Megadeth – Dystopia (2016)

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Megadeth has cycled between obvious mainstream rock pandering and careful imitation of their best appreciated works at an ever accelerating rate since their reformation in 2004. If this trend keeps up, they’ll be changing styles with every strum of their guitars in a few years. Dystopia isn’t quite as quick to alter its own sounds as that rather implausible hypothetical peak, but it’s still obviously colored by two colliding trends; Dave Mustaine’s desire to outsell Metallica, and the fact that even relatively extreme metal can sell enormous volumes in 2016. This makes what would be yet another comeback album into a surprisingly disjointed experience at times.

In general, Dystopia provides its potential listeners with several varieties of vintage Megadeth to peruse at their leisure, ranging from the technical wizardry of the ’80s and Rust in Peace (arguably the musical peak of this band) to the streamlined pop metal that immediately followed such, and even hints of recent albums through conceptual and musical continuity. Beyond the vocals of Dave Mustaine and the frequent guitar leads, though, there’s little that distinguishes this from other poppy speed metal of the mid 2010s, especially since this is one of those dime-a-dozen studio perfect recordings with perfectly appropriate production and instrumentation. One definite problem, however is that Dave Mustaine’s vocal and lyrical contributions have decayed in quality in recent years. Megadeth’s always been political at the best of times, but more often than not the lyrics devolve into political sloganeering that might be appropriate if he actually ran for president of the USA. In song format, though, all they do is annoy, irritate, and pander. Mustaine also relies increasingly on digital processing to mask the age-related decay of his voice, most notably on “Fatal Illusion“. This isn’t an innately bad thing, and you could theoretically make a case for the chorusing and harmonies opening new ideas for Megadeth to explore, but it pushes unneeded emphasis on the vocals, so even the average listener that decides that the technique sounds kind of cool might find it grating regardless. Perhaps I shouldn’t be focusing on the vox too much, but when the rest of the album is competent and yet unremarkable, it’s sometimes the only option.

In short, Dystopia is kind of disposable; most metal albums that try to approximate known classics are. It’s still better than Repentless, but the “Big Four” have all since run out of momentum, which makes Dystopia‘s slick technical competence marred by excessive streamlining even more unremarkable than it would otherwise be. The last time Megadeth tried their hands at this, they cranked out Endgame, which was well received at the time of its release and generally similar in approach, but has since faded from the public eye. Do you still have space in your listening rotation for Endgame? If you don’t, you won’t have time for Dystopia either.

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David Vincent (ex-Morbid Angel) experimenting with country music

While Morbid Angel resolves its lineup issues and recovers from the public relations fiasco that was Illud Divinum Insanus, David Vincent is exploring a musical interest that until recently must’ve been churning under the surface. So far, Vincent’s excursions into country music have happened alongside Danny B. Harvey (who also performed in The Head Cat alongside the recently deceased Lemmy Kilmister), and besides the performance in this video he’s also penned an original song (“Buyer Beware”). So far, his contributions to that genre seem to be reasonably competent, but I don’t know enough about country to adequately judge this. Furthermore, David Vincent isn’t the first metal musician to make the crossover; Jeffrey Walker’s Welcome to Carcass Country comes to mind.

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Upcoming Tours – Tau Cross

So Tau Cross’s debut made our best of 2015 list. That should make their upcoming short tour a worthwhile endeavor; time will obviously tell us whether that was an accurate appraisal. This group (featuring members of Amebix and Voivod amongst others) will be playing a few dates in the USA on the boundary of March and April, as well as two in Canada. Furthermore, they’ll be following it up with a performance at Roadburn in the Netherlands. While this doesn’t provide all that many options for seeing the band perform live, it’s still something to consider if you have an opportunity to see live shows. No supporting acts have been announced yet, but the dates follow:

Mar. 29 – Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock
Mar. 31 – Chicago, IL @ Cobra Lounge
Apr. 01 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Cativo
Apr. 02 – Toronto, ON @ Coalition
Apr. 03 – Montreal, QC @ Katacombs
Apr. 04 – Boston, MA @ Middle East
Apr. 06 – Philadelphia, PA @ Boot and Saddle
Apr. 07 – Washington, DC @ The Pinch
Apr. 08 – Richmond, VA @ Strange Matter
Apr. 09 – Brooklyn, NY @ Acheron

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Brutality – Sea Of Ignorance (2016)

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My experiences with Brutality prior to Sea of Ignorance‘s release lead me to believe that all of their works take a disproportionate acclimatization in order to properly comprehend, only surpassed in my experience by the wall of voodoo that is Incantation’s debut. This album has little to do with Incantation’s style, like most of their others, but it has only reinforced my hypothesis. Brutality’s take on “melodic” death metal consistently contains enough harmonic hooks in the riffs to draw a listener in, but odds are you’ll only find their music truly rewarding if you give it some time to sink in. That’s not exactly suited to the fast paced world of online music criticism (advertising thinly veiled as criticism), but odds are you’ll get more out of Brutality’s latest than your average death metal album even if you don’t give it a proper chance.

