Record Label: Tradecraft/ Universal
Release Date: 22nd January 2016
Mustaine's re-shuffled cohorts' 15th LP is patchy but often-times exhilarating and well-crafted
A widely held (and rather correct) opinion among many corners of the metal community is that the genre needs (and has for a few years now) a solid boot up it's behind in terms of excitement and innovation; an At The Drive-In, or someone to capitalize on the momentum gained by Mastodon in recent years. While it has probably always been certain that said kick isn't going to come from Mustaine & co., with 2009's Endgame Megadeth delivered a firebrand opus to rival their glorious early '90s period. Given the disappointment of both Thirteen and the piss-weak Super Collider preceding it, perhaps aspects of the more gratuitous receptions of their 15th LP Dystopia have been down to the fact that it just isn't rubbish. That being said, this is most plausibly the band's strongest effort since Endgame.
It opens with the bull-dozing 'The Threat Is Real', and right from the off Megadeth sound like a masterfully oiled and re-vitalised machine. In an interview with Metal Hammer's Dom Lawson, bassist Dave Ellefson spoke excitedly about the reported chemistry betwixt the band's re-shuffled line-up, saying of Kiko Loureiro and Chris Adler (also of Lamb Of God) that "they can play anything we put in front of them". The compositions certainly "click" better together than on its predecessors, and as its title alludes, despite being littered with Mustaine's dodgy politics it's an album of its time.
The title-track is the most inspired track the band have written and performed for years, the track's tunefulness doing nothing to soften the glorious craft of sharp riffing and the second half's grooviness. Adler's drumming and Loureiro's blistering solos continue to fit the mould in to the rampage of 'Fatal Illusion'.
From this point on however, Dystopia suffers from ego-mania syndrome. One can imagine the newer band members wanting to avoid putting up blockades around any slightly less fruitful ideas that the chief song-writer might have, even if the record almost always sounds collective in spirit. No matter how allegorical they are Mustaine's clumsy lyrics about how "forbidden fruit tastes sweeter" and horrible, the jarring fancifulness between the verse and the chorus betrays some cracks in the framework. Despite its potentially patronising core sentiment the neat song-writing on 'Post-American World' provides the album's most definably catchy moment.
The six minute 'Poisonous Shadows' seems to be drawn from more personal and perhaps heart-broken experiences, and as such material has never been Mustaine's esoteric stomping ground the track comes off as cumbersome. 'Lying In State' brings nothing to the table in terms of some much-needed refreshment as its point of arrival, though 'The Emperor' manages to do so by emphasising the band's explosive melodic streak in rollicking form.
It is not the case that to hope for another masterpiece from Megadeth is to set oneself up for disappointment. Dystopia is often exhilarating and well-crafted and is the most approachable the band have sounded possibly ever. It's another very good record that slots nicely in to their catalogue as worthwhile, which many people have been crying for since 2009.