Megadeth founder and lone survivor Dave Mustaine is back with his eleventh studio album, and as usual, new musicians. No surprise there; it's no secret that Dave doesn't work and play well with others and Megadeth has been a revolving door of supporting musicians for the past fifteen years. The good news is that his new crew, brothers Glen and Shawn Drove on guitar and drums, respectively, and bassist James Lorenzo delivers the goods on a great set of classic-sounding speed-metal. It has a real old-school thrash feel to it, harkening back to the Megadeth of the ‘80s. It’s faster and more aggressive than recent releases, and Dave revisits his favorite subject matter: politics and death. The songs are full of the dark imagery that he’s always loved, which was predominant on his early recordings. Musically, it’s got the raw flavor of the first four Megadeth albums, before they turned in a more melodic direction. Older fans should really enjoy the return to classic form. Even the old mascot Vic Rattlehead is back, albeit with a full head of lustrous black hair, but with all his old hardware intact.
The opening track “Sleepwalker” is a perfect case in point; it’s a blistering assault full of muscular riffs and dark tales of murder and vengeance. The dark themes continue on “You’re Dead,” “Blessed Are The Dead,” and one of my favorite tracks, “Never Walk Alone… Call To Arms,” any of which would slip comfortably into any of their early albums. The only brown note I heard is a remake of one of my favorite Megadeth songs ever, “A Tout Le Monde.” Accompanied by Lacuna Coil vocalist Cristina Scabbia, it becomes a sort of duet, and I hate it. The original track from the album Youthanasia was a darkly beautiful suicide note. The new cover sounds like Evanescence. This was not a song that needed to be rerecorded, and certainly not with a mediocre female singer.
The fact that this album was even made and that Mustaine is still a viable artist is amazing in itself. Drug problems, alcohol problems, band infighting, a should-have-been career ending arm injury – nothing stops this guy! He keeps coming back and generally gets better. This dude is like the Energizer Bunny of thrash-metal. What makes this guy take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’? A few years ago doctors said he’d never play again. Well, he is, and he’s as good as ever. I think what keeps him going is pure, unadulterated rage. This is one angry S.O.B. Everyone needs something to believe in, and Dave believes in being really, really pissed off, and telling you why. He also sticks to his guns musically. He’s not one to compromise his craft, which is why he is now the de-facto godfather of thrash, still dishing out brutal metal when his peers from the ‘80s have disappeared or gone mainsteam.
Dave vents his rage for the most part on the military-industrial complex as evidenced by the title track. Throw in tracks like “Washington Is Next!,” “Gears Of War”, and “Amerikhastan,” and you don’t have to guess which side of the fence Dave sits on.
There are no real surprises here for longtime fans, just lots of tasty metal. I found it a refreshing return to form of the band I fell in love with when I first heard them way back when.