Review Summary: Good ideas marred by half-hearted execution, rerecordings and some clumsy songwriting render Megadeth's latest to be a "whelming" affair.
Th1rt3en, which from here on out will be referred to as 13 or Thirteen, is the latest in Megadeth’s attempts at recapturing the glory days of Rust In Peace
whilst delivering a modern edge to the Megadeth sound. Dave Mustaine’s life decisions have become either increasingly poor or increasingly good as of late, whether it be forging a newfound friendship with Metallica, or writing increasingly poor ballads. I am happy to say Thirteen
was a (mostly) good decision. Musically, it is an extension of the direction Endgame
took but with some new elements thrown in. For instance, Mustaine attempts to increase his singing range on certain songs. Notice I said attempts; his singing gets painfully weak and croony sometimes. It’s almost as if he’s forgotten how strong his snarl is and he just decided to let loose with whatever bull*** he could throw in there. Thankfully, Mustaine throws in a few snarls and growls to keep the listener entertained. Add in nut-squashing modern production techniques (done by the man Johnny K of Disturbed fame himself) and you have a product that covers most obvious vocal flaws.
If this is an attempt at RIP-style thrash then it is poorly done in that retrospect. It panders to every Megadeth sound in existence. You’ve got radio ready thrash á la Countdown to Extinction
, sappy hook based songwriting similar in vein to Risk
, and you’ve got a heaping dose of early Megadeth. This jumble in songwriting is effective if you want to showcase the many sounds of your band, but here it seems like a piss poor attempt at a second round of commercial viability. I mean, it seems like Megadeth wants to get played on the radio so badly so they wrote a few awful attempts at commercial metal tracks right? Megadeth doesn’t save themselves either when a lot of this CD is older demos and rerecorded tracks. That just seems downright lazy considering the album has a bit of a special meaning behind it with the title and all. Thirteen truly is Megadeth trying to recapture some of their older glory when instead they got lazy and just mixed all of their disparate styles together. The CD is salvageable from the heaps of trash burying it.
As I just said, the CD does have a few saving graces that keep it from being mediocre and/or average. First, there are some genuinely good, old-fashioned tunes on here that a listener should be able to jam out to whenever and wherever. These would be the three biggest tracks; Sudden Death, Never Dead, and Public Enemy No. 1. These tracks thrash harder then all of the other ones, with blazing riffs, catchy hooks and a speedy delivery. Public Enemy No. 1
has the catchiest hook of the three, recalling hits like Peace Sells
and Holy Wars.
Mustaine and Broderick trade solos like nobody’s business, with lots of sweep picking and trilling going on in the background. The other songs include more of the same, albeit having a faster tempo than aforementioned one.
What helps this album out truly though is the thick production on the record. As I said before, Johnny K’s work only helps the band. He works out the kinks in Mustaine’s vocals, he makes the guitars thicker, and he subdues the bass so that the drums can shine. In a way, it’s similar to Andy Sneap’s production on Endgame
. Then again, it is as much a curse as it is a blessing. K’s production leaves all the feeling of raw thrash out of the band’s music, leaving the record with an overproduced feel. However, the songs more than make up for this.
Overall Megadeth have done something good here. It’s not bad like 90’s Megadeth, but it’s not great early Megadeth material. Instead, it’s on a level with the most recent Megadeth material. The songwriting and musicianship are competent enough, but it leaves a feeling of emptiness inside the listener. It’s soulless music; songs written only to appeal to the mass consumer and not genuine fans of the product. Megadeth have a craft down, but it’s a craft that feels cheap and overused. Thirteen
may not sit on the pantheon along with other Megadeth records, but it works for what it does. 3.5/5