Intractable debates are such because they typically involve worthy sides, have complex inter-relations, and inspire passionate allegiances. For these reasons, in thrash metal, some of the most famous, interesting, and controversial debates have to do with Metallica and Megadeth. And one such argument between these two metal titans is over which band did a single song, written by Dave Mustaine when he was in Metallica, the best.
That song is called "The Four Horsemen" by Metallica and "The Mechanix" (its original title) by Megadeth. To complicate matters, Dave Mustaine has also written a song about the four horsemen of the apocalypse, entitled "Blessed Are The Dead" from their United Abominations (2007) album. But originally Mustaine had penned the song "The Mechanix" prior to joining Metallica, when he was in a band called Panic. Upon joining Metallica, this song was among those Mustaine brought to James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich and which ended up on Metallica's 1983 debut Kill 'Em All.
When Mustaine got kicked out of Metallica just prior to going into the studio, Metallica changed the lyrics of "The Mechanix", which focused on Mustaine checking out women who came into the gas station he was working at when he wrote the song, to those of "The Four Horsemen" of the apocalypse from the book of Revelation. Metallica did, however, play "The Mechanix" as it originally sounded both in concert and on their famous No Life 'Til Leather demo.
Mustaine decided to record "The Mechanix" for Megadeth's 1985 debut Killing Is My Business...And Business Is Good!. However, since Megadeth's mission statement at that time was to be the fastest and heaviest band in the world, they increased the speed of the song considerably. What we ended up with are two very different songs. Metallica's slower version is closer to how Mustaine originally intended the song to be heard, but the lyrics are different. Megadeth's quicker, more raw delivery seems deliberately rushed - but the lyrical content remains in its original form.
So which version is better? Like any interesting question, it is very difficult to decide. Both are excellent versions of early 80's thrash, and Mustaine can lay claim to both versions since each are essentially his songs. So when we ask "who did it better?" we must first point out that this question has more to do with the song than the people involved. For the correct answer will, of course, be: Mustaine wins (in each version).
Once we put that issue aside, I'd have to argue that the Kill 'Em All version is better. First, let's give credit to James and Lars for writing far more interesting lyrics for the song - while admitting that they copied in form and style of vocal delivery the original (Mustaine wrote that too). Second, the song is musically very interesting...and this is made less so by Mustaine's decision to speed it up for Megadeth's debut. Megadeth's solo work and overall musicianship is better, indeed much better, which makes the speed increase all the more tragic as it rushes through some true technical virtuosity.
That's my take anyway. Check out the links below and decide for yourself!
Metallica's "Four Horsemen"