MEGADETH have been keeping up a hellacious schedule the last few years. Riding high on the successes of relentless world tours, pumping out several albums in a row, The Rust In Peace 20th Anniversary Tour, a live DVD, the massive Big 4 shows and all that it goes with. One started thinking that all of this began to take its toll on the veteran thrash out fit this summer. Front man Dave Mustaine was injured for the last third of the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival and nearly pulled out of the New York Big Four show in September when Dave’s doctor advised him against playing with severe neck and arm injuries. Dave’s epitaph has been written many times and he is still here, kicking ass. Much like Mustaine’s entire career, the band has been driven by the need to excel professionally and musically. I worried if the time constraints on making the new MEGADETH album (according to drummer Shawn Drover when I interviewed him over the summer) would affect the quality. Shawn said no in spite of being the shortest time in the studio ever. Two months seems like an awful short time for my favorite Virgo perfectionist to make a new album, but everyone around the band echoed the same sentiment that it came out awesome. Still, I remained skeptical when I learned that some of the songs were demos and already released tracks from past albums, perhaps in a bid to save time. Then again my head told my metal heart that MEGADETH is MEGADETH and they do not compromise, ever.
The first track “Sudden Death” was leaked a few months ago and sounded impressive then, but more so now. The song is very much in the vein of recent Deth albums, full of shredding solos,tight arrangements, fast tempos and fine singing from Mustaine. The chorus has a very Countdown to Extinction catchy feel to it. I actually predicted a year ago that the band might eschew overt complexity on their next record for finer song-craft. I loved Endgame, but I felt it leaned to heavily on technical playing. “Public Enemy #1” which is about Osama Bin Laden, has also been a recent staple of the bands’ live shows. It kind of sounds a bit like “Hanger 18” in a way and is another catchy track. One of the upgrades in the sound of the band is the return of David “Junior” Ellefson to the fold. No disrespect to other guys who have held the job, but it just doesn’t sound true without Junior on bass and backing vocals. “Who’s Life (Is It Anyway?)” was the first really new track that I heard and was impressed with its urgency and originality. It has an old-school thrash and NWOBHM kind of vibe to it that I love with more cool solos from Mustaine and Chris Broderick. “We The People” is in the tradition of the the band that gave the world “Peace Sells….But Who’s Buying” and “Foreclosure of A Dream”. Of course Dave Mustaine in1986 was a lot less conservative and the this new song calls out American politicians in general, not one party. Drover really puts his stamp on this record as a top flight drummer and the right choice of player behind the kit for this band. Broderick again proves to be one of the finest axe-slingers in the game and reels off blistering lead after lead. Plus he has to keep up with Mustaine, who chips in a strong solo of his own. “Guns, Drugs, and Money” is another political jab aimed at the Mexican drug war. The pre-chorus has a great main riff, but I could care less for the pontificating nature of the lyrics. “Never Dead” is another song that was released early for a video game and is the thrashiest song on the album in the vein of the Rust In Peace album. This is the track that bears the most friuit from the bands experience playing that legendary album live for a year straight.
I’m not sure if it has to do specifically with choosing producer Johnny K (known for records by STAIND and DISTURBED), but every song on Thirteen has a cool sing-a-long chorus made for live performances. “New World Order” is another thoughtful song about the affairs of state and another stylistically typical Deth track. The rhythm section of Drover and Ellefson are particularly awesome here. This song also contains great gang vocals and several memorable leads. “Fast Lane” is exactly that; an uptempo jam. There is some awesome Mustaine right and left hand technique stuff here that knocked me out, as usual. The guy still has it where it counts. “Black Swan” originally appeared as a bonus track on United Abominations. The song has definitely been upgraded in its new form, but it is essentially the same tune with new and better playing on it. Although I love the song, I do feel like it is a bit of a re-tread at this point. “Wrekker” is a slick and heavy track in line with the bands’ most commercial leanings until the chorus kicks in. “Millennium of the Blind” apparently comes from a left-over demo from the Countdown-era and wound up released as a bonus track from Youthanasia. Starting off like a ballad and grounding down in to a metal/rock song it is the least compelling song on the album. However, some terrific lead playing redeems it before its over. Another left over track, “Deadly Nightshade” is about one of Mustaine’s favorite topics: Mrs. Wrong with whom he has a lot of experience with. Once again the signature Ellefson bass depth and tone reigns supreme, standing tall. Closing out the album and perhaps a wistful recap of their entire career, “13” has the dramatic weight Mustaine thrives on. Building up slowly like a geyser, the song rocks before long and has some fine down picked, chugging riffs that fans come to expect. Overall the album is solid and even great in some places, but I do feel as if the revamped tracks diminish the overall quality when compared to the last few albums by the group.
By Keith (Keefy) Chachkes