After the world proclaimed ‘Super Collider’ to be a piece of work that came out of Satan’s bumhole, and after the successive resignations of drummer Shawn Drover and guitarist Chris Broderick, I (a die-hard rattlehead) too believed that Megadeth was finished. In spite of recruiting Kiko Loureiro from Angra and Chris Adler from Lamb Of God, my spirits really weren’t put back in place. So it is safe to say that I was not too enthusiastic about the 15th studio release of a band spearheaded by one of the founders of thrash metal. Nevertheless, Megadeth came out with ‘Dystopia’ on the 22nd of January, 2016 with Kiko Loureiro (lead guitar) and Chris Adler (drums) joining Dave ‘Junior’ Ellefson (bass) and Megadeth bossman Dave Mustaine (vocals, rhythm guitar).
The album opens with “The Threat Is Real” which has a Middle Eastern touch with vocals provided by Jordanian singing sensation Farah Siraj in the intro, but when Mustaine’s vocals start, the song structure shifts to a heavy metal gallop. The song ends with a guitar lick copied and pasted from ‘Killing Is My Business…and Business Is Good’. “The Threat Is Real” is followed by the title track “Dystopia” which is a modern-day “Hangar 18” and has an extremely strong melody. Adler uses a lot of poignant drum fills towards the end of the song, but I felt that a small spurt of classic double bass shredding could have further accentuated its beauty. “Fatal Illusion” has an intro signaling doom with its crunchy guitars and complex drum fills. The song then progresses into a mid-paced section with trademark Mustaine licks (albeit slow ones) which then transpire into a fast thrashy structure with repetitive shredding on the bottom strings of the guitar. “Fatal Illusion” is followed by “Death From Within” which has a catchy chorus and guitar riffs that remind me of the stuff in ‘The System Has Failed’ with a progressive tinge right before the last chorus. This vibe continues with “Bullet To The Brain” which has a clean guitar intro and a nice melody right before the solos.
“Post-American World” has a synth intro which is followed by a pug-slow palm-muted riff structure. The song also has an acoustic breakdown in the middle right before marching into the solo. This is followed by “Poisonous Shadows” which has a clean guitar intro infused with Middle Eastern/ Indian chord progressions; in fact, the whole song has a very ancient Middle Eastern/ Indian flavor. “Poisonous Shadows” is followed by the instrumental “Conquer Or Die”;. Kiko Loureiro uses a flamenco approach during the intro; which then progresses into a slow piece of music with a mood that kaleidoscopically rotates between foreboding and soothing. ”Lying In State” again has a very ‘The System Has Failed’ vibe, while the album-closing track “The Emperor Has No Clothes” contains heavy punk influences.
‘Dystopia’ boasts a lawless luxuriance of lyrical magnificence, especially on “The Emperor Has No Clothes” which, like the children’s book, is basically about a person who is extremely powerful yet charming but is unanimously hated all over the world (wonder who he is talking about…?).”Death From Within”, like its namesake, pays homage to The Iliad, and “Post American World” is a quintessential Megadeth song berating America’s foreign policy. “Dystopia” is a song which can either be about a post-apocalyptic world filled with chaos, or about a warzone (this may depend on the listener). “Poisonous shadows” on the other hand, is a song which I have not figured out yet, and is something I am looking forward to finding out, given its mystical nature.
I have seen a lot of reviews saying that ‘Dystopia’ is Megadeth’s thunderous come-back to retro thrash, and if I had my way, I would personally dump those reviewers in a “super collider” and accelerate their journey towards annihilation. There is no f*cking way this album is textbook thrash… but that does not mean it sucks, either! Mustaine has used a style similar to what he had used in ‘The System Has Failed’ and ‘United Abominations’ which sounded ( and still sounds) good to me. There were times when I felt that a particular passage could have been orgasmic if it had been faster – especially in the song “Lying In State” – and I doubted Megadeth’s inability to do that, which led me to conclude that Mustaine is trying to change Megadeth’s brand of heaviness, which has generally involved dancing across the length of the fret board at break-neck speed.
When you have four musical wizards in a room trying to make an album, it is hard to single out one person, but if I had a gun to my head, I would have to cherry-pick Loureiro. I did not miss Broderick, Marty Friedman or Chris Poland at all, and I can confidently say that Mustaine has found a man who can cement his own spot within the distinguished alumni of Megadeth. His (for the lack of a better word) fluid solos especially in songs like “Conquer and Die” and “Dystopia” complement Mustaine’s raw sound to perfection, and his tendency to incorporate various styles into Megadeth’s music is commendable, but the person who fails to impress here is Adler. I expected a lot of complex fills and patterns in the record, and barring a few songs (“Post-American World” being the most obvious exception), they were absent.
This album is going to be torn apart into shreds by members of the “Old-School” sh*thead squadron whose very existence is one that I pity. Even though there is considerably less “finger-f*cking the fretboard” action here, ‘Dystopia’ stands out on its own in Megadeth’s discography with all the songs possessing a distinct uniqueness, and is a much-needed follow up to the travesty that was ‘Super Collider’. Dave Mustaine was, is, and will always continue to serve as a barometer of music across the globe, and has succeeded in silencing the critics who put his a*s on the highway to the danger zone a couple of years back. We will always try to penetrate his complex worldview and unusual persona, and the real mystery lies in our continued capacity to find him and his work mysterious. Is ‘Dystopia’ some sort of eldritch triumph for him and Megadeth? Hell yeah!