Anyone who knows me also knows that I have been pretty hard on MEGADETH since 2013, and rightfully so. Thirteen was average at best, that last album was utter dogshit, and even though I love their live shows, I left the last Gigantour after SLASH and before they came on to go cover a great Dallas band called SON OF SWAN. But throughout all of that I always said that if they gave me a reason to get excited again I’d be right there, money in hand. Well folks, that time has come. The last great album from this band was 2009’s Endgame, and while new record Dystopia (Jan 22, Universal/Tradecraft) isn’t quite as exceptional, it’s pretty damn close.
With a rejuvenated line-up featuring Kiko Loureiro (ex-ANGRA) on guitar, drummer Chris Adler from LAMB OF GOD, Dave Mustaine (guitar/vocals), and David Ellefson (bass) the boys clearly have something to prove. The dual solos sound like the days of old, and Adler’s drumming is tight and precise. Having a monster like him back there really kicked this band in the ass, and there is a newfound energy missing from the last two records for sure. And yes, Mustaine’s vocals aren’t as ferocious as they used to be, but this new deeper tone and delivery actually makes him sound more evil and sinister. But wait…what about the songs? Glad you asked…
“Post American World” has easily some of the best guitar solos on the disc, and there’s times it hits like a battering ram. At 2:25 there is an unexpected gear shift that only adds to the flavor, making this an album favorite. On that front, title track “Dystopia” is more melodic and streamlined but no less biting, making it another one I loved from jump. And it features some killer solos as well. After seven years it’s nice to be excited about MEGADETH songs again. Opening track “The Threat Is Real” makes one hell of a fucking statement, cut from the same cloth as “Skin O’My Teeth” and “This Day We Fight”, all piss and vinegar and angry cynicism.
“Poisonous Shadows” is one of the more ambitious tunes on the album, with a gorgeous acoustic intro and haunting female voices at the start. The riffs are machine gun-like and the hook is great. And once again, the solo is terrific, albeit brief. “Fatal Illusion” showcases all of the elements that have made MEGADETH the iconic band they are today. Everything you could possibly want is there and just after the halfway mark all hell breaks loose. Guarantee this one will be in the live set for years to come! The riff machine is primed and ready on “Death From Within” while “Bullet to the Brain” employs a steady march for much of the song. Different sounds, but they fit together well in the tracklist.
More acoustical goodness greets us at the start of instrumental “Conquer or Die!” before it turns into a shred-fest, which is to be expected. You put these two guitarists together and magic obviously happens. “Lying In State” is reminiscent of “Washington Is Next” and like much of the record features some politically-charged lyrics. There’s a definite NWOBHM feel to “The Emperor”, and it shows the guys just rocking out and not worrying about being too precise or technical. It’s just a great song. Closer “Foreign Policy” is probably the only one on this album that I didn’t really get into. Sure, it brings the noise and all, it’s just that the chorus is clunky. But hey, if that’s the only weak spot on an otherwise excellent record, I’ll take it.
I can honestly say that MEGADETH is back, and back with a vengeance. After two lackluster efforts I had a ton of reservations going into this album. But I am happy to report that my fears were assuaged. Dystopia fucking ROCKS and I am excited beyond belief for the tour. All is forgiven, Dave. Now just keep doing what you do, and that’s kicking ass!!
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Dystopia”, “Poisonous Shadows”, “Post American World”, “The Threat Is Real”, “Fatal Illusion”, “Death From Within”