Monday, April 30, 2012

Megadeth - TH1RT3EN

Roadrunner Records/Warner Music Australia

There’s no question that Megadeth’s first six studio albums are highly regarded classics. And as a long-time follower of the band, I hold each and every one of those album’s up as the benchmark as the best Megadeth had to offer. And even though 1997’s ‘Cryptic Writings’ was a little patchy in places, it still had enough strong material to be enjoyable. Hell I like parts of 1999’s rather controversial ‘Risk’ album. But by 2001 (Around the release of ‘The World Needs A Hero’), I couldn’t help but feel that Megadeth had lost some of their original fire and drive, and as a consequence some of my own interest in the band.
While there’s many that have hailed each and every new Megadeth release since vocalist/guitarist Dave Mustaine reinstated the group after short hiatus, I haven’t entirely been sold on the band’s more recent output. 2004’s ‘The System Has Failed’ was essentially a Mustaine solo effort released under the Megadeth banner, and therefore seemed to lack some of the essential core Megadeth elements, while 2007’s ‘United Abominations’ hinted at greatness, but was letdown by overabundance of the filler efforts. 2009’s ‘Endgame’ did fare a little stronger, and the band appeared to be growing in strength with their solidified line-up, and the band’s contribution to ‘The Big 4: Live From Sofia, Bulgaria’ D.V.D. alongside Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax in 2010 only seemed to reinforce the notion. However, almost any goodwill the band had built up with those releases almost disappeared entirely with the release of the absolutely sub-par ‘Rust In Peace Live’ album/D.V.D. in 2010. Mustaine’s voice was merely a shadow of its past greatness, the band looked tired for the most part and the overall D.V.D. looked amateurish and rushed at best.
As is the case with every new album from Megadeth, ‘TH1RT3EN’ was hyped up to be another Megadeth classic, and after being given a taste of the first single (‘Sudden Death’), things did sound promising. But given the band’s recent track record, I was building my hopes up too much. And it’s a good thing I didn’t. Because even though the band’s thirteenth studio effort does have its moments, ‘TH1RT3EN’ is definitely one of Megadeth’s most disappointing efforts from their post-reformation era.
The opening track and first single ‘Sudden Death’ (Which was released back in 2010 on the ‘Guitar Hero: Warriors Of Rock’ video game) still stands out as one of the album’s stronger efforts. The band (Who aside from Mustaine, now comprises of guitarist/backing vocalist Chris Broderick, bassist/backing vocalist David Ellefson and drummer/backing vocalist Shawn Drover) sound inspired for the most part, with the interplay between the guitarists giving the melodic thrash based song some great lead work, and plenty of venom in Mustaine’s snarl gives the tune some added aggression on the vocal front.
The follow-up track ‘Public Enemy No. 1’ is a solid mid-paced semi-thrash effort that’s strong on melody, but a little lacking in terms of diversity (Especially on the chorus front, which gets a little repetitive after a while), while the rock based ‘Whose Life (Is It Anyways?)’ at least features a bit of attitude from Mustaine that gives off a bit of a punk vibe, which works quite well.
Unfortunately, this is where things start to falter. ‘We The People’, despite a great build-up and some great lyrical lines, lacks a memorable chorus to pack any punch, while ‘Guns, Drugs & Money’ is another song that is melodic enough, but is primarily only memorable for its overly repetitive choruses.
‘Never Dead’ is without a doubt the album’s stand out cut with its fast paced thrash riffs, memorable choruses and angry vocals from Mustaine, and proves that while Mustaine’s creative peak has well and truly passed, he can come up with a great song every now and then.
Next up three of the album’s more controversial additions - namely ‘New World Order’ (Which originally appeared as b-side to 1995’s ‘A Tout Le Monde’), ‘Millennium Of The Blind’ (Which was also released as a bonus track on the 2004 remastered version of the band’s ‘Youthanasia’ album from 1994) and ‘Black Swan’ (Which was originally the Japanese bonus track on 2007’s ‘United Abominations’). While I don’t have a problem with the band re-recording older material, I do have a problem when the said material has been released, and is still available. And I have a bigger problem when the changes to the original versions are minimal, and the songs themselves are average at best. Just why the band chose to re-record these three songs is beyond me. None of the tracks add anything to the album as a whole, and which seem suspiciously included only to boost the number of tracks up to a total of thirteen to coincide with the album’s title.
From here, things don’t get much better. ‘Fast Lane’ is essentially a lyrical rewrite version of ‘1,320'’ from ‘Endgame’ with nothing of note in the musical department, while ‘Wrecker’ (As in home wrecker) is simply throwaway with its below average lyrical prose.
‘Deadly Nightshade’ is an O.K. tune, but fairly forgettable, while the closing track ‘13’ simply fails to get off the ground, despite Mustaine putting a little more thought into the lyrics than most of the other tracks on the album.
Given the band’s recent track record of inconsistent efforts, the end result of ‘TH1RT3EN’ doesn’t exactly come as any great surprise. Mustaine seems to have lost much of his spark on the lyrical front, and the band act merely as a support team when it comes to producing anything worthy on the musical front.
Megadeth were once a vital and forward thinking group, both in their formative years as a thrash act and in the years that ensued as a heavy metal/rock styled outfit. But with the release of ‘TH1RT3EN’, it’s clear that Megadeth’s hunger and passion for writing music seems to be all but gone.

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© Justin Donnelly