Review Summary: It's hard to say that Th1rt3en is a bad album, but it's far easier to say that Megadeth can do much, much better.
On paper, the idea of Megadeth's 2011 Th1rt3en
seems magnificent. Endgame
was generally perceived in a very positive light, new member Chris Broderick has been hailed time and time again as one of the premier guitarists in metal, and with the return of longtime partner-in-crime David "Junior" Ellefson at bass, it seems only logical for fans to expect an album even closer to Megadeth's thrash roots than Endgame
Unfortunately, it seems that the businessman in Dave Mustaine saw this coming a million miles away and decided to make an attempt to appease that demand rather than pursue the more progressive direction executed on United Abominations
. Ordinarily, this wouldn't be a problem, but it just doesn't seem that Mustaine's heart is in the sound anymore. Megadeth have always had a history of writing hook-laden tracks on an album with a fairly consistent flow from start to finish, up until the release of Endgame
, at least, where catchy leads seemed to fade away in favor of chunky, muted riffs overlaid with no end of guitar solos. Well, for the most part, imagine Th1rt3en
as an album with that approach, but with more of a chorus-oriented songwriting approach (which means less solos), more of a punk sensibility (which means less riff variation), and a cluster of pre-written songs that don't entirely fit in with the album.
As you might imagine, this last point is a big one. It's a bold enough decision to include a track that was written four years ago as a bonus track to an album with a much different sound ("Black Swan"), but to include material written as long ago as 1994... well, it's a tall order to pass that off as a sound that belongs with tracks written in 2010 and 2011. And that's two of the tracks right there. Throw in the fact that, according to Dave Ellefson, the main riff for "Deadly Nightshade" originated in 1997 and you've got an album that's almost one third reworked or re-recorded material.
In some cases it works out just fine - "Sudden Death" is a great opener and a great, technical Megadeth song all-around, while "Black Swan" is packed with the kind of hooks, solos, and classic Mustaine vocals that place it at least on par with the album's first single, "Public Enemy No. 1." In others, it doesn't work quite as well. "Millenium of the Blind," when featured on the 2004 re-issue of Youthanasia, was a dark, atmospheric, and ominous song that summed itself up quickly. On Th1rt3en
, an attempt has been made to shine it up by adding bright solos and leads that contrast the later established dark tone of the original composition to a somewhat striking effect. "New World Order" faces the same issue and is additionally marred by a transition to cleaner production and a re-recording of Mustaine's vocals that sounds less than enthusiastic.
And, really, can you expect anyone
to be overly enthusiastic about re-recording a track written nearly seventeen years ago?
The rest of the album, while trying to assert itself and develop some sort of consistent sound, seems to produce a mess of increasingly monotonous riffs in-between what can only be described as an array of solidly-crafted singles. It's easy to say that the singles are more than worth the time it takes to listen to them, but it's just as easy to dismiss the rest of the album as filler used to bolster the track length so that Mustaine's autobiographical "13" could rest at the track of the same number.
It's hard to say that Th1rt3en
is a bad album, but it's far easier to say that Megadeth can do much, much better. It would seem that in 2011, with Dave Mustaine putting so many grudges behind him, he needs to finally put that compulsive urge to give anything for a number one album to rest as well. Even if that means giving up trying to figure out what will make him number one among his fans and simply doing what inspires him. In the end, the fans will appreciate that more, anyway.