Review Summary: A re-energised Megadeth emerge after 3 years of turmoil.
It was June 2013 that Megadeth released their 14th album, “Super Collider”, which received mixed reaction from fans and critics alike. Some defended it by questioning whether it was supposed to sound like a metal album or simply an accessible hard rock record however others weren’t as forgiving; some labelling it as the worst album the band have made in over 10 years… Frantic to release new material to rectify this misstep in their impressive discography, Megadeth have finally unleashed “Dystopia”. Will it be a reviving utopia of thrash metal mastery or is it this is Megadeth’s reckoning day?
The first song answers the question for us. Thrash stereotypes such as shredding, chunky riffs and snarling vocals spew out from ‘The Threat Is Real’ but also balances the act between history and modernity as an intriguing Persian chant feature actually introduces the song. The riffing in ‘Death From Within’ and ‘Bullet To The Brain’ is notably more hostile than Megadeth’s latest work and the latter includes a looming cloud of Mustaine melodies with a darker rumble rather than the snappy mannerisms of thrash metal.
Megadeth’s two Dave’s have been run through the mill recently. After the failure of “Super Collider”, Dave Ellefson lost a brother to cancer while Dave Mustaine’s mother-in-law’s remains were discovered a month after she went missing. Furthermore, Shawn Drover (drums) and Chris Broderick (guitars) departed the band under the good ‘ol “creative differences”. Thankfully their positions have been filled by Lamb Of God drummer, Chris Adler, and Angra guitarist, Kiko Loureiro. With new band members comes a new stylistic approach in “Dystopia”. Kiko’s seems to truly value the legacy behind the band’s technicality as his zigzagging guitar leads in the title track zoom off with precise execution. Adler is no exception to this either. In ‘Poisonous Shadows’ his thunderous blast beats construct a forbidding aura that makes Mustaine’s snarls more sinister than they actually are. Adler’s drumming in ‘Fatal Illusion’ is comparable to the likes of Vinnie and Dimebag of Pantera: the drums are always there to rhythmically flank any erupting guitar hook that spirals off without warning. The freshness and talent of Kiko and Chris truly are half the reason the songs on this album are so coherently structured.
So what’s the catch? From the sounds of it, this sounds like “Rust In Peace Jr.”
Well that’s just it- Megadeth have not stepped up their game, they are simply back on track from 2009’s “Endgame”. Certain songs on “Dystopia” sound uncannily like Megadeth’s past work. Take the instrumental ‘Conquer… Or Die!’- It simply sounds like a less eargasmic ‘Dialectic Chaos’ (intro track to "Endgame") while ‘Post-American World’ and ‘The Emperor’ both sound similar to the “Symphony of Destruction” era. The problem that the band faced, prior to the album's release, was the immense pressure to create a reinvigorating ‘Megadeth album’ or accept failure once again. The safest way to ensure that “Dystopia” sounds great would, naturally, be to recycle the best features of their best work. And that’s exactly what this album is: a breath of fresh air after recent events, but a sense of familiarity of earlier work. Or rather: an excellent balance between the old and the new.