Dystopia review by Megadeth

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  • Released: Jan 22, 2016
  • Sound: 7
  • Lyrics: 6
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 7 Good
  • Users' score: 8.2 (132 votes)
Megadeth: Dystopia
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Sound — 7
The double-edged sword of being a living legacy in music is that the longer one practices their craft, the more risk one takes in watering down their legendary body of work. Dave Mustaine, and his thrash metal juggernaut Megadeth, has never taken a break from making albums, and though that resulted in a continuous stream of treats for anyone craving an astonishing guitar performance, recent albums have shown an inevitable weathering of quality. With the main cause of that being a simple inability to recreate the classics - no matter how much 2009's "Endgame" and 2011's "Th1rt3en" tried, they could never out-thrash any of Megadeth's first four albums - Mustaine tried a more contemporary and commercial-friendly approach with 2013's hard-rocker "Super Collider," a bet made similarly as 1999's "Risk" did, and was received with the same kind of panning in return.

With history more or less repeating itself, Mustaine knows how to bounce back accordingly, and Megadeth's fifteenth album, "Dystopia," hones back on its heaviness. While, obviously, that goal is met by bringing things back to their thrash metal benchmark, it's not only about stampeding riffs and shredding solos (although "The Threat Is Real" satisfies the former, while nearly every song satisfies the latter). Mustaine goes from triplet-tricky riffing in "Lying in State" to a permutation of doom-to-thrash-to-groove metal in "Fatal Illusion," and also pays homage to both influential rock bands (like the Iron Maiden-type melody and Thin Lizzy-style guitar harmonies in the self-titled song) and previous Megadeth material (like the midtempo slugger "Post-American World" rehashing the likes of "Symphony of Destruction," and the clean electric/acoustic riff in "Bullet to the Brain" calling back to those similar eerie riffs heard prevalently in "Peace Sells...").

Mustaine opts to utilize more acoustic guitar from there, and though the theatrical metal likes of "Poisonous Shadows" (which is also equipped with string sections and a piano outro) is arguably too grandiose for its own good, the following "Conquer or Die" kicks off with a wicked flamenco acoustic performance before turning into an instrumental-only shred track. This one-two punch does a decent job injecting some other characteristics that counterweight the heaviness, but with the final stretch of the album being a meager metal cut of "The Emperor" and a lackluster Fear cover ("Foreign Policy"), "Dystopia" certainly isn't without its flaws.

Lyrics — 6
Mustaine's evolution as a lyricist has been a winding road. Starting out as a devil-may-care metalhead who, like many of his peers, gravitated towards writing about the occult and brutality, his turn to born again Christianity has had him swear off those topics explicit to his faith - and with Megadeth's early songs covering things like witchcraft (like "The Conjuring"), criticism of religion-driven war (in "Holy War... The Punishment Due") or flat-out mocking any kind of faith (in "I Ain't Superstitious"), much of that back catalogue has been rendered off-limits. Nevertheless, Mustaine has taken occasions lately to satiate that classic craving, and "Fatal Illusion" hearkens back to Mustaine's earlier lyric material, detailing a serial killer who was executed coming back from the dead to get revenge on his prosecutors, easily being one of the most colorful sets of lyrics on "Dystopia."

Of course, the more pervasive arc Mustaine has made as a lyricist goes hand in hand with his changing political views. Going from sardonically harping on the likelihood of nuclear winter brought on by the asshole collective of the global elite, to voicing criticism towards jingoistic foreign policies in the mid-naughties, Mustaine's politics have been much more conservative-leaning in the past few years, and he's made it full and clear that he hates current president Barack Obama. That hatred comes to a boil in "Dystopia," which, for the most part, portrays the concept of the fall of Western society by a corrupt and weak leader (consider it Mustaine's hyperbolic version of NOFX's "The War on Errorism"). It's a simple, well-covered, and ham-handed concept, but Mustaine revels in the bluntness with unequivocally critical songs like "The Threat Is Real" ("Justified obliteration, no one cares anymore... A culture made of cover ups"), "Post-American World" ("There's creeping hate if you resist the false narrative"), and "Lying in State" ("A shiny new agenda, birthed from a depraved mind / Of failing us on purpose, to culturally sanitize / Its opiates for the masses under cloak as hope and change"). Though more direct this time around, it's a political bone-picking that Mustaine has worn the tread on in the past few albums. At least Mustaine can take solace in the fact that, after this year, Obama won't be president anymore.

