, only to have a typhoon kill 35 locals hours later. Megadeth's soap opera has become natural fodder for VH-1's Behind the Music
-- a recent episode recounted the band's troubles, beginning with Mustaine's bitter departure from Metallica. For the North American leg of its tour, Megadeth is letting the public pick its 24-song setlists for each gig, via its website (megadeth.com
). Expect some oldies but goodies, like the newly relevant "Holy Wars . . . The Punishment Due" and "Peace Sells."