The collective identity crisis experienced by classic metal bands in the 1990s wasn’t limited to grunge and rap flirtations. For several legendary thrash acts, it was a time to let their punk flags fly. We all know about Slayer’s questionable cover album Undisputed Attitude, but what about the hardcore dalliances of Dave Mustaine?
It’s important to note that headbangers and punks generally did not mix during the more tribal days of the 1980s. A simmering animosity between the two camps could barely be contained, and the very real threat of violence remained constantly palpable on occasions like Motörhead concerts when they were forced to interact. This is why it was so revolutionary when punk icon Glenn Danzig found acceptance among the longhairs, Metallica covered Discharge, Misfits and Killing Joke, and Jeff Hanneman put Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, and Johnny Rotten stickers on his guitar. Megadeth took their love of punk a step further when they recruited Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones to perform the solo in their cover of “Anarchy In The UK.”
As the crossover explosion bridged the gap between metal and hardcore and Metallica shared more and more of the airwaves with bands like Green Day, the walls between metalheads and punks crumbled. Thus ushered in a new era of creative freedom that came with mixed results. One of these questionable projects was MD.45.
In 1996, Dave Mustaine began a collaboration with Fear frontman Lee Ving, Goldfinger bassist Kelly LeMieux, and Alice Cooper drummer Jimmy DeGrasso. The band was called MD.45 (representative of Dave Mustaine’s backwards initials and the numeric values of Lee Ving’s initials in the alphabet). They made a record and never played a single show before unceremoniously disbanding.
The Craving, MD.45’s only album, is a mixed bag. Relinquishing vocal duties helped Mustaine to step outside of the creative box when it came to guitar work, and there is a beautiful simplicity to many of these riffs. That being said, forays into Dick Dale-inspired surf tremolo are ill-advised for anyone, let alone a metal god. Also ill-advised is Ving’s harmonica and yodeling, but given the humorously playful nature of his work in Fear the appearance of these elements is hardly surprising. Otherwise, The Craving kind of sounds like a half-cocked Motörhead. It’s not the best and it’s not the worst. Mustaine has described the effort as “the New Wave of British Heavy Metal crossed with a punk singer, and whatever influences the two of us have melted into one,” which is a pretty accurate assessment.
The album was a critical and commercial flop, which Mustaine largely attributed to Megadeth fans not responding to Ving’s unfamiliar singing. In an attempt to rectify what he saw as a logistical mistake, while remixing the Megadeth catalog in 2004, Mustaine took it upon himself to re-record the vocals himself and replace the harmonica with guitar. He addresses this in his autobiography, Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir, saying the move was in “an effort to entice interest from Megadeth fans who might have overlooked the original.”
Having been effectively erased from the project, Lee Ving addressed the move in an interview on podcast The 80its, saying that Mustaine had “not reached out in practically any way” about the changes. He explained that the news came “without any notification or preparation, like notifying the guy who sang it first.”
Although displeased with the matter, Ving says of Mustaine and the album: “if I knew how to call him, I would, just to get pressure off the matter. And we could be what friends we could be.”
Check out both the Lee Ving and remastered Dave Mustaine versions of The Craving below.