Album of the Week 03-2016: Megadeth – Dystopia

So you’re Dave Mustaine and you’ve just released the biggest piece of shit you’ll ever release. Yes, I think ‘Super Collider’ is worse than ‘Risk’. What will be your next step? Record an album that’s easily your best in over a decade of course. One has to admire his resilience; Mustaine has had enough misfortune to make any ordinary musician quit five times, but his determination always forces him to get back up when he’s down. This time, the result is ‘Dystopia’, a sharp, fierce blend of Thrash Metal and traditional Heavy Metal with spectacular guitar work. In deed: the mark of a great Megadeth record.

Maybe it’s the new lineup. The Daves (Mustaine and bassist Ellefson) have enlisted the help of Angra guitarist Kiko Loureiro and Lamb Of God drummer Chris Adler this time. The former is a master of his craft who luckily gets enough room to display his talent and the latter simply sounds better than he ever has. The drum sound helps, but I think his parts are infinitely more interesting than what he does in his main band. Maybe these two guys were just wat Mustaine needed to write another scorching Metal record.

Then again, the songwriting is cranked up a notch as well. Occasionally, you can hear that Mustaine had a little trouble coming up with an ending for a few songs, but after a song and a half, you’ll have heard more good stuff than on all of ‘Super Collider’. The first two songs are among the album’s best anyway: opening track ‘The Threat Is Real’ is nice and Thrashy, while the title track has a passing nod to ‘Hangar 18’ with its highly melodic midtempo main riff – well, midtempo by Megadeth standards – and the sudden tempo change for an amazing guitar solo section near the end.

Standing out for me is ‘Poisonous Shadows’. With its dark, brooding nature, vaguely Arabian-sounding string section and amazing chorus, it shows that Mustaine can write an excellent catchy track if he really puts his effort into it. Furthermore, the high octane instrumental ‘Conquer Or Die!’ is a showcase for Loureiro’s skills on the electric as well as the nylon string acoustic guitar, ‘Fatal Illusion’ and ‘Lying In State’ are delightfully aggressive and the slower tempo makes ‘Post American World’ a perfect vehicle for a darker, more threatening take on the band’s sound.

While ‘Dystopia’ may not be the big return to the ‘Rust In Peace’ brand of Speed Metal some people may have been hoping for, I think it’s excellent at finding the middle ground between Heavy and Thrash Metal, which is exactly what made 2004’s ‘The System Has Failed’ such an awesome record as well. Mustaine’s lyrical views may be a tad far-fetched every now and then, but I’ll take a Mustaine I disagree with politically over the insipid drivel that dominated the previous record any day. At least this Mustaine sounds inspired, vicious and aggressive. And let’s face it: isn’t that how any fan of his work would want him to sound?

Recommended tracks: ‘Poisonous Shadows’, ‘Dystopia’, ‘The Threat Is Real’

  1. This is what I’ve been listening to recently on YouTube with a view to whether I want to buy or not. Actually, I was dreading starting it up as I really hated Super Collider (didn’t everyone?) and wondered whether that was the end of Megadeth as I knew them. But this is a much needed return to the good stuff, although I too thought some of the tracks were very reminiscent – I thought some were like a lot of ‘Thirteen’. The only thing I struggle with is Dave Mustaine’s politics – he always has a political axe to grind and I find it wearing after a while.

    • Hey Carol,
      I see what you mean with the politics thing. That’s what ruined my enjoyment of songs like ‘United Abominations’ as well, although the fact that he insists on narrating his ideas rather than singing them was the major factor that annoyed me. I consider myself fairly left-wing and Mustaine is widely regarded as the opposite side, but to me, he doesn’t seem to have a clear agenda. Usually, I feel Mustaine is rather kicking the established political order in the shins just for the heck of it. Stuff like ‘Post American World’ is a little too close to typical conservative American ignorance for comfort, but still I prefer this Mustaine lyrically to the embarrassing one on ‘Super Collider’.
      To end on a positive note: ‘Poisonous Shadows’ and the title track are the best Megadeth tracks I’ve heard in over a decade.

      • I think I only listened to Super Collider a couple of times and knew I was never going to like it!

      • That was probably enough. ‘Kingmaker’ is a great Heavy Metal track, but the rest of the record is horrible. Even the half-decent tracks are ruined by lyrics that a 15 year old would be ashamed of.

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