Written by: AP on 22/02/2016 14:38:18

Much has been said of Dave Mustaine’s all-consuming ego — how it terminated him from Metallica, and how it debilitates any notion of harmony within the line-up of his brainchild Megadeth (to this day, the only consistency being his on-and-off collaboration with bassist David Ellefson) — but no one can deny that the man is an unstoppable thrash metal solitarian. Chemistry was never a priority for him during Megadeth’s 33-year existence, yet up until 1994’s “Youthanasia” at least, that inner turmoil still translated into a series of critically acclaimed records, some of which are considered to be of immeasurable importance to the evolution of the genre. Since then however, the produce has been patchy at best, culminating in 2013’s catastrophically terrible “Super Collider” and apparently inspiring Mustaine to do some serious soul-searching in order to rediscover the grandeur of his yonder years. The solution, he conceived, was to crowdsource his next full-length, as perhaps by letting his fans finance it, he would feel a stronger obligation to deliver the sort of album his faithful following has been hungering after for years. And the gamble paid off — “Dystopia” is Mustaine’s best work in more than two decades, a noticeably heavier and more aggressive recording than its most recent predecessors, leaning heavily against the classic “Countdown to Extinction” from 1992.

Naturally, as is tradition the furthering of his ideas necessitated replacing his drummer, Shawn Drover, and lead guitarist, Chris Broderick, roles now respectively filled by Lamb of God’s Chris Adler and Angra’s Kiko Loureiro. The duo’s influence in shaping “Dystopia” should not be understated either, as for once the frenzied, manic riffs slung by Mustaine actually meet their match in Loureiro’s, while Adler’s razor sharp drumming provides a furious foundation upon which those can thrive. The most hardened connoisseurs of thrash, and Megadeth’s early work in particular, will likely lament the polished production engineered by Mustaine himself, but the fact still remains that the band has not sounded this acerbic in a long time. The shredding in songs like “The Threat is Real” and “Fatal Illusion” is as ferocious as it is virtuous, and Adler goes above and beyond filling Shawn Drover’s vacant position with his trademark controlled blitzes so as to restore at last the cutting edge and off-the-hinges feeling that has been missing for so long.

That Mustaine concedes artistic freedom for Loureiro to ply his trade, is furthermore a welcome touch — one which affords an unforgettable grandeur for the album’s namesake track as well as the balladic “Poisonous Shadows”. The former rolls in with cascading scales and one of those mid-tempo drives that catches your attention at once, and once the verse rips through by pairing a glorious minor-key staccato riff with the famous adage, ”’What you don’t know’, the legend goes, ‘can’t hurt you.’”, you just know there is a partnership here between Mustaine, Loureiro, Ellefson and Adler that should, and could actually last. That impression is strengthened by the orchestral touches and skyward-soaring solos of the latter (no doubt a byproduct of Loureiro’s background in power metal), which provide a fittingly dramatic backdrop for bawling back its chorus at future live shows:

It is my face you see? Do I haunt you in your sleep? On your hands and knees you crawl, through your nightmares. How many secrets do you keep inside? How many sins do you have to hide? Crawling everywhere in the dark, poisonous shadows.

Say what you will about balladry and its compatibility with the thrash metal genre, but even the sternest skeptic cannot deny that those are seriously, obsessively well written tracks, and serve a crucial, juxtaposing role in shaping the album into a varied and engaging listen. While by no means on par with the immortal classics of Megadeth’s repertoire, “Dystopia” nonetheless tilts heavily in favour of lasting value, the inevitable anonymous picks occupying much less space than on, say, 2009’s “Endgame”. Cliché and prosaic though much of the conceptual lyricism tends to be, the band is back to spitting venom and hurling badass riffs in dizzying quantities through the likes of “Death from Within” and the vitriolic “Lying in State”. Intense and foreboding as thrash metal cuts should be, and awash with the accessibility necessary to cater to arena-sized audiences, could songs like these foretell Megadeth’s definitive return to strength? Time will tell, but in the meantime, “Dystopia” should satisfy most Megadeth fans’ by-now voracious appetite.


Download: The Threat is Real, Fatal Illusion, Dystopia, Poisonous Shadows, Lying in State
For the fans of: Exodus, Kreator, Testament
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Release date 22.01.2016
Tradecraft Records / Universal Music Enterprises

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