Megadeth – Dystopia
Released January 22nd, 2016 on Tradecraft Records
The addition of Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler and Angra guitarist Kiko Loureiro to Megadeth’s lineup seems to have galvanized them. Dystopia is, musically, the first Megadeth album since 2004’s The System Has Failed to really embrace the aggressive thrash sound that made them famous in the first place. “Thrash” here is used a bit incorrectly, of course. Thrash metal implies that there is some awe-inspiring complexity that goes along with the speed, a blend of punk fury and metal heroics. The speed isn’t quite there and the riffs mostly chunk along rather than get knotty; all of this is perhaps forgivable for a band that is aging and that has repeatedly lost and then found its way again over the course of its career.
Less forgivable is frontman Dave Mustaine. His lead guitar skills are as slippery and quicksilver as they ever were, but the moment he opens his mouth everything gets dicier. His voice is aging awfully, for one thing. His signature howl has been reduced to an old man’s croak, and that croak is spewing things that would be embarrassing if they weren’t so damnably cliche. Mustaine has always been lyrically one to rail against authority in a tiresomely John Galt fashion, but on Dystopia this railing has been reduced to stuff you can find on any Tea Party web forum: Obama is a dictator, an emperor with no clothes, and he’s letting in Muslims who will destroy America from within. Why can’t we stand up to him? Why do we not face down the forces that oppose American interests? Wow Dave, Arabic singing before “The Threat Is Real”, gee, what are you trying to say, so subtle. And so on and so on into boredom. It lends every song a curiously turgid quality, which is undesirable given that the mainly bottom-end trawling guitar riffs already make them pretty stiff. It’s pretty bad when I would actually prefer the self-help sobfest of St. Anger to this, since it actually had some life (beyond that trashcan snare) and I could relate to it more.
Still, as far as Megadeth albums go, it’s less bad than Cryptic Writings and Risk, so at least Dystopia has that going for it.