In 1981, Metallica were formed. Included in the very first line up was lead guitarist Dave Mustaine, who, as a member for close to a year, co-wrote songs that would be included on their debut album Kill ‘Em All, but, he was later fired for substance abuse and conflicts within the band. From this, Mustaine went on to form Megadeth with bassist David Ellefson. Mustaine’s determination to create music that was faster and heavier than Metallica carved out a path in thrash heavy metal over the last 30 years that has seen a career littered with classic albums, numerous line-up changes, accusations of selling out and finally legendary status. Now considered pioneers in thrash heavy metal along with Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax (and part of the Big Four), Megadeth have continued to release high quality albums every two to three years for the last decade bringing us to 2016 and latest album, Dystopia.
Beginning with The Threat Is Real, an atmospheric intro pushes into a great thrash riff and we settle into Mustaine’s disdain vocal. Guitar solos litter the song changing in rhythm and tempo all backed by a deep drum and bass backbone of metal…classic Megadeth! Title track Dystopia creeps in and explodes with a chugging thrash riff whilst clean guitar sings out the tune. The chorus harks back to early era Megadeth as Mustaine croaks lines such as “where useless thoughts of peace are met with rage” and “the quickest way to end a war is lose” before the song slows down and we get a shift change of class musicianship and power. Fatal Illusion begins with some guitar motorcycle anger and Black Sabbath style riff whilst injecting some Korn type harmonics before the bass takes over and gives us a slap happy little solo followed by the entire band following suit and creating a pure foot stamping song. Another shift change in the middle of the track is metal in its purist form; fast, heavy and head banging!
Elsewhere, Death From Within has a very melodic chorus, Mustaine’s unique vocals hitting an impressive range. Bullet To The Brain is a slow dirge of a song complete with war like drums and eerie drifting vocals but also sounding very Metallica like in parts, and, Post American World has Mustaine snarling at us “why cower to all those who oppose the post American world?” whilst backed by that thrash metal feel and sound. Then comes the highlight of the album and something a little different; Poisonous Shadows. Kicking off with an acoustic guitar layered upon itself before a huge power riff erupts and we begin to hear distant orchestra sway in. Female background vocal (provided by Farah Siraj) floats in and Mustaine growls in, half talking, half singing and buffeting us to a belter of a chorus after which the song just builds and builds with the orchestra becoming more prominent…a truly great track even ending with some piano work.
Instrumental track Conquer Or Die brings the whole album down a notch with its western sounding guitar suddenly turning into a full on heavy metal thrash out finishing with a strange demon voiceover and then the final three tracks Lying In State, The Emperor and Foreign Policy follow the albums formula perfectly, Foreign Policy even ending the album on a very welcome punk sound. And so, Dystopia is a solid thrash metal album created with the absolute highest production and greatest instrument work with Mustaine, especially, sounding as vibrant and angry as he has always done…his lyrics still relevant and important in this day and age. If there is a criticism, then it is the same criticism aimed at the likes of Slayer or Iron Maiden when they release a new album…you pretty much know what you are going to get and what it is going to sound like, but to me, that is not a problem. Bands like Megadeth are legendary and influential and the fact that they are still going, still producing quality music with no compromise or commercial goal should be greatly admired and respected.