“Symphony of Destruction” is the 12th single by MEGADETH. It was released as a single from the band’s fifth studio album, Countdown to Extinction (1992), in June 1992.
The lyrics explore the hypothetical situation where an average citizen is placed in a position where he runs the country while the public is led by a phantom government. Mustaine wrote the lyrics to the song, which were written about what he perceived to be how the masses were being led to their own destruction by political leaders, which is where the title is derived. The famous legend Pied Piper of Hamelin, is mentioned in the song and contains direct correlations to the lyrical meaning of the song. In the legend, the Pied Piper had the ability to force children and rats to follow his demands mindlessly, like the political leaders do to the public.
Penned by vocalist and frontman Dave Mustaine, the song received significant radio play and charted in various territories, making it one of Megadeth’s best known songs. The song was generally well received by critics and its accompanying music video by Wayne Isham initially received heavy rotation on MTV, but eventually became controversial and was edited because of an assassination scene that MTV felt was “too harsh”. The video features each band member individually playing, with a mostly black-and-white nonlinear narrative revolving around a political candidate who is assassinated, and the massive amount of anarchy and riots caused by the event.
The song contains what has been described as catchy, with a more commercially mainstream, standard song structure, as opposed to some of Megadeth’s more aggressive and structurally intense songs, such as “Hangar 18” or “Holy Wars… The Punishment Due”.
By 1992, Mustaine’s vocal performance and style, along with Megadeth’s bombastic aesthetic, were considered jarring by some music listeners, meaning they had not yet been exposed to more mainstream audiences. Partially due to the success and radio friendliness of this song and Countdown to Extinction, Megadeth was capable of reaching a higher level of public awareness and cultural relevance
The song has been featured in several sources of media, and has been covered by several bands including Paul Di’ Anno and Arch Enemy.