Review Summary: Well worth a listen. A dark 90's diamond
Metallica had their black album and Megadeth their superior "Countdown to Extinction." The album debuted on the Billboard Charts at #2 and sold double (or was it triple) platinum, thanks in part to the incredible single "Symphony of Destruction." The song is heavy as a ten ton bomb, yet packs an undeniable pop hook. This is one thing Dave has always had a knack for, despite being one of the forefathers of thrash metal he's always had a keen sense of melody and knew how to write a hook.
I've heard it said that "Countdown to Extinction" was a sellout, but I do not hear that at all. Just because a band gains popularity and puts out a popular record doesn't necessarily mean they have turned their back on their roots and gone pop. Opening song, "Skin O' My Teeth" is just as fast and aggressive as anything Megadeth had recorded to this point. The song is about botched suicide attempts and/or Mustaine's struggle with destructive addictions. "High Speed Dirt," another fast and furious tune, is about sky diving.
Many song on this album touched on politics, Dave's insidious hiss spewing venom with each and every word. "Architecture of Aggression" is heaviness defined and would have been at home on "Rust in Peace" as it is here. The song touches on the subject of the Gulf War. "Foreclosure of a Dream" is a more melodic number and gives an indication of the direction the band would take with their follow-up album. "Captive Honour" is a low point really. Too me it does not seem to fit in with the other material on this disc. Unlike past albums, "Countdown to Destruction" had contributions from more than just Mustaine. The albums title and the lyrics to the title track were penned by drummer Nick Menza. The song, as well as "Ashes in Your Mouth" is about the fallout from war. "Sweating Bullets" is a twisted mid-paced romp and has become one of the Mustaine's signature tracks.
"Countdown to Extinction" was Megadeth's best produced album yet. Producer Max Norman, who also put the finishing touches on "Rust in Peace", did an excellent job producing this heavy metal masterwork. Despite the cries of "sellout" from some metal purists, "Countdown to Extinction" is a phenomenal heavy metal album.