Dave Mustaine, the mastermind behind Megadeth and the keeper of heavy metal’s thrash legacy, did what most longtime legends after decades of evolving their music fail to do – a successful return to his roots. Dystopia, Megadeth’s fifteenth studio album, was released on January 22nd which, coincidentally or not, also fell on the second day of the 2016 NAMM convention.
There are a few things that you need to know about Dystopia. First of all, compared to its predecessor Super Collider, it is surprisingly aggressive and heavy. Here Megadeth manages to once again break out of the rut that bands of this genre (including Megadeth) often fall into once they have started pursuing a radio-friendly sound. Second, unlike most album releases that see the best tracks available to stream before the on-sale date, Dystopia has several tracks that are definitely worth listening to even if one might think the best has already been heard. Third, the new line-up seems to be working in favor of creativity and collaboration, as opposed to just familiar names hoping to rekindle magic long lost.
Now, there is no denying that Mustaine calls all the shots when it comes to anything Megadeth. But looking back at 2014 and 2015, it’s hard to believe that with everything going on in Mustaine’s life (death of his mother-in-law, move to Nashville, failed Rust In Peace reunion) that he somehow managed to pull together all the moving pieces needed to write, record, and release Megadeth’s best album since Endgame.
We already know that 2015 was a bit of a disappointment for all the fans of the classic Rust In Peace era line-up. However, the recruitment of Lamb of God’s Chris Adler for drumming duties on Dystopia was one of the shrewdest moves Mustaine has made in terms of lineup changes. Adler brings with him a hardcore fan’s viewpoint about what has made Megadeth the band it has become. This is evident in Dystopia, especially when you compare it to Super Collider. The addition of Brazilian guitarist and master technical musician Kiko Loureiro sealed the Dystopia deal. Only a guitarist of his technicality could suffice when the other possibility was someone like Marty Friedman. What we have now is a beautifully assembled collection of intricate guitar riffs and solos, thought-provoking lyrics, and killer drum sequences.
Besides the previously released “The Threat Is Real”, “Fatal Illusion” and title track, two songs that stand out musically are “Bullet To The Brain” and “Poisonous Shadows.” “Bullet To The Brain” very faintly reminds us of an older Megadeth sound – loud, screeching, lots of changes in the mood and the tempo. Especially catchy is the halting, yet catchy chorus which very much lends itself to a headbanging listener. We also get a vibrant guitar solo that serves as a reminder for why the band has always featured the best guitarists in the world no matter what the lineup.
“Poisonous Shadows” is another gem on the album. It starts out slowly, then builds to a powerful musical entity. Adler’s drums are just too good on this song as they command the tempo of the song, only stepping aside when it’s time for Kiko to shine. As the slowest tempoed track on the album, it is well placed on the album to provide a breather from the other heavier, thrashier tracks like “Death From Within” and “Lying In State.”
Of course we have to be honest here. None of the new songs in reality can match the impact that the classic Megadeth anthems achieved back in the hey-day of thrash. Nevertheless, if you are looking for a heavy, technically impeccable, and musically striking album to buy, Dystopia is a good bet. Also, hearing some of those new songs live will definitely be refreshing to the setlist. There should be no discernible difference in crowd reaction to most of these songs as compared to classics like “Trust” and “Symphony of Destruction.”
As a package and campaign, everything from the new stylish cover, graphics, design of the Megadeth website, and Vic Rattlehead’s latest look point to a cool futuristic, post apocalyptic motif — certainly not incompatible with the themes presented in the record itself.
While not up there with Peace Sells or Rust In Peace, Dystopia is definitely solid, new music from Megadeth that is a must-have for the hardcore fans or anybody with an appetite for a fresh peek into Mustaine’s mind.
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