Kiko Loureiro has announced he will be leaving Megadeth after serving as one of the legendary heavy metal outfit’s electric guitar players for the past nine years.

Breaking the news on social media, Loureiro confirmed it had been “collectively agreed” between concerned parties that he would extend his absence, paving the way for a new, currently unannounced guitar player to fill his spot.

The formal departure comes mere months after Loureiro announced he’d been forced to step down from the band’s recent tour leg back in September due to family reasons.

“I want to share with you a decision that hasn’t been easy for me,” Loureiro said in a statement. “In September, I had to step away from the US leg of the tour for family reasons. Looking ahead, during 2024, we anticipate an even heavier touring schedule for Megadeth.

“After thorough reflection and discussions with Dave Mustaine and Megadeth’s management, we have collectively agreed that it is the right move to extend my absence,” the Ibanez signature artist went on. “I don’t want to hinder any of the band’s plans or the hard work of all the incredible people involved in the tour. 

“My nine years with Megadeth have been an unbelievable journey, filled with countless ‘pinch-me’ moments. 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 these highlights.”

“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 the stage with a guitar legend like Dave Mustaine, along with phenomenal musicians like James LoMenzo and Dirk Verbeuren, not to mention our incredible crew.

“However, the most cherished aspect of these nine years has been getting to know the incredible army of devoted Megadeth fans around the world. Your dedication is inspiring, and I have immense admiration and respect for you all.”

By the very nature of the statement itself, the guitarist seemingly leaves the door open for a return in the future post-2024, but for now, the future of Megadeth looks Loureiro-less.

Loureiro was initially brought in to replace Chris Broderick, and will be fondly remembered for his prolific, near-decade stint with the heavy metal icons by both fans and his former bandmates. Indeed, Dave Mustaine recently labeled the Brazilian virtuoso as the best guitar player in Megadeth’s history.

“Megadeth has had guys like Jeff [Young] and Marty [Friedman], but Kiko is the best we’ve ever had,” Mustaine told Guitar World earlier this year. “I don’t say that because Kiko is in the band now; I say it because it’s the truth. Kiko is the best guitar player out of all of them.”

In wake of this announcement, fans have already begun speculating over Loureiro’s potential replacement – and it wouldn’t be completely unreasonable to suggest his successor may already be in place.

When Loureiro announced he’d be taking a step back from live duties, he was replaced by young Finnish metal guitarist Teemu Mäntysaari, who made a lightning-quick start to life as Megadeth’s new fill-in fretter. Indeed, he absolutely nailed his first live show (see the video above), with Loureiro introducing the youngster as “an amazing, incredible player” at the time.

Of course, Mäntysaari certainly seems like the obvious candidate for the job – Mustaine recently told Wes Styles that he was “super-excited with what Teemu has brought” – but that won’t stop fans putting other theories forward.

Another name that will inevitably get thrown up, no matter how sensational it may seem at first, is Marty Friedman. Sure, it’s unlikely, but Friedman – a former Megadeth guitarist himself – recently rekindled his relationship with Mustaine and co, and joined the band for the first time in 23 years at a headline show in Tokyo.

That was followed by a further guest spot, with Friedman then joining the band for a four-song cameo during the Wacken Open Air festival in August. Were these shows just an excuse for Friedman to refamiliarize himself with Megadeth material? Like we say, it’s unlikely, but we imagine there would be no shortage of fans who’d like to see that happen.

As such, it seems Mäntysaari will continue in his current role for the foreseeable future, and since he’s been rather inactive on social media as of late, a special announcement may be incoming.

Head over to Megadeth’s official Instagram account for future updates.

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