It looks like the end of an era for Megadeth as Kiko Loureiro has announced an “extended leave of absence” from the band after nine years of service, with Dave Mustaine paying tribute to his outgoing electric guitar maverick and announcing his replacement.
Loureiro had stepped down from touring duties in September owing to family reasons, with Finnish metal guitar ace Teemu Mäntysaari standing in for Megadeth’s autumn dates.
But the situation has not changed, and with the thrash institution scheduling an epic run of dates in 2024, Loureiro has confirmed that he won’t be joining them, with Mustaine officially ordaining Mäntysaari as his six-string lieutenant.
“I would like to thank Kiko for his dedication and hard work these past nine years, helping us to achieve a Grammy on Dystopia and the additional awards we have received on this latest record, The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead!” wrote Mustaine in a statement posted to the official Megadeth website. “I could not have done this without Kiko Loureiro.”
Loureiro enjoyed some historic moments as Megadeth’s lead guitarist, playing on two studio albums, Dystopia (2016) and The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead (2022). Earlier this year he got the opportunity to play with his good friend and former Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman onstage as he joined Mustaine and co in Japan and at Wacken Open Air.
To see Megadeth 2023 augmented with Friedman and performing Rust In Peace and Countdown To Extinction-era classics such as Tornado Of Souls was bucket list material for any Megadeth fan, not least Loureiro, who always saw himself as a fan playing in the band.
“My nine years with Megadeth have been an unbelievable journey, filled with countless ‘pinch me’ moments,” wrote Loureiro on Instagram. “Unforgettable tours, a Grammy award for Dystopia, a Grammy nomination and various accolades for The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead are just a few of the highlights. It is hard to put into words the magnitude of these experiences.”
“I am sure any heavy metal fan can appreciate how incredible it is to play and create music in a band you grew up listening to, and to share a stage with a guitar legend like Dave Mustaine, along with phenomenal musicians like James LoMenzo [bass guitar] and Dirk Verbeuren [drums], not to mention our incredible crew.”
The band has enjoyed the services of some of metal guitar’s elite but many would argue that Loureiro was the best of them. Perhaps even Mustaine himself, who was fulsome in his praise for Loureiro and wished him the best for the future.
Mustaine said that there had been lots of discussions over Loureiro’s future and said he respected the outgoing guitarist’s decision. It was Mustaine who initially advised Loureiro in September 2023 to sit out the tour and put his family first.
“Kiko is a top-notch professional, a maestro – and he did not want to hurt me or Megadeth,” wrote Mustaine. “We came up with a solution to find a fill-in for him during that time and that’s when he presented and trained Teem Mäntysaari to take over for us.”
Mäntysaari, who also plays in the symphonic melodic death metal band Wintersun, was initially a substitute but his performances made him an easy choice to carry on in the role. There is something fitting in Loureiro identifying his replacement.
That Loureiro’s departure has been announced as an “extended leave of absence” suggests that the door is not closed to him potentially returning at some point in the future. But right now the spot is Mäntysaari’s – a player Mustaine says reminds him a lot of Marty Friedman.
“It’s uncanny because he plays a lot like Marty,” he told Wes Styles, in an interview you can hear above. “And it is so exciting. At certain times I just close my ideas during a set and hear these songs played – whether it is Kiko in the past or Teemu now – they just sound really magic because these guys have really learned the songs.
“They’re not just going out there and banging their guitar around. They actually learned the solos from some of the other virtuosos that I have played with over my career.”
You can see what Mustaine means below, with fan-shot footage capturing some proof, if needed, that Mäntysaari has got a handle on all this. Tornado Of Souls? No problem. And so it continues, Megadeth rolls on with another virtuoso playing lead...