When you’ve been in the game for over thirty years, it’s par for the course to produce yet another album using the tried and tested formula so you can go back out on another nostalgia tour. The best your fans can hope for is that you manage to recapture some of the magic which once made you great and actually produce a handful of songs that stand up alongside the classics, just as Iron Maiden did last year. Well, I guess there must be something in the air, because Megadeth, with the addition of Kiko Loureiro (Angra) and Lamb of God’s superb drummer Chris Adler, are sounding inspired on ‘Dystopia’, producing their finest work since the nineties.
Tribal chanting leads in to a riff so fast that it could be 1985 on opener ‘The Threat is Real’. Mustaine’s throaty voice may be more laboured and less snarly, but it has their signature sound, super-fast soloing and sounds fresh. There are plenty more scorching solos throughout the record, the familiar ‘Dystopia’, the stylistically surprising ‘Bullet to The Brain’ and instrumental ‘Conquer or Die!’ being prime examples of Loureiro earning his keep.
First single ‘Fatal Illusion’ is one of the stand-out tracks; the opening riff reminiscent of ‘Countdown’ era, but then Ellefson’s bass kicks in, followed by the second riff, and “hold on to your hats”, it’s speed metal time – only Megadeth sound like this! The lengthy ‘Poisonous Shadows’ is another high point, with its Maiden-esque soaring guitar lines and grinding riff beneath a brooding vocal; nice track.
OK, so it can get a bit predictable, Mustaine never strays too far from what he knows, but only ‘The Emperor’ is pure filler; though the rationale behind including ‘Foreign Policy’, a cover of California punk band Fear, is sure to raise a few eyebrows given the lyrics: “The lines are drawn! Establish the new order! Suspect everyone!”
Nevertheless, this remains an extremely enjoyable record with plenty of heavy-assed riffs, wonderfully clean production and great performances from all involved. If I close my eyes, this could almost be 1993 again.
‘Dystopia’ by Megadeth is released on 22nd January on Universal Music/Tradecraft/T-Boy Records.
Words by Edward Layland (@EdwardLayland)