Chris Poland is probably best known as the former lead guitarist for Megadeth, but Chris had been a well known L.A. area fusion player prior to his stint with Mustaine’s group. He has since continued to solidify his reputation as an exceptional musician and guitar player, leading such projects as his solo debut, Return to Metalopolis , and as the leader of the now defunct progressive band, Damn the Machine.
Chris’ clean, overdriven tone, and legato phrasing make him instantly recognizable. His unique style can be partially attributed to an injury to his index finger on his fret hand – a severed tendon which allows him to stretch his finger unusually far. This injury forced him to develop a style that includes smoothly phrased passages and wide intervallic leaps.
From 1977 to 1982, Chris was in a fusion band called the New Yorkers with Robby Pagliari on bass, Gar Samuelson on drums, and Gar’s brother Stu playing guitar, along with various horn players. Their music has been described as being in the same vein as Return to Forever, Mahavishnu, Brand X. Although the New Yorkers never recorded, demos and recorded rehearsals do exist.
Megadeth hired Chris in 1984, replacing Kerry King of Slayer, who was temporarily filling in as lead guitarist. In 1985, Megadeth released their debut album, “Killing Is My Business…And Business is Good!” on a small independent label, Combat Records. Though much of the lead guitar work was shared equally by both Dave Mustaine and Chris, the work reflected a lot of Chris’s style. In 1986, the rights for Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? were bought from Combat Records by Capitol Records and was released with the support only a major record label could provide. The success of Peace Sells found Chris and Megadeth among the metal heavyweights of the day: Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Metallica. Chris’ playing can be heard on such metal classics as “Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?”, ”Devils Island” and “Good Mourning/Black Friday” . In 1987, after completing the Wake Up Dead tour, Chris was fired from Megadeth for problems with substance abuse. Asked to rejoin the band several times, Poland refused, opting to pursue his solo career.
1990 saw the release of Chris’ first solo effort, Return to Metalopolis on Enigma Records. With brother Mark on drums and Chris playing the rest of the instruments, a unique mix of heavy metal and fusion was formed. Extremely tight rhythm playing (“Theatre of the Damned” ,”Alexandria”), delicate fingerpicking passages (“The Fall of Babylon” ,”Khazad Dzm”), and as usual, skillful, eclectic soloing made for a guitar album masterpiece. Chris once again proved to be among the elite guitarists with playing on par with any of his peers. Unfortunately, Enigma Records folded before Return to Metalopolis could be widely distributed.
Chris and Mark eventually formed the progressive group Damn the Machine with David Randi on bass and Dave Clemmons as vocalist and co-guitarist. In 1993 Damn the Machine’s self-titled debut was released on A and M records. Damn the Machine featured a powerful performance by Chris, well-written arrangements, and thoughtful, politically charged lyrics. Also released was a promotional CD-5 for Silence, which featured covers of “I’d Love to Change the World”, by Alvin Lee and Ten Years After, and King Crimson’s “Cat Food”. Damn the Machine was not widely embraced by an alternative-minded consumer, and receiving less and less support from A and M, had their recording contract canceled, and eventually called it quits. Dave Clemmons departed from the group, and with a new singer, the remaining members reformed as Mumbo’s Brain.
Mumbo’s Brain, featuring vocalist John Skipp, recorded new material and played along the West Coast, opening for such acts as Todd Rundgren. After the exit of David Randi and soon after John Skipp, Mumbo’s Brain split.
Chris now finds himself working with his friend and bandmate from the New Yorkers days, Robby Pagliari. Along with drummer Kofi Baker, Chris and Robby are now writing and performing as OHM.