Review Summary: Mustaine may never achieve the huge standards some of his preceding albums set, but with United Abominations he shows that Megadeth is still alive and kicking in the thrash metal scene with his best album since Countdown to Extinction.
Megadeth hasn't been the world's most consistent band. After a mixed reception of their 80s albums, and their rise to international fame afterwards with their magnum opus Rust In Peace, they have continually struggled to recreate an album in terms of the quality standards that albums set for them. Countdown came close, but as the band diverged and diverged from their thrash roots the quality of albums started to decline. The band became a revolving door for members, with only Mustaine remaining (as this is his band, after all.) Mustaine even suffered an injury that left him unable to play guitars for months on end.
Then came The System Has Failed, which was a step in the right direction for this band. Mustaine was finally settling down with his guitar injuries, he had found a new mission for himself in the name of God and he worked hard to finally release his newest opus, United Abominations. And guess what? It doesn't beat Rust In Peace, and Countdown is a tough call, but it damn sure beats everything else they've ever done! 24 years into his career, Mustaine is still capable of playing high-intensity thrash metal with his peers, and he still pulls it off without sounding like a shadow of his former self. The man appears to age gracefully.
It's also safe to say that this album contains some of the best material the band has written in over fifteen years. Sleepwalker is a monster, with a powerful acoustic introduction and Mustaine's vocals sounding listenable for once. Gears of War is a full-out thrash assault, aggressive, dark, politically oriented, just the way Mustaine and his legion of fans liked it. Washington is Next! is another gem, a high-adrenaline political tirade against Bush's politics. After all these years, Mustaine is still spitting on the system like he has always done, and while some albums have made him lose credibility these kind of modern songs that still have that classic 'Deth vibe to them bring the man full back into the metal arena.
Musically the band still knows the way around their instruments too. Dave seems fully healed from his guitar injury, and belts out the riffs and solos with almost the same intensity he could before he managed to numb his arm. Glen Drover plays some admirable solos, not anything overly brilliant but again the man knows his way around the damn guitar. The drums and bass aren't over-the-top special but it all passes the test. Perhaps they are getting a little old, but they are no less hale and vivacious.
Mustaine also knows how to rake in the bucks very well, though. His remake of the song A Tout Le Monde has expanded into a duet with Lacuna Coil's Cristina Scabbia, and has been slightly speeded up for Glen Drover to play a slightly adjusted solo in the process. It's mainstream, but the old song worked fine and so does this modern version anno 2007. It is clear that even thrash bands need to update their sound to have some form of quality; this genre may be one of the most nostalgic ones in the metal scene but Megadeth here shows that we can't always look back on the classics. We have to move on, too.
Unfortunately, next to all these highlights there is also a significant portion of the album that is worthy of the term "filler." The last two songs serve absolutely zero purpose and while neither fails musically they both don't add anything to the album either; they are just there to fill up some time in the tracklisting. Amerikhastan is musically spot on but the spoken verses work on your nerves; this isn't Dark Side Of The Moon, Dave. Similarly Blessed Are The Dead is equally boring and uninspired.
However, this album can safely be remembered as a good return to form for Mustaine and the boys. While he may never achieve the thrash peaks he did with Rust In Peace, at least here we have an artist that 25 years after he started playing still is capable of releasing albums that are worth your money and time. Mustaine has held on for so long, and I hope he continues to do so; even though he is aging he is still a fresh source of good material in a fading metal style. If you are a Megadeth fan I therefore suggest you pick this up (if you haven't already) because it will easily satisfy all your headbanging needs for the coming weeks. This is their best release since 1992, no doubt.