Overall Impression — 8
In the past-their-prime stage of an iconic band that has no desire to quit making music, it's not about trying to one-up their material that's already been immortalized, but to try finding a decent ebb and flow in a catalog that continues to grow. Whereas "Th1rt3en" tried too hard to be the next best Megadeth album (an impossible achievement), and "Super Collider" unsuccessfully tried to make Megadeth a radio-friendly rock band, "Dystopia" succeeds in recalibrating Megadeth's strengths. Not only does it deliver exactly what thrash enthusiasts are looking for, but it throws in a few flavor-changes to be more than just a simple appeal to thrash, making it the most captivating Megadeth album compared to its recent predecessors.

39 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Marbles
    I think this is a pretty damn good album. Been listening to it non stop. Only complaint I honestly have are the lyrics. I get that Dave is pretty conservative now and I don't mind other people having opinions, but I wish there was more subtlety. Often I found myself rolling my eyes but still managed to appreciate the riffage. There was a lot of good riffage though, so I still think the album is awesome. My favorite since Endgame.
    jman99
    I don't know. Even though many do not agree with his politics it can be very frustrating to hear the same tired viewpoints from every single song. I feel there is a strong lack of conservative representation in media, so it's kind of nice to hear a change of pace.
    Abacus11
    I agree that Mustaine's lyrics have gotten pretty cringe-worthy. "The Threat Is Real" with it's Middle Eastern melodies (der, we get it), "Post American World" and the title track's lyrics have Dave sounding more like everyone's paranoid right-wing grandfather than ever.
    lankeysob
    It is frustrating, but you just got to enjoy it for what it is. As someone who is fairly conservative and likes Enter Shikari, their lyrics can be tough to digest. Just gotta get over the fact that not everyone thinks in the same way.
    DethCouture5150
    Excellent album. True, it isn't without it's flaws and low points, but this is a satisfying Megadeth album, touching on melodies similar to albums like The World Needs A Hero and rhythms that hearken albums like Peace Sells and The System Has Failed. Of the last four albums, I would only rank this second to maybe End Game, but failing to achieve a consistency like TSHF. I'm excited to see what comes next for Megadeth. Should history repeat itself, the next will be even better.
    Iommianity
    I feel like part of why I feel like I'm listening to a different album than most people is our reference points for quality. Don't get me wrong, when The System Has Failed came out, stuff like Blackmail the Universe and Kick the Chair truly were what Dave had been promising for once. There were tight arrangements, good production, it was overall a stronger package than TWNAH. But for every two of those songs, you had stuff like Something I'm Not, Shadow of Deth, I Don't Know Jack (cock tease of a song), and stuff like The Scorpion which could have been a great track off the previous album but sort of added to the 'greatest hits' feel of the album. But I found TWNAH to be bland overall. There was some cool stuff like Recipe For Hate, and Dave is certainly capable of crafting classic metal melodies. But there's just an overall edge and bite to their music that isn't a matter of speed or aggression. I just think, for honest metal and hard rock, the best and most urgent material is the antithesis of comfort and routine, which is something too many classic bands fall into.
    RosettaStoned99
    If history repeated itself, wouldnt they put out a few more mediocre albums before making another decent one?
    Shredder666
    I've listened to this album a few times so far. Some of the thrash on the album is awesome, and definitely a blast back to Peace Sells or probably more accurately, The System Has Failed. There were a few proggy little additions thrown into some of the songs which I appreciated. Also, lots of clever riffs and amazing solo work by Kiko. I have a few criticisms for this album. The biggest one for me is that not many of the songs are very memorable to me. Dystopia is probably the stand-out "song" on the album. While songs like "Fatal Illusion," "The Threat is Real," and "Lying in State" are really heavy and are entertaining to listen to, it doesn't have that catchy "wow" factor that makes Megadeth songs so great. The jazzy Mustaine-style thrash riffs are there, but the "PEACE SELLS BUT WHO'S BUYING?" type lines aren't there. Also, the vocals have this weird processing to them that make them kind of hard to listen to. I noticed Ellefson one or two times on the album but overall he was pretty status quo. Also, Chris Adler's performance was pretty disappointing. He did a couple, literally a couple, cool things on the record, but for the most part he sounded like he was trying to imitate Shawn Drover.. not much emotion or dynamic to his playing. But his killing is my business style ride pattern going on in Fatal Illusion was awesome. 7/10
    damskippy
    Snow kept the copies off my music store's shelf so far. It's been like going through withdrawals.
    hudsonstradlin
    "It's snowing"- every American.
    Shredder666
