This was the make or break moment for Megadeth.
So many hardcore metal fans have come to depend on Megadeth's brand of thrash, and their devotion to that harder edge of metal. Comparisons to Metallica have always been passed around the metal roundtable, but since Metallica has experimented with a more melodic side and resorted to songs like "The Unforgiven" and "Low Man's Lyric," the hardcore fans have somewhat relied on Megadeth to carry the old school flame.
Eerily similar to Slayer's predicament last year, Megadeth also saw a drummer and a guitarist exit their band. Although Slayer's losses were a bit more dramatic and included longtime veterans of their sound, Megadeth had some large shoes to fill as well. Slayer came back with a fury and put together what some might consider their best effort to date. Could Megadeth take that same hit and collect themselves enough to deliver a monster record, too?
First, let's take a look at the band members responsible for Dystopia. Of course you have Dave Mustaine, the field general for all things Megadeth. Dave Ellefson, Mustaine's mainstay original bassist, has always been a huge part of the Megadeth sound, and this record is no different. And here's where it gets fun...
The Megadeth family welcomes former Angra guitarist Kiko Loureiro to the lineup. Kiko wields around a bit of a different sound than Mustaine. He has a smoother, more classically trained approach to his brand of shredding. His cleaner style is similar to those that are tearing up the symphonic metal scene these days - Nightwish, Epica, Sonata Arctica, and the like. Bringing this approach head on with Mustaine's brutal and raw tone is something that really puts this set of songs in the upper echelon of metal music.
And then it really gets fun....
Chris Adler on drums. If you know anything about Lamb Of God and Adler's history with them, just saying his name should make you slightly afraid. This guy is a cross between original Slayer skinsman Dave Lombardo and The Muppets' "Animal." The deep rumble and pumped up bombast he creates here is really what drives this record home for me. The production quality is superior on this release, but the drum sound is unlike anything Megadeth has ever put out.
The first thing I noticed from these songs, other than Adler's intense drum sound, is the deeper growl in Mustaine's vocals. If there was ever a complaint about Megadeth it might be Mustaine's high-pitched whiny vocals. Well, times they are a-changin', my friends. Vocals are not really a concern for the common Megadeth fan, but I think many will be pleased with Mustaine's deeper tone. When asked about his deeper tone, Mustaine said, "After I had the surgery, my voice changed, because I've got a piece of metal in my throat now that's touching my vocal-box area." And just when you thought the guy couldn't get any more "metal"....
These songs are the best written songs since the Rust In Peace era, and they have similar overtones of death, espionage, and politics. They are some of the heaviest songs in the catalog, but they also have great melodic structure and catchy moments. That delicate balance of melody and crushing heaviness often eludes the heavier bands like Megadeth, but they bring both elements together perfectly on this set.
The base version of the album has 11 tracks, including a stunning instrumental ("Conquer Or Die!") and a great cover of the Fear song "Foreign Policy." But the guys had much more to give than just those 11 songs. "Look Who's Talking" and "Last Dying Wish" are bonus tracks that are exclusive to the iTunes and Best Buy versions of the album. And don't worry, if you bought the CD at your favorite local record store, you can download these tracks without purchasing the entire album. And then there's the Japanese bonus track, "Me Hate You," which you'll have to go to Japan (or Amazon for you less adventurous types) to pick up.
And when so many bands (especially the older guys) are complaining and refusing to release their music to subscription streaming services like Spotify, Megadeth offers a Spotify exclusive. It's a cover of a Budgie song called "Melt The Ice Away," and it can only be streamed on the Spotify service. Go figure.