After negative reception to their poorly conceived 2013 release Super Collider, Megadeth are back with their brand new album Dystopia, in the hopes to win back lost fans and gain a few new ones along the way. Does the album succeed, or is Dystopia more reminiscent of it’s ominous namesake?
- The Threat Is Real
- Fatal Illusion
- Death From Within
- Bullet To The Brain
- Post American World
- Poisonous Shadows
- Conquer Or Die
- Lying In State
- The Emperor
- Foreign Policy
- Melt The Ice Away
Opening the album with predictably dull Arabic vocals, The Threat Is Real soon learns to sprint again with quick alternate picked guitars fronted by a suitably Asian-tinged lead line from Mustaine. Dave puts in decent vocal performance on this track, despite a pretty blatant use of auto tune, but at this stage in the mans career it can’t really be helped. The riffs found here are decent, nothing spectacular but certainly better than anything found on Super Collider. A great solo toward the track’s climax and some well placed chug, and the album leaves us in safe hands with The Threat Is Real.
A gracefully falling solo accompanies a sweetly nostalgic 80’s action movie-esque rhythm section on title track Dystopia, as memorable an ode to classic thrash-metal as you’ll come on this record. The track contains some of the best solos the album has to offer, and features the most coherent lyrical work from Mustaine in recent years. The song’s transformation into chug-heavy riff-monster territory toward its third act really benefits the track, refreshing what threatens to become a five minute slog through past glories.
An ominously mechanical muted riff throws some real weight behind Fatal Illusion, giving us one of the album’s first hints of a highlight. A fantastic bass solo courtesy of Dave Ellefson brings the listener into inspired stickwork from guest Lamb Of God drummer Chris Adler, whose contribution on the album deserves special mention as one of the most enjoyable aspects on display. As the first single, it’s clear to see why MegaDave and the rest of the guys felt it the best way to represent their latest material, with a track that oozes classic Megadeth with a distinctly new-age tinge. Despite an abrupt end, Fatal Illusion is a great track, able to stand among some of the band’s best work over the last fifteen years.
Moving onto Death From Within; groove-laden, bouncy riffs open the track wide, allowing a crooning Mustaine to take the floor above his accomplished rhythm section. Adler stands out yet again throughout the song, adding fuel to what would normally be a fairly standard fire. Despite its lack of ingenuity, the song runs along at a decent pace with some great riffs and even greater work on the skins.
Light acoustics Bullet To The Brain before giving way to another classic heavy Megadeth riff, leading to one of the best choruses the album has to offer, despite some truly questionable lyrical content. With some wonderfully playful post-chorus solos thrown in, the track sounds like it could become a real crowd-pleaser at a festival, making it one of the best songs thus far.
Starting with yet another brooding electronic drone, Post American World offers a good chug-laden riff to start us off. Giving the listener interesting melodies for the pre-choruses and a wonderfully contrasting solo, the track can probably be forgiven for some more incredibly weak lyrics.
From here is, unfortunately, when the reliance on standard fare begins to run thin. Poisonous Shadows begins with (another) ominous acoustic opening, bells tolling with ringing distorted chords and more widdly-solos. However, this time the track quickly loses its effect with floaty female backing vocals and the song quickly grows dull and forgettable. Poisonous Shadows’ canned symphonic backing is reminiscent of bands like Avenged Sevenfold and their peers, however only serving to be a poor imitation of something I could do without in the first place. In summary, it’s a crap ballad that goes on forever.
Impressively beautiful flamenco guitars open the light at the end of the tunnel in the form of Conquer Or Die before giving way to fairly typical Megadeth fare, only with more chug and slower pace. This isn’t a negative, as there are some great riffs on display on this awesome instrumental track, something I’d love to see Megadeth do more of. Great solo throughout, but I could do without the ‘spooky’ spoken word section.
By the time the weak Lying In State comes around, the listener is starting to lose all interest as this boring, plodding track is wheeled out in an attempt to pad out an album that’s already outstayed it’s hesitant welcome. There may not be any inherient issues with the track, but its absolute beige qualities hold it up as a shining example of a poor effort.
Thank god then, for the saving grace that is The Emperor, which may well be a fairly generic track, but features one of the finest riffs on the entire album as well as an incredibly playful chorus. If not for this song, the listener would surely have put the album to rest around this note. Sadly, we reach the album’s final two tracks, two utterly forgettably dull tracks in the form of Foreign Policy and Melt The Ice Away. Frustratingly disjointed melodies and plodding structures really start to irritate as the album seems to continue into early 2017, before finally ringing out it’s final notes.
So, what can I say about Dystopia? The record stumbles at the first hurdle, but quickly finds its feet before settling into a fairly predictable but comfortable pace as one of the slightly better Megadeth records to grace us since the sublime Endgame. It starts out fairly strong, showing some signs of promise but around the halfway mark really begins to sag, and the record turns into a self indulgent seventy minutes of paranoid delusions courtesy of Mr. Mustaine. Is it terrible? No, it’s just boring, despite some really good tracks. Special mention to the great work put in by Adler throughout the record, as well as some of the bass-solo sections from Dave Ellefson.
The way I see this is that admittedly, it’s overlong and predictable, but fans will love it. It won’t be converting any hard nosed Metallica or Bring Me The Horizon fans, but it’s a decent record for those who needed it. People claiming it’s a return to form need to take a good hard look in the mirror, but for now at least there are a few decent songs for festival sets. A slight relief, Megadeth have delivered a merely subpar record after a long seven year wait filled with terrible work, but compared to previous work in recent years that’s all we need.