    Hey now. I'm from Winnipeg, one of the most brutally cold and snow-heavy cities in Canada. While I agree what the Americans complain about in terms of snow is usually laughable to me (we only have snow days if the diesel in school busses physically begins to freeze), there's no doubt that this most recent storm is nuts, and would've knocked any Canadian (or northern American city that's used to snow) on their ass.
    1mmoralthang
    It depends in what part of America you are talking about. Coloradans love the snow but we always carry a pair of shorts in case the weather suddenly jumps to 70.
    vppark2
    Dave Mustaine's vocals aren't really my cup of tea, but I have to appreciate this album for what it is, especially when they brought both Kiko and Adler on board, they both did amazing work.
    Megadeth2011
    I've quite enjoyed this album. However, I really enjoyed a few tracks off Th1rt3en and only disliked a few songs from Super Collider. I think the main thing to remember when listening to modern Megadeth is that they're not the same band they were in the 80s and early 90s. This is a completely different band, and they write completely different music. You can't compare a thrash album like Rust In Peace or Peace Sells to an album like Endgame or Dystopia. You can't compare UA or The System Has Failed to Killing is My Business. You have to listen to the songs and the album for what they are- and if you're listening to them expecting thrash Megadeth from the 80s to put out another RIP, you're going to be disappointed, because that's not going to happen. And for everyone who says things like "Overkill/Testament/Exodus/Death Angel/etc are still thrashing after all these years," yes they are... but you can't ignore their periods where they weren't thrashing. All of our favorite thrash bands from the 80s have changed their sounds... whether or not they've come back to thrash is another thing entirely. If you're looking for straight up thrash, don't buy Dystopia... you're not getting thrash. Pick up the new Exmortus album and stop complaining.
    james1210
    His vocals just sound funky to me. I always thought he had a cool singing voice, but from what I have heard off this album I will pass.
    blooddrunk
    A decidedly average album. The Emperor being the brilliant high point. The rest sounds like it couldve come from the last 3 albums. Kiko makes no difference. Its still overproduced and sorely lacking attitude.
    Abacus11
    I've given this album a few listens through now since last Friday. It's better than Super Collider and slightly better than Th1rt3en but still a far cry from the quality of classic Megadeth. I'm most disappointed that Chris Adler (an exceptional metal drummer) was basically reduced to a living drum machine and has never sounded more boring behind a kit. Kiko is a great lead player and really shows it here but those solos do little to elevate what amounts to a pretty dull collection of mid-tempo snoozers. The things that once made Megadeth great (the riffs, song structures, the RIFFS) are mostly lazy and watered-down on Dystopia and what's left is much more metal-ish hard rock than thrash. Think Countdown to Extinction without the good songwriting or Marty Friedman. I give Dystopia a 5.5/10 and have concluded that Magadeth's legacy would've been much stronger if Mustaine had retired the band after Endgame.
    Iommianity
    I can't say I disagree at all. One of my favourite aspects of the first few Megadeth albums were the rhythms and syncopation. There are still few verses as cool as the riff in Loved to Deth. When Dave was namedropping Gar and talking about bringing in a guy like Chris Adler, I was excited to hear reactive and dynamic fills like on Peace Sells or Rust in Peace. Instead Chris got the Shawn Drover treatment structure and production wise, which blows my mind. Megadeth are one of my favourite bands to a point, and that point is "Would I put this on before their best work?". If the answer is no, I just don't see the point. The world is not hurting for music to the point where a decent Megadeth album should be a revelation. I think there's being a fan of a band for the quality of their work, and then there's being a fan of a particular songwriter to the point where you're just glad to hear something new. I'm not above that at all, but I just find it to be such a tepid and safe album, the complete opposite of what I love about their best stuff.
    Abacus11
    Yes, exactly! I was really hoping that Mustaine and Adler would write some music together that had the same punch that the Gar Samuelson material had. Instead, it sounds like Adler's tracks could be played by almost anyone... and it's not easy to make a drummer who's THAT distinct sound that generic. I LOVE Megadeth's first 4 albums (and a few songs here and there after those) but it's been so long now since they really had that magic. Dystopia isn't a terrible album... but "safe and tepid" is exactly right.
    Agent 00Awesome
    I agree about the riffs. There's almost no creative rhythm playing during the verses and choruses. The intrumental sections have some pretty cool stuff but the rest is boring. Still a pretty good album and I'm hoping it'll grow on me.
    freetotheworld1
    I still love Endgame. I know I'm in the minority, but that album excites me just as much as their earlier stuff.
    SOAD_SoG
