The LEGENDARY DAVE MUSTAINE, OG Metal God and forefather of thrash metal, continues to be an unlimited spring of riffs, solos and lyrics channeled through the crazy redheaded frontman of iconic thrash metal stalwarts, MEGADETH. Through recent drama with band members, changes in the line-up, and, not least of all, beating cancer, Mustaine and Megadeth remain a huge and solid presence in the Metal industry.
The most recent change in the line-up comes in the form of James LoMenzo taking over bass duties for a long-time bassist, Dave Ellefson. LoMenzo took over bass duties earlier in the Megadeth timeline, from 2006 to 2010, and is now back in top shape joining Kiko Loureiro and Dirk Verbeuren to round out the current iteration of the band. While Megadeth as an entity may have a revolving door in terms of its members, Mustaine has an amazing ability to assemble superb musicians who work seamlessly together.
This ability has proven again to be invaluable with the release of their 16th studio album, ‘The Sick, the Dying… and the Dead!’. Mustaine has a great knack for writing music that showcases the musicianship of each band member and this album is no different in that respect. The record contains all the things that define Megadeth. Searing solos, pounding riffs, odd tempo changes, they’re all here and finely woven into the tapestry of sound that envelopes the listener in a tornado of… souls, maybe?
As the writer of this review, I am tasked with listening to the music with an open mind, not too judge-y based on my personal tastes and preferences. As a long-time fan of Megadeth, I was yearning for thoughtful lyrics, and well-written songs with a uniqueness within that might harken back to earlier days when Megadeth was at the height of their success. Some established bands will continue to make music just because they can. They become old and tired, tedious. This is not the case with this album. There’s quite some impressive writing here which should really be no surprise. Also coming to no surprise is the abundance of war references in the lyrics. Dave has always been a fan of writing about war.
Right from the very start of this album, I had a smile on my face. The opening track, which is also the title track, opens with a voice in the distance shouting, “…bring out your dead!”. Those who know will immediately think of an iconic movie by a certain British comedy troupe. Those who don’t… won’t. Either way, it’s a great opening sequence. The 30-second mark presents a single, slow guitar intro reaching to the 1:30 mark, then an almost typical-Megadeth beat with Verbeuren’s drums shining brightly throughout. This song also has a marked change in feel and tempo which is another of Mustaine’s routine writing techniques. “Night Stalkers” opens with a super cool techie, future-y type sound effect easing into a quick guitar line interspersed with Mustaine’s vocals, very reminiscent of “She-Wolf”. It is one of three videos released so far from the new record. Look it up here. This track also features Ice-T on guest vocals and has a certain edge to it. To a point. It eventually takes a rather somber turn complete with orchestral elements, then right back to the thrash.
“Dogs of Chernobyl” is another slight length composition clocking in at over 6 minutes, as does “Night Stalkers”. “Dogs of Chernobyl” is pretty obvious in its subject matter and is performed in a key and tempo that is a little odd. It definitely grows on you as the writing and arrangement are just stellar. The last 1:30 of the song is a bit ambitious and tends to sound like playing fast for the sake of playing fast. But, that’s what Mustaine does.
“Psychopathy” is a unique 1:20 intro to the following track, “Killing Time”. It has thundering drums that fade in with a spoken word sequence by Mustaine overdubbed. “Killing Time” ends with a complex weave of Mustaine’s voice repeating lyrics from the song. “…ready to go, I’m ready to go…” Sounds groovy and reminds me a little of “Sweating Bullets”.
Now, I don’t know if I’m crazy, but “Soldier On!” sounds so very familiar to me. Maybe it’s the “She-Wolf” thing again. It just sounds like a song I’ve heard Megadeth do in the past. “Mission to Mars” has a slightly different vibe to it with a tiny bit slower tempo. “Sacrifice”, “Junkie”, “Celebutante”, and “We’ll Be Back” all follow in the same vein, a bouncy beat, lofty and complex solos, hard riffs, and soul-penetrating bass and drum lines.
While I cannot say this is Megadeth’s best work to date, I certainly CAN say that this is a great album, in and of itself. It is solidly comparable to any of Megadeth’s classics. i.e. ‘Cryptic Writings’, etc. Dave Mustaine is still an amazing musician and songwriter, his voice is still strong and distinct and his talent has not staled in his almost 40 years in the business. Thank you for still being there for us, Dave!