Countdown To Extinction


Capitol, 1992

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It was inevitable, I guess. Once Metallica released their self-titled album in 1991 and achieved commercial success, the cries of “sellout” rang out. So, when Megadeth decided to attempt a more commercial sound to their music in 1992 with Countdown To Extinction, the same cries were leveled at Dave Mustaine and crew.

What was it? The fact they weren’t playing everything at 200 beats a minute now? The fact some of their songs actually sounded like they could get played on mainstream radio, following on the trails that Metallica helped to lay down? Or was it that people just weren’t happy unless they were bitching about something?

Whatever the case, the facts remain the same: Regardless of whether the disc is commercial or not, it’s a step down from Rust In Peace just one album prior.

Let’s look at the disc’s positives, of which it still has many. Sound-wise, Countdown To Extinction is as crisp as it can be. Mustaine’s vocals burst through the mix, his and Marty Friedman’s guitar work remains a solid one-two punch, as does the rhythmic thumping of Dave Ellefson’s bass and Nick Menza’s drums.

And there is some great music on this album. The first real “hit” for Megadeth, “Symphony Of Destruction,” remains a powerful march down the listener’s spinal column (even if it’s not done at double-step like earlier albums would have), while “Foreclosure Of A Dream” proves that Megadeth could mix the gentle side of their music with the bone-crushing riffing they became known for.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Hidden gems? They’re here, too. “Architect Of Aggression” is a track that should have gotten more notice than it did, while “High Speed Dirt” and “Ashes In Your Mouth” show that, just because Megadeth doesn’t have their feet down completely on the gas pedals, it doesn’t mean the music is any less powerful.

If the whole album had been this solid, it’s possible that it could have even eclipsed Metallica at this time. But, there are a few missteps. The opening track, “Skin o’ My Teeth,” is a little uncertain in terms of its musical delivery and its lyrical content, and is an uneven way to kick off a new direction for a band. “Captive Honour” is a bit of a throwaway track, to my ears.

And then… “Sweating Bullets.” I have never liked this song, even from when I first bought this album the day it came out. Mustaine talking to himself as an alter-ego, possibly addressing all the mistakes he’s made in his life? You lost me at talking to himself; it comes off as feeling a little overhanded, and the bridges that tie the spoken-word verses to the chorus don’t add anything to the mix. Not gonna lie: this is one I dive for the “skip” button when it comes on. (I know… see if Mustaine ever returns my calls again.)

Oh, wait… we forgot to address the concerns about “selling out”! Two words: who cares? Megadeth had proven they had mastered the thrash scene with Rust In Peace; I don’t know if there was anything they had left to prove on that front by this time. What they were able to achieve was to prove they could write a solid song, with a beat that didn’t sound like a hummingbird’s heart on an espresso bender. In that regard, they showed they knew how to succeed… but, like the albums leading up to Rust In Peace, they had some work to do.

I still listen to Countdown To Extinction on a fairly regular basis, and it certainly belongs in the collections of not only Megadeth fans, but fans of metal in general. Less a “selling out” than an album featuring the band growing up, it heralded a second phase of Megadeth’s career, albeit with a slightly tentative first step in that direction.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2022 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol, and is used for informational purposes only.