    Its a great album, the speed and the agression are great. Chris Adler and Kiko did their job perfectly, better than Drover and Broderick, IMO. My complain besides the "lazy" lyrics (My best example is "The Emperor" on that line where he says: "You're bad, for my health, you make me sick, you prick" Its like, seriously, a edgy 13 teenager comes with those types of lyrcis), its the riffs are all written in the same pattern and chords, although heavy metal tends to do the heavy palm muting on the 6th string and all that, This megadeth record abused the Open-6th-string riffing, I mean how many verses did he sang on palm muted riffs ("The Threat is real", "Post-American World", "Poisonous Shadows")...Far too many for my taste. At this point is bloody obvious that Dave will just start ripping himself off (Last riff of "Fatal Ilusion" and "Truth be told" sound extremely familiar, and the obvious Black friday comparisons), but using the same riff in the verses of 3 songs, in the same album is just...lazy, IMO. 8/10
    Serb.M.D.
    Dystopia is pretty better than SC because it's heavier and more technically improved, but there is one minus. Only singles are really outstanding, most of the songs are monotonously. Like you're listening the same song that fills the whole album. But the only not-single that i've noticed is Conquer or Die. Lyrics - there is nothing special - quite primitive anti-politics. That is only that i can say. Dave had written lyrics about everything for previous albums and it were unique, even when he given up with satanic stuff. But now - it is usual. It's very sad to listen that there are nothing really new from my favourite band. But sometimes i will listen Dystopia again.
    a drummer
    I had high expectations. I'm bummed to say that first 3 songs they released (Also happen to be the first three tracks on the record) are the best, though there are a few good moments scattered throughout (definitely Conquer or Die). I guess I was just hoping to hear more of Chris and Kiko but hey, it is MegaDave after all. Overall 6/10 for me.
    Anduinfeilds
    I think you just have to listen to it more. I thought the same thing the first few times but now I am hearing so much more out of the album. There is plenty of Kikko, he's got a solo on every song and one of the best parts of the album is the trade off back and forth solo between Dave and Kikko on Look Who's Talking. As far as Chris goes he does an amazing job of laying down some powerful drums while staying out of the way to let the guitarists do the work, Megadeth is a shred band after all. Dystopia - 8.5/10
    damskippy
    Oh and "Ain't Superstitious" is an old blues standard and not an "anti" anything song. It was more in the grain of "I'm A Man" and blues tunes that just celebrated being a badass man.
    cmvideo
    It's a front loaded album. Half way through the album I was like damn, this is pretty f'ing awesome. But it does kind of tail off a bit in the second half. Gotta listen to it some more but that was my first impression. Even in the songs I liked less, there was always some ripping solo. I am digging this new Brazilian guy. And Adler on drums is always a beast. For the first half of the album alone, this is a good album.
    AnthonyWabo
    I like the album. But i enjoy it even more when i kick the tempo with 30-40 bpm, it really gives it the drive it actually needs. The first album in a long time by Megadeth that really made me want to pick up my guitar and play. Still, there are a lot of repetitions from the older catalogue, i am not going to talk about Fatal Illusion and Black Friday (you know about which part i am talking about), also Lying in State (my favorite track), duude, that's Blackmail The Universe 2 Poisonous Shadows sounds deadly a little bit faster, because Dave's vocals seem to drag a bit here. Samo goes for The Emperor. Anyhow, good music right there, it was about time we got something decent. Dave's neo-classical inspired solo on Bullet To The Brain was also a very pleasant surprise. 6.5/10 from a big Megadeth fan! P.S. The lyrics... forgot about them, this dude has forgotten how to write non-cliche lyrics... All the choruses are terrible (from a lyrical point of view)
    Vampire_State
    It's like everything wrong with every album since UA, with some of what was okay about Endgame. It's bad, is what i'm saying.
    poland
    Yeah his voice seems fried now and like his and Paul Stanley both had a voice nobody could copy and sound like them either. They both had a very "only there own sounding voice". IMO the person that did the review must be a Obama fan b/c he turned it into an Obama attack more than a review of the album what a shame. Peace-----ry
    lankeysob
    Loving the solos' on this album compared to the past few cds. Broderick is a great guitarist but Kiko has him beat on catchy solos. The solo's on Dystopia are some of the best they've done since The System has Failed.
    ramircat
    You guys have to find the other songs off the album that are in the Japan version.....2 extra songs including the brutal "me hate you". How it didn't make it to the standard edition is beyond me. It's on YouTube.
    solomonkane
    I like it but it feels like half an album they have been playing the two new guys for how many months now why didnt they go back in and extend some of those songs this easily could and should have been a new rust in peace buts its not