In general, Sea of Ignorance varies only subtly from its predecessors, and most of these changes play out on the surface. Brutality settled on their current approach early in their career, occupying the liminal space between their often sparser Florida contemporaries and the emphasis on structural and harmonic complexity of a band like At the Gates. The comparison to the latter has come up on occasion when DMU covers this band’s exploits, but Brutality synthesizes enough disparate influences that pulling any one out is difficult, although in my more comparative moments I might bring up Autopsy, since the band plays around with speed and atmosphere enough to significant enhance their formula. Sea of Ignorance follows from previous works in a fairly predictable way – more emphasis upon melody and simpler, more streamlined song structures than the past, but when they aren’t flat out covering Bathory (“Shores in Flames”), the lineage is obvious.

My opinion on this album is ultimately very similar to how I felt about Skull Grinder, although like most of the comparisons I’ve made in this review it’s a comparison of convenience as opposed to significant musical similarity. Sea of Ignorance is a stylistically appropriate if not particularly ambitious continuation of Brutality’s previous work; while it’s not particularly essential if you own any of those albums, it’s still a valuable purchase for those who want to study the strong points of this sort of death metal, and a good enough release to be worth financially supporting.

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Decapitated releases PV for “Veins” off Blood Mantra

Decapitated from Poland used to be the darling of many a metalhead back in the 2000s; their original technical death metal style reminiscent of Vader and their youth making for many fruitful marketing campaigns. Nothing of that sort remains; the Decapitated of the current decade is modern, sleek, and understandably pretty banal. Recently, they commissioned an animated music video featuring the talents of Lukasz Rusinek, whom on this video showcases a stark and minimalistic visual style to go along with the chugs. I’m not familiar enough with Decapitated’s early work to say whether their formative work had any merit, but I highly doubt that this is an improvement.

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Cirith Gorgor releases video for “Wille Zu Macht”

We covered Cirith Gorgor’s latest album a while back; this Dutch black metal band is ahead of many of its compatriots in terms of writing coherent black metal even if they face very stiff competition from local luminaries as Sammath and Kaeck. They’ve since released a music video for a track off Visions of Exalted Lucifier with the help of their record label (Hammerheart Records). It’s got plenty of violent and possibly disturbing imagery, and it generally seems appropriate for the music, but I’m not enough of a filmic expert to say why or how in any specific fashion. The full album will release to the public on February 12th, 2016.

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Entombed A.D premieres new track from Dead Dawn

More generic Swedeath in the future, as Entombed A.D released a single from their upcoming studio album. Dead Dawn is scheduled for a 2016 release. Compared to other things these musicians have recently been involved in (uh… Firespawn?), this isn’t quite as banal, but it’s still a pretty generic Swedish death metal track that tends towards rock music, or at least crust punk in disguise. You never know – this might get a thrashing closer to when it comes out on February 26th, or we might be preoccupied with more important releases (like the upcoming Voivod). In the mean time, Entombed A.D is gearing up for the Europa Blasphemia tour headlined by Behemoth.

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Spinefarm Records acquires Candlelight Records

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According to a source at Blabbermouth, the owners of Candlelight Records in the UK have recently sold their assets to Spinefarm Records in Finland. By doing this, they have consolidated even more label power into Universal Media Group. For now, former Candlelight members keep their previous licensing deals, and the deal has prompted the usual pieces of corporate rhetoric; what becomes of the former label’s assets is really more of a question for the roster. Spinefarm and Candlelight Records have both made indelible marks on metal history by releasing many famous metal recordings. In Spinefarm’s case, this includes formative works by Sentenced and Beherit, while Candlelight brought out Emperor’s studio work, as well as the debuts of Havohej and Opeth. Both went on to even more commercially successful artists.

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Upcoming tours – Mgla, Aosoth

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Part of the Agonia Records stable is out on the road again. DMU contributors have discussed both Aosoth and Mgla in the past and at least in some cases have been able to find value in them (although I’ve found Mgla hasn’t aged too well and that their formula is need of greater nuance). Continental Europeans will get a chance to judge these bands for themselves during this upcoming tour. So far limited to 10 dates and leaning towards the northern part of the continent, this seems to be a standard “support previously released material” type of tour. Aosoth is also performing at the Netherlands Deathfest (a subsidary of Maryland Deathfest) on February 28th.

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