Review Summary: Megadeth keeps rolling along with a strong, albeit less triumphant, thirteenth record.
As far as 80s thrash metal bands go, Megadeth has undoubtedly aged the best. That's a dubious honour to be sure, considering how poor many of their contemporaries have been as of late, but it's fairly notable that Megadeth is still able to put out a record that can stand out amongst their more celebrated works. While it's true that the path that lead them to Th1rt3en
may have been marked by questionable decision making, Mustaine and co. are fortunate enough to have at least escaped the trappings of self-parody or modern thrash. Thirteen
may not hit the same highs as Endgame
(the opening one-two punch of "Dialectic Chaos" and "This Day We Fight" in particular), but it does little to sully Megadeth's recent successes. Considering the record being released (in part) by another former thrash giant this week, that's enough for fans to be thankful for, but it is nice to see that Megadeth is able to stay relevant.
Much of Thirteen
is rooted in Megadeth's post-reformation efforts at fusing their thrashy past with a more accessible brand of metal. The result is somewhat formulaic; as one would expect, chunky riffs dominate verses before giving way to melodic choruses, with sporadic shredding scattered throughout. Musically, it isn't particularly different from United Abominations
, and yet, it shares far more with the latter. Though United Abominations
was an important step to get back on track after a number of tedious, half-assed records, it was also somewhat inconsistent itself. Spurred on by the public's reception to Endgame
, as well as the return of long-time bassist Dave Ellison, Megadeth sounds a lot more comfortable and confident in 2011. Perhaps, then, it's no coincidence that several tracks featured on Thirteen
have their roots in unfinished or discarded pieces that date back as far as the early 1990s. "New World Order" is the best of the bunch, mixing modern Megadeth flair with the obvious Rust in Peace
/ Countdown to Extinction
era influences. It's a venture that would likely not have gone over so smoothly four to seven years ago, but works out quite well on Thirteen
suffers most is in its lyrical content. Mustaine's lyrics are generally easy to ignore, with silly songs like "Fast Lane" ("Fast lane, like a jet plane / like a freight train, I'm driving insane") and "Public Enemy No.1" joining a long line of awkwardly penned songs about murder, crime, and racing. And while it's easy to shrug them off as lacking substance, they fit the mood Megadeth attempts to cultivate. Far too often, however, Mustaine delves into the absurd. "Whose Life (Is It Anyways?)" should appeal to the teenage ~nonconformist~ with lines like "You think you know what's best for me / You hate everything you've seen in me / Have you looked in a mirror?", but it's pretty cringeworthy coming from a fifty year old man. More frustratingly, when Mustaine attempts to do the whole social commentary thing he's so fond of, he takes legitimate political issues and then aims his scorn at imaginary things like the Illuminati or the Antichrist. Songs like "New World Order," "We the People," and "Millennium of the Blind" try their hardest to make a statement, but misfire so wildly that it detracts from the experience.
Lyrical content aside, Thirteen
sees Megadeth do very little wrong. The quality of the record is somewhat uneven; thrashier tracks like "Never Dead" and "Sudden Death" are more interesting than the flat sounding, mid-paced "Guns, Drugs, & Money," and the record lacks an immediate standout ala "Hangar 18," "Symphony of Destruction," or "This Day We Fight." But on the whole, Thirteen
is the sound of a band that has not only successfully re-established its identity, but finally sounds comfortable in it. Megadeth has come a long way from the throes that accompanied the band in the early part of the past decade, and Thirteen
is testament to their ability to maintain their newfound resurgence.