After the very good 'Repentless' by Slayer and the (hopefully) rather good 'For All Kings' by Anthrax, one could be forgiven for being optimistic that Megadeth will release a good album for a change. No disrespect intended but it is my humble opinion that they've not been as good for a long time due to not knowing what they want to be or where they want to go. I dare say that having line-ups which amounted to hired hands didn't help either. No cohesion or chemistry. And there were also the accusations that maybe they were softening their sound in an attempt to write their 'Black' album...they wouldn't have been the first band to try that if we're honest. And whilst there were the odd highlight, for those of us who grew up with the first five albums it did seem like we were being left behind in favour of something else. Things started to get better and looked promising with 'United Abominations' but that album fizzled out towards the end. 'Endgame' had some great riffs but didn't really use them to the best effect. '13' and 'Super Collider' - forget about it.
This then brings us onto the 15th album in Megadeth's career - 'Dystopia'. A new line-up is in place with Lamb Of God drummer Chris Adler and Angra guitarist Kiko Loureino joining Dave Mustaine (vocals, guitar) and David Ellefson (bass). They sharp got to work after a few personal trials and tribulations (name deaths in the family, cancelled shows due to poor promoting), releasing teaser trailers and possible track listings throughout the year. Anticipation was quite high and now we have the finished results. Before we have a listen, I would like to mention the album cover artwork is utter genius! It shows Vic Rattlehead outside a bombed-out Newcastle Upon Tyne,looking to see if anyone from Geordie Shore survived the apocalypse before finishing them off. We can only hope he finds the Smoggie with the big tits and a face like a horse and finishes that off too...anyway,on we go.
1) The Threat Is Real - Opening with what sounds like vaguely Middle-East melodies from both a female vocalist and guitar licks it then launches into a song with the kind of urgency that Megadeth have lacked for a while. As far as openers go, it's fucking excellent. Great solo, too. And the Mustaine sneer makes a welcome return as well. About time. Can't say I'm too wild about the right-wing slant on the lyrics ("No controlling who comes through the door", "the vultures have come home to nest") though, but each to their own. Maybe he was drinking white wine when he wrote them...
2) Dystopia - Another strong one, frantic opening which leads into some tortured vocals, nothing wrong with that. Having said that, this song does seem very familiar - it brings to mind "Hanger 18" from the 'Rust In Peace' album. The intro, verses, chorus and bridge are all very familiar - there is even a breakdown midway through the song which leads to an excellent solo. Obviously it's not as good as that song but it's still great in it's own right.
3) Fatal Illusion - Staggered opening before going into some great thrash riffs. The song is a veritable riff-fest and that's just great. Even though it's about four minutes long, it feels like it's too short. Another quality song. It's about now that the feeling that we've got a good Megadeth album on our hands is beginning to rise...
4) Death From Within - More thrash with some nice harmony vocals during the chorus. Great solos which are proving Kiko to be the best Megadeth second guitarist since Marty Friedman. The rhythm playing here is solid with some heavy riffs.
5) Bullet To The Brain - Acoustic guitar work leads to a slow song which contains more heavy technical riffs and vocals which sound torturous - but in a good way. The song alternates between slow and a more faster paced musical structure. We're not talking a thousand miles here but something with a bit of swagger to it.
6) Post American World - The sense of paranoia that runs through this song is quite overpowering. "What will we look like in the post-American World?" Fuck knows. But if it's anything like this song, there will be a small acoustic passage whilst the fallout settles. So we're halfway through the album and this is easily the best thing Megadeth have done in a long time.
7) Poisonous Shadows - Acoustic opening which sets the tone, descending into crunchy, statacco riffs with some excellent guitar fills. Mid-paced but don't let that bother you. Some nice keyboard effects too. The only downside is that the song seems to just peter out towards the end which is a shame as this is another really good song. It seems like the band have found their mojo again.
8) Conquer Or Die - Another acoustic opening which leads into something similar to early 90's Megadeth, all brooding intro and atmosphere establishing. It's also an instrumental too so at least we have a great show piece for all the band members to demonstrate their skills. As good as it is, it would be no surprise if they played this music over the P.A before the band takes to the stage at live shows.
9) Lying In State - This one just goes for it, bursting into it as soon as it can. Lyrics appear to be about false flags and conspiracies. The Mustaine sneer is really going for it here. Another bundle of fury of a song is put to bed.
10) The Emperor - Hmm, this doesn't land as much as the others - seems quite pedestrian and ordinary. And the lyrics are a bit crap too ("you make me sick, you prick" and "you even suck the life out of dying"). Mind, I know quite a few people for whom this song could be based upon.
11) Foreign Policy - A cover of the song made famous by L.A punk band Fear, it's what you'd expect. Something knocked out on a piss-break. Nothing againt Fear but this cover isn't too good.
12) Melt The Ice Away - This one has an obtuse rhythm and a descending guitar-line, it's not too bad and is a rather off-centre way to end the album. But at least it's better than the Fear cover.
And there we go, the best Megadeth album since Countdown To Extinction. Mind, that's not really saying much as - as already established - their output since that album has been quite varied in quality to say the least. This is by far a more cohesive effort and the contributions of the new members have been solid. Here is hoping they remain together for a long time in order to make more great music. The only downside I could find is that there were some aspects that were very familiar and seemed like they'd been rehashed in order to install a sense of security into long-time fans, if you will. This was also a criticism I also levelled at the latest Star Wars movie. Lyrically, the album won't be to everyone's cup of tea as there is a slight whiff of "Fox News" about some of the lines but to once again hear the kind of riffs that Megadeth used to specialise in back in alongside the Mustaine sneer once more has been great. Keep it up.
PS: I'm well aware the front cover is the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
8 - Oh now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart.
Top Track: The Threat Is Real.
This album is available on iTunes.