The allure of a stable, functioning lineup was once again too much for Megadeth to bear. The Broderick/Drover era started out strong, and gradually removed the thrash from their sound album by album, to the point where Megadeth had once again faded into irrelevancy. Fortunately, backed by Angra shredder Kiko Loureiro and Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler, Megadeth is as strong as they’ve been at any point in the last 25 years. Their new album, “Dystopia”, once again shows Dave Mustaine regaining his ability to write incredibly intricate riffs, as well as good songs. The first three tracks are all great examples of this; they’re more on the upbeat side and have lots of great riffing. The best of these songs is the title track, “Dystopia”, which admittedly is just a rip-off of “Hangar 18” in terms of structure (the verse riff is similar in concept, there is a bouncy tempo change in the second half of the song, which is all dominated by soloing, and there is a faster buildup to end the track). Nevertheless, the riffs and vocal melodies are different enough to keep things interesting, and much more importantly, this song is one of many examples of where Loureiro shines. It’s up for debate as to whether or not he’s more technically proficient than Broderick, but there’s no doubt his soloing is far more tasteful and unique.
This is another area where “Dystopia” beats out many of its predecessors. In terms of sheer volume, the solos on this album compete with anything the band has ever done. Absurd fretwork shows up seemingly on every track, and often times, to the point that the solos almost feel like the focal point of the album (over the riffs). To be fair though, the riffs do retain that “Rust In Peace” era feel, simply because they manage to be fairly technical without always being all that fast. In “Fatal Illusion”, for example, the guitars have some unique rhythms throughout the verses that would certainly be challenging to play while singing. Later on, the song speeds up and still manages to use more advanced riffs than most other thrash bands.
Though this album is a marked improvement over the last couple of Megadeth records, Mustaine is not immune to the effects of aging on his voice. It’s hard to imagine that he could simplify his vocal lines anymore, but Dave has managed to do so. This actually works in his favour though; you can tell that Dave doesn’t really have a ton of range anymore, or even much aggression in his voice. In many ways, the vocals just exist for the purpose of having vocals. And while his voice has always been a unique part of the band, Megadeth has always been about the riffs and solos for me, so this approach isn’t really problematic on “Dystopia”.
Even despite Dave’s vocals, he managed to write some really catchy songs this time. Both “Bullet To The Brain” and “The Emperor” are examples where though the lyrics might not be the most interesting thing Megadeth has ever done, but the choruses are infectious, and will remain in your head long after the record finishes playing. The cover of “Foreign Policy” is similarly memorable, though quite different sonically from the rest of the record. There are a couple of weaker songs. Both “Post American World” and “Poisonous Shadows” fail to have the impact that much of the rest of the album has (though the latter has a unique brooding atmosphere). Nevertheless, with only a couple of weaker tracks, “Dystopia” manages to be the band’s best effort in a few albums, and hopefully this lineup continues to gel together.
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4.3/5 or 86%.