This is one of the classics worthy of its praise, and should unite both casual listeners and underground connoisseurs in this opinion. It might feel rather fruitless to review a classic of this scale at this point, but after re-listening to it multiple times lately and learning to play some of the tracks I felt compelled. Most of everything that can be said about this album was probably already said but I figured I’d give some further analysis of the songwriting and tracks.28 Comments
Megadeth guitarist Dave Mustaine has been vocal these past few weeks of pushing through one final Big 4 tour before Slayer hits the nursing home. He believes, however, that there’s no chance Metallica will be in. Mustaine, committed to getting a piece of the Slayer retirement pie, goes on to say he’ll headline a big 3 tour (minus the big 1) or perhaps start a new big 4 with two other thrash metal giants….
Dave Mustaine revealed in a recent interview with Hong Kong newspaper the South China Morning Post about Megadeth’s first Hong Kong show that he doesn’t headbang or practice guitar anymore due to prior injuries:
The hardest thing was not headbanging – I just do it without thinking. You don’t know what it’s like to be in my body. There are some days when my left hand can’t even play. I don’t practise – I save it all for the tour.
Megadeth‘s management dropped rehashed speed metal band Havok from being the first openers everyone will skip on Megadeth’s major fall mainstream metal tour with Amon Amarth, Metal Church, and Suicidal Tendencies for refusing to sign a contract. (more…)18 Comments
Megadeth are touring the US with Amon Amarth and a host of other mainstream metal acts this fall. The band tends to turn Dave Mustaine’s vocals way down in the mix so you don’t have to hear how awful he sounds nowadays so this might be worth going to if you really love Megadeth.2 Comments
Metal journalists are yet again falling into to the trap that of believing that the differences in their political opinions and those of the bands they cover are somehow a valid criterion for judging the overall merit of the music they’re listening to. It happens every day when a prospective metalhead first learns about Burzum, and it more recently has permeated how we interact with the horde of propaganda bands out there who never let a good song get in the way of a good slogan. Megadeth’s latest full-length (Dystopia) wasn’t quite that heavy handed as a mouthpiece for Dave Mustaine’s politics (and indeed, I found it to be a banal and sterile experience compared to the band’s more ambitious early work on its musical elements alone), but it expresses enough of an opinion through its lyrics that it stung a few dissenters.
Illustrating this neurosis today are two reviews of Megadeth’s latest that are more concerned with David Mustaine’s politics than his musical efforts. First, a writer for the AV Club had to stress that even though they enjoyed the music, they were also certain that “…there’s simply no room in our already fear-laden culture for any more xenophobia”. Another review hosted on Cisternyard Media is more critical of the music, but is otherwise similar in its condemnation. Interestingly, they explicitly mention a similar level of political fervor in Megadeth’s earlier works, which doesn’t exactly attract their vitriol, and therefore helps to illustrate the writers’ specific beef with their positions.
These reviewers’ criticisms read like a poorly written tutorial on how to be the perfect social justice warrior, railing against the injustices that are clearly inherent in Dystopia‘s lyrics that therefore requiring immediate shaming and censorship, and then making lasting friends with other like-minded people in the process. The other major problem with these reviews is that they discuss the actual sound and execution of the music in an exceedingly shallow manner at best, instead choosing to be seduced by Megadeth’s technical wizardry. Given that they’ve already rejected Dystopia for not being politically kosher, I’m not expecting them to attempt more advanced topics, such as “Does Dystopia‘s songwriting effectively complement the themes Dave Mustaine is trying to convey?”, but that is a venial sin at best, given that your average metal critic cares little for musical analysis. If they continue to pursue their political vendettas, though, the odds of them writing anything significant on these subjects is nil.28 Comments
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.17 Comments