Release Date: Jan 22, 2016
Record label: Universal
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Heavy Metal
Even blinkered devotees would concede that Megadeth’s 15th album needed to be a lot better than their 14th. Super Collider, released in 2012, was a plodding and lazy misstep that alienated many fans, largely because it wasn’t anywhere near angry, snotty or (most importantly) thrashy enough. One significant lineup reshuffle later and Dave Mustaine’s crew have made amends at the first attempt: Dystopia is an absolutely blistering return to the state-of-the-art bombast and refined technicality of past glories like Rust in Peace and Endgame.
As evidenced by Megadeth's last three studio albums, fans are used to being let down. Dystopia could have been another case in point when an anticipated reunion of the Rust in Peace-era lineup failed to materialize. Undaunted, Dave Mustaine recruited Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler and Brazilian guitarist Kiko Loureiro of prog metal outfit Angra. Megadeth's 15th studio album marks a return to the band's thrash roots.
Oh boy. Another Megadeth release, and you may be thinking “not again”. After such tragedies as Super Collider in 2013 and Th1rt3en in 2011, in addition to two longtime members leaving the band and lead singer Dave Mustaine’s personal issues, one may have thought the once great metal band was fading into obscurity. While Dystopia is certainly not a masterpiece, it puts Megadeth back on solid footing for the future and will be a sigh of relief for many fans.
Listeners had one simple wish for Dave Mustaine and company upon learning of a new Megadeth release: Please don't make another Super Collider. The much-maligned 2013 record was heavily criticized for being a poorly executed attempt at radio rock, and is without question the lowest point in the band's late-era work. Mustaine took note, and was quoted just under a year ago saying he would never write another radio song again as "it's not really what Megadeth fans want to hear."The arrival of Dystopia brings with it a new roster of bandmates (Angra guitarist Kiko Loureiro and Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler replace Chris Broderick and Shawn Drover as full-time members) and a different sonic direction.
Megadeth is Dave Mustaine, and Dave Mustaine is Megadeth. He’s a one-man thrash metal force, and Megadeth has always been dominated by his all-consuming ego. It’s that same ego that got him kicked out of Metallica in ’83 and has made it impossible for him to hold down a steady lineup in Megadeth. With each album, Mustaine seemingly goes through a new drummer and lead guitarist — his off-and-on collaborative relationship with bassist Dave Ellefson being the only consistency over 30-plus years and 15 albums.
Of thrash metal's Big Four, Megadeth has always been the one with the flashiest guitars. When marshalled to the crackerjack songwriting of 1990's Rust in Peace and 2009's Endgame, bandleader Dave Mustaine's guitar heroics act as ecstatic elaborations; when not, they overcompensate. After the miscalculated radio-rock pandering of 2013's Super Collider, though, Dystopia's sustained virtuosity, with riffs sprouting like fractals, feels like a form of reparation: Mustaine's breathless promise that he'll never let Super Collider's Crossfit-ready dad metal happen ever again.
Arguably the most anticipated metal album of 2016 is Metallica’s long-gestating follow-up to 2008’s Death Magnetic. Which means, inevitably, that poor ol’ Dave Mustaine is going to be overshadowed yet again. Mustaine, Metallica’s original shredder who was booted from the band before its breakout, and his consolation band, Megadeth, have always been number two.
Riffing is their business . . . and business is good: The latest iteration of thrash-metal titans Megadeth brings the heat on a blistering 15th album, “Dystopia.” Recorded near leader Dave Mustaine’s Nashville home, the band’s newest members — Angra guitarist Kiko Loureiro and Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler — fall in line with Mustaine and longtime bassist Dave Ellefson, offering up 11 tracks boiling over with the anger, energy, smarts, and cathartic snarl for which Megadeth is known.
Megadeth seriously needed to refocus after the massive misstep that was 2013's Super Collider. The fourteenth studio album by the thrash metal pioneers highlighted the periodic carelessness of guitarist/vocalist/band leader Dave Mustaine, as he managed to sabotage the momentum he had gradually regained across a number of solid albums since the much maligned Risk (1999). The problem was that the majority of songs were lifeless, trite and cringe-worthy.
In “Sweating Bullets,” a song from Megadeth’s canonical Countdown To Extinction, Dave Mustaine narrates the inner life of a paranoiac, describing that character’s struggle as a “war inside my head.” Dystopia, Megadeth’s latest, creates a similar state of conflicted confusion. The music is ferocious, catchy, and arguably the band’s best since the early ’90s; but many of Dystopia’s lyrics have nauseating connotations. Although the riffs and drumming might induce hypnotic states of headbanging, Mustaine’s lyrics will make you stop and think, “Wait, what did he just say?” Melismatic female vocals flutter in “The Threat Is Real” before Mustaine blasts into a frenetic thrash riff.