When you’re a band with fans as loyal as the Megadeth ones, it’s difficult to please everybody. Come out with something radical and people will complain that it’s not as good as the originals, which should be the case here because you try coming up with something as good as Megadeth’s Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? and let me know how hard that is. If the band, on the other hand, decide to keep things business as usual, they at best sell some records to people who want more of the same stuff and at worst embarrass themselves trying to look and act younger. I can say that Megadeth avoids most bad stigma and creates an album that would have been a great follow-up to 1994’s Youthanasia (what many fans consider Megadeth’s last great album).
So first let’s talk about the new line up. The drummer, Chris Adler, is familiar to metal heads as the drummer of Lamb of God, one of the best modern thrash metal bands around. Adler’s drumming not only fits into the pocket that made classic metal so great to listen to rhythmically, but does so while still maintaining a crazy amount of energy and momentum. The other new guy is guitarist Kiko Loureiro, a member of the band Angra. Don’t worry if you don’t know who Angra is. Just know that Kiko brings in some much needed variety in the forms of some exotic melodies and classical music sections.
Combine these two with Mustaine’s crazy riffs (and trust me when I say they are the most crushing riffs I’ve ever heard after the 90’s) and you have the sound of a band with good chemistry, something bandleader Dave Mustaine notoriously struggles with. Unfortunately for bassist David Effelson, heavy metal likes to put bass down in the final mix.
As for the songs themselves, some are cringe worthy (the musical phrasing of “Post American World” is downright terrible) and some are already part of my favorite Megadeth songs (“The Threat is Real” and “Poisonous Shadows” are both great head bangers that also have dynamic song structures). As for the solos, there are some moments when you can tell that Loureiro is trying too hard to sound like what he thinks fans want from a Megadeth guitar solo, but there are also some really creative solos, note-wise.
Mustaine’s lyrics are political in nature but not in a very specific way. He doesn’t talk about today’s issues like racism or the upcoming election but instead wants to talk about the general issues that humans have always faced. He’ll talk about how there’s always a lower class that gets blamed or how too many people are afraid of authority. It gets about as deep as the folk tales he draws inspiration from (“The Emperor” is about the tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes). One cool thing about it is there are some cool animated music videos that portray the apocalyptic world described in the songs, plus a badass skeleton dude bent on revenge. If you’re a real big fan you should order the deluxe box set which comes with inexpensive virtual reality goggles that allow you to see live 360 videos of the band playing. It’s plenty to geek out to.
Overall Dystopia avoids many problems associated with “comeback” albums and even creates some shiny new gems.
RIYL: Any classic metal band
Key Tracks: “The Threat is Real,” “Dystopia,” “Poisonous Shadows”