Review Summary: Dave plays his Trump Card
Despite aligning himself to the church of metal Dave Mustaine has always had a punk edge, one that ran a lot deeper than an ill-advised Sex Pistols cover. Politics and metal are common enough bedfellows but Megadeth stood apart from their peers thanks to the unique vocal delivery; Dave always spat out his lyrics with a snottily abrasive anti authoritarian sneer with markedly less of the quasi-operatics associated with late 80’s metal singers. It’s a style that suited a band called Megadeth well, an act forged in the era of Cold War paranoia, AIDS and the Greenhouse Effect. Mustaine’s well of inspiration seems to fluctuate with the Doomsday Clock such is his obsession with the potential destruction of mankind and it’s perhaps no coincidence that it’s only now, with the hand pointed the ‘closest to midnight’ since 1984, that he’s starting to sound more like his old self again. If the experts believe we’re in perilous danger of annihilation then who is Megadave to argue"
‘Dystopia’ is a controversial statement but an equally logical and entirely predictable one for Mustaine to deliver at this juncture. Indeed it could be argued that Megadeth’s material has altered very little politically over the years, rather it’s the attitudes of subsequent generations of listeners that have changed. For today’s western teenager war on a mass scale is something that happened to their great or great great grandfathers and likely to be kept at arm’s length by technology. Here’s a generation of young men with little fear of the types of culls that have historically afflicted their gender; the age of ‘a mega death won’t happen to me’ if you like. In today’s liberal climate this band can easily be dismissed as archaic and even outright goofy, but the times they be a changin’, and now other world views and marginalised voices are starting to make themselves heard.
The overriding theme of ‘Dystopia’ is that we’re living through the decline of Western civilisation and this will be brought about thanks to a Trojan horse enemy within. It ain’t subtle. The third line of lyrics on the album reads there’s ‘no controlling who comes through the door’ and song titles include ‘Post-American World’ and ‘Conquer or Die’; of course the temptation is to cry foul but it’s important to remember that Megadeth have always played to American fears of foreign bogeymen. Ask yourself if this is really all that different to ‘Rust in Peace’s holy wars and Cold War suspicions and you'll quickly conclude that the band would be pansying out NOT throwing their political hat in the ring here.
Whether you agree with ‘Dystopia’s political agenda or not at least you have to admit Mustaine sounds like a man with something to say this time and what’s pleasing is that this same sense of reinvigoration spreads to the music. The lineup has changed yet again following the resignations of Broderick and Drover and the injection of fresh blood appears to have added bite and snap. Dave has stated that the schedule for recording the album allowed for a more focused approach to song writing and it shows; the tracks here feel thematically linked, as though they inhabit the same ruined world, and in this way the album aligns itself closer to ‘Rust in Peace’ or ‘Countdown to Extinction’ than their more recent output. The acoustic intros to ‘Poisonous Shadows’ and ‘Conquer or Die’ reflect a band that no longer sounds in such a rush to get straight to the meat of a song all the time, a failing that made an album like ‘Thirteen’ drag.
As much as there’s plenty to be positive about here there are still some all too familiar flaws that Megadeth fans have been contending with for years now; namely a large proportion of the riffs on this release sound overly familiar, the solos aren’t all top tier quality and Mustaine’s already limited vocal range has now flattened out alarmingly. None of these weaknesses are devastating enough to derail the project entirely although they do apply the breaks to any notion this release will scale the heights and achieve classic Megadeth status.
It feels apt that a more dangerous outside world would equate to a more entertaining Megadeth album, raising the stakes usually makes for a more compelling game after all. Like an ageing despot Mustaine has been sitting in his war bunker growing increasingly cranky and history tells us it’s these types you have to watch out for; adding together all of the evidence it appears we could be set to see a more controversial, chaotic and madcap Megadeth from here on out…where do I register for the draft"