Released: Jan 22, 2016
Genre: Thrash Metal, Heavy Metal
Label: Tradecraft, Universal
Number Of Tracks: 11
After another failed attempt at trying a radio-friendly metal sound with 2013's "Super Collider," Megadeth's fifteenth album, "Dystopia," satisfyingly plays to the band's strengths.
DystopiaFeatured review by: UG Team, on january 26, 2016 3 of 7 people found this review helpful
Sound: 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. // 7
Lyrics: 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. // 6
Overall Impression: 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. // 8
Guitar_Maverick, on january 27, 2016 8 of 8 people found this review helpful
Sound: Megadeth unleashed upon us their 15th studio album today! After over a year of hype it was undoubtedly one of the most highly anticipated albums of the year by metal fans everywhere. It's hard to say what I was expecting from "Dystopia" prior to its release, but the release of promotional songs "Fatal Illusion," "The Threat Is Real" and "Dystopia" filled me with joy and excitement ahead of what would definitely be a marked improvement on their previous release, "Super Collider." So what have they done well? And is there anything that lets the album down?
The first thing to note is the variety in the album; it's got some all out thrash songs in "Lying in State," some that are very much more Rock oriented in "Dystopia," and some longer, more progressive tracks like "Poisonous Shadows." What the songs have in common, and makes them stand out from other similar songs, is how well conceived they are: Dave spoke about the songs having lots of twists and turns, and that's evident in some cases, like "Post American World" in particular. In this, the solo section erupts out of nowhere. The solo's use to the song is obvious as Mustaine manages to incorporate a key theme from "Hangar 18," a song which has a related concept behind it; but it is poorly executed and abrupt. These songs are very reliant on the song's concept and lyrics to tie them together as is what happens in this case; but for the most part the songs flow together effortlessly. "Poisonous Shadows" moves through so many different textures and ideas, but the ideas are all fully thought out, well-executed and merge into each other very well. The orchestral instruments help, along with masterful thematic builds and excellent production value, to blend the heavy and soft sections together. This is different to a lot of previous Megadeth tracks which would rely on the recognised thrash features to allow them to jump between vastly differing sections; it shows a really strong songwriting progression of the band. There are two main things that help this: the song lengths being shorter enables a more focussed concentration on a particular style/genre; and the impressive guitar work, the forced change in tuning due to Dave's surgery has actually helped the band in some ways.
What the album has, a lot more of than on others, is heavy riffs; I think this is largely helped by the drop D tuning. Partly because Mustaine believes that it's harder to hear the articulation in fast paced low register riffs on the dropped D string; resulting in slightly slower riffs, and partly because the lower tuning just sounds much heavier. Mustaine mentioned in an interview before the album's release that Bullet To The Brain has some of his favourite riffs on the album. They definitely do not disappoint! The riffs on this track are definitely not as fast as some others, but they sound so heavy, revolving around the lower register, and emphasised tremendously by Adler's drumming; aided again by the good production value. "Poisonous Shadows" probably has my favourite lead guitar playing on the album; when the first solo enters following the change from the sparse texture; it is accompanied by a heavy riff underneath, and impressive synths and strings helping to create an epic atmospheric surrounding. The solo itself plays on the harmonic minor scale excellently to give an exotic feel to the track, further helping to blend in from the previous section. It then has a fun call and response with the synths to transition into the verse. The solo for the middle of the track is really well written, it begins melodically to attract attention, yet quickly begins to display the player's talents using impressively quick runs to round off the solo section. As good as the guitar playing, and composition of "Poisonous Shadows" is, the vocal performance was somewhat underwhelming. // 9
Lyrics: With so much else happening throughout the track, it perhaps an artistic choice for Mustaine to not fully go for it, singing wise. The whole song features a snarling performance relating to more spoken than sung; the vocals open up a bit in the chorus, but in such a melodic song I would have expected a more convincing melodic leading line to complete the harmonically rich section. This is probably the only issue I have with Mustaine's vocals on the whole record though. All other tracks they do a brilliant job of either providing a central hook, as in "The Emperor" and "Dystopia," or are appropriately aggressive like in "Lying in State" and "Post American World." Further, the lyrics on each track are really well conceived.
