Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Megadeth - Dystopia: a dark vision of the future makes up for the band's recent past

It's hard to approach a new Megadeth album with any specific expectations considering how hit and miss their late career has been. Endgame and The System Has failed prove Dave Mustaine and co. still have the creative spark that made their early output great, but then the blandness of Super Collider makes you appreciate Risk for actually taking a risk. With all that those ups and downs in mind, what jumped out at me first about Dystopia was how easy it was to forget about the band's history or Dave's latest rant and just listen to the music.

The Threat is Real starts things off strong with sharp riffing and pounding bass and drums, which set the tone for the next 3 tracks. The newest lineup, for those still keeping track, features Angra guitarist Kiko Loureio on guitar, and he's a welcome presence throughout the whole album, even if some of his solos feel a bit too polished for Megadeth's style. David Ellefson's bass comes through clearer than ever in the mix and his playing on Dystopia more than justifies it. Dave's signature aggressive snark is abundant in the vocals, and the choruses mostly feel big again in a way they haven't since Endgame.

After Death From Within, the middle of the album starts to settle into a mid-tempo, which adds some variety at first but but starts to feel a bit samey by the time Conquer or Die! kicks in. Aside from the occasional killer solo, these tracks are all listenable but far from memorable. The lyrics, as you might guess, are focused on political corruption and societal collapse but with more of a broad-strokes sci-fi approach than The System has Failed. It's clear once Dave does his ranting half-talking/half-singing routine for the second time on the album that he doesn't have anything new to say and you're better off not paying too much attention to the lyrics. The Emperor and Foreign Policy bring back some energy to the end of the album but don't quite reach the excitement of the first four tracks.

In short, Dystopia is roughly on part with United Abominations. It's equal parts futuristic sequel to The System Has Failed and spiritual successor to Endgame. It doesn't quite match the high points or consistency of either album, but it's a partial return to form and a promising sign of things to come...hopefully. With Megadeth, you never know.

Final Verdict: 3.5/5

P.S.: if you're considering the deluxe version, the two bonus tracks are decent but nothing special. They fit on the album naturally without making it feel overlong.

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