Written by: MGA on 02/01/2012 08:45:04

Generally speaking, a band's weakest link should not be the centerpiece of an album. It sounds like common sense, but leave it to Dave Mustaine and company to throw this simple guide into the wind on Megadeth's latest album, "Thirteen". Stylized – cleverly or stupidly, depending on your point of view – as "TH1RT3EN", the album is the band's thirteenth effort in a three decade career of mostly thrash mastery.

Since Mustaine recovered from an injury to his playing arm in the early 2000s, he's kept his thrash outfit active both on the road and in the studio. After picking up Chris Broderick from the touring bench of progressive metal titans Nevermore, Megadeth experienced an immediate injection of life into the band's new material that culminated in 2009's well received "Endgame". And after touring with the rest of the Big Four in both Eastern Europe and select shows in the States, the boys went back to the studio to write their follow up to "Endgame". While "Endgame" was a positive addition to the Megadeth catalogue founded upon throw back riffs and song structures, "Thirteen" draws from an era of Megadeth that is really better left forgotten. This is the mid to late '90s era, when the band dropped the thrash and instead focused on writing radio rock ballads.

Things start off okay on the first track, "Sudden Death", as it begins with a solid minute of competent shredding. And then after that one glorious minute of untainted Megadeth, Dave Mustaine opens his mouth. There's that theory about a butterfly flapping its wings in one place, and a hurricane occurring somewhere else in the world. This can be adapted into "when Dave Mustaine sings in America, a million babies in Southeast Asia go deaf".

Mustaine has never had golden vocal chords: in fact, technically speaking, he's always been a poor vocalist. However, old-school thrash called for the exact type of gritty vocals he was equipped with, so while he definitely was a poor singer, his voice perfectly suited Megadeth. Today, not so much. His already bad voice has deteriorated over the years, and the increased production quality on Megadeth's albums has actually exposed this even more on "Thirteen". The moment Dave's voice comes in on "Sudden Death", it becomes clear that not only is his voice bad, but it's extremely high up in the mix. In fact, it's mixed as if his voice, and not the ripping guitar abilities of Broderick and himself, is the marquee aspect of Megadeth.

The only thing worse than bad singing is when the lyrics are written to match it. Mustaine has always had a political bent to Megadeth's lyrics, and they had a sense of authenticity on seminal thrash favorites like “Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?” and “Rust In Peace”. Back then, Mustaine seemed like someone you'd find at an anti-war protest. But the middle aged Mustaine that named his album "TH1RT3EN" seems much more like a guy that would occupy an Internet forum for the pseudo-educated devoted to conspiracy theories relating to 9/11 and the JFK assassination. Songs like "New World Order" and "We the People" drip with scathing political criticism, but they sound like they're from someone a bit out-of-touch with reality. And even when politics are temporarily put to bed, the lyrics don't improve. Album closer "13" has several that are begging to become the next Internet meme, such as "like a severed arm washed up on the shore/I just don't think I can give anymore" and "at thirteen I started down this path/Fueled with anger, music was my wrath".

"Thirteen" is a misstep, but it's not a catastrophic one. Megadeth showed their ability to still write decent thrash metal just two years ago, and "Thirteen", while quite bad, by no means is the final nail in the coffin of Megadeth.


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For The Fans Of: Anthrax, Metallica, Slayer, Testament, Overkill
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Release Date 01.11.2011
Roadrunner Records

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