There is no overall theme to the lyrics on the album, although many focus on current political events; "Fatal Illusion," "The Threat Is Real" and "Lying in State." Despite my dislike of the delivery on "Poisonous Shadows," the lyrical concept is one my favourites. The song is a lot more emotional; thankfully in a different way to some of Mustaine's other emotional songs. The song focusses around "people hiding from themselves," and how people like to pretend that aspects of their past didn't happen; these secrets are the poisonous shadows that haunt them. This topic is extremely relatable for listeners and will undoubtedly draw an instant relationship with some listening. The lyrics throughout are well written; some offering creative metaphors, some providing an alternative perspective on life, and some simply challenging the way we currently view the world. // 8
Overall Impression: I think that as a whole album, it's probably Megadeth's strongest since "Cryptic Writings," it's consistently great throughout; including a variety of songs that can appeal to a variety of moods and people. The construction of the album overall is very good, it flows really well in terms of lyrical themes, and varying the song genres. "Lying in State" would not follow on very well from "Poisonous Shadows," but having "Conquer or Die!" between them helps the flow of the album. The songs themselves are a little jumpy in places, though most are very well constructed, with excellent concepts, delivered through Mustaine's excellent vocal performance and lyrics, that match the music. The only song I dislike, and think doesn't fit the album, is the cover "Foreign Policy," it doesn't have the same level of thought and concept behind it as the others, and this makes it seem out of place, although it is arguably the most thrash song on the album. This takes nothing away from the original tracks on "Dystopia" and Megadeth should be very happy with the album they've created. Overall a very enjoyable album, definitely worth a buy; Megadeth back to their best!
Standout tracks: "Dystopia," "Poisonous Shadows," "Bullet to the Brain," "The Emperor." // 8
PiercedBand, on january 28, 2016 1 of 5 people found this review helpful
Sound: Wowwee is this the album Megadeth fans have been searching for! Kiko is able to work his technical abilities into the music, while staying melodic. The soloing on the past few Deth releases haven't been very great so this fresh and much needed! "Post American World" has some of the tastiest soloing you will hear from this century. Dave wrote some killer rhythm parts, note the similarity between the riff in "Fatal Illusion" to "Black Friday." The blazing fast, chunky rhythm sections is what really makes this album worthwhile. The opening riff to "The Threat Is Real" will make you shake! And the intro solo on "Poisonous Shadows" will give you goosebumps! Speaking of that track, it is very similar to "Promises" from "The World Needs a Hero." Chris Adler and Junior really clicked in this album, their rhythm sections are tight with no room for error. Now onto the subject of Dave's vocals on here, no one seems to like them but I have always loved his snarling style. To me the vocals were a highlight compared to "Endgame," "Th1rt3en" and "Super Collider." Good to see the boys return to thrash. // 7
Lyrics: If you've heard a Megadeth song you can probably guess this department. I personally enjoy Mustaine's lyrics and this album is no different. Highly political (see "Post American World"), heavy on the war and death ("Fatal Illusion," "The Threat Is Real," "Bullet to the Brain"), and even a more touching song, "Poisonous Shadows." As I stated above, it is eerily reminiscent of "Promises." Mustaine doesn't really change up his vocal style for this so I can't really comment on that other than the fact I think his performance was pretty strong. // 6
Overall Impression: If I had to compare this to any albums of Megadeth's it comes to close to being like "Rust in Peace" but I am NOT saying it is "Rust in Peace" because there is quite a bit of filler in this. The fourth track "Death From Within" is okay but after "Conquer or Die" it starts to lose me. It's an instrumental and even though it doesn't touch "Into the Lungs of Hell," Kiko is really able to show off in this. Then it drops off going into "Lying in State." "The Emperor" is a ridiculous track and the lyrics are somewhat dumb, but the Fear cover of "Foreign Policy" was a disaster. I'd call this album a wannabe somewhere between "Peace Sells...," "So Far, So Good... So What!" and "Rust in Peace." Hopefully nothing happens to this but I'd definitely go out to buy it again! Just not the deluxe edition, that was a waste of my money. No extra tracks, just a weird "virtual reality" video thing that's very laggy and confusing. // 7