This is going to be pretty much a train of though review (rather than “Train of Consequences” because… erm… that’s on another album) simply as I’ve not had the album long, it’s coming out in a couple of days so I want to get this published and I’ve struggled to stop listening to it since I got it.
So – spoiler alert / tldr version – it’s good. Very good. I’ve already seen quite a few reviews online and haven’t spotted a bad one as yet. I can now understand why.
Dystopia is the Megadeth album I’ve been waiting for since Youthanasia. That is, one that doesn’t just make me go “meh, it’s OK”. I love Megadeth. Have for years. Whatever you think of Mustaine, the guy can wail on that guitar and their live shows are always tight as one of Nick Menza’s old drumskins. His vocals on the album are as good as they ever were, too. That is, he’s no Freddie Mercury, but they fit. They’re Megadeth. The sneers and growls are all there and far better than the first couple of songs at the recent Glasgow show where I think it took him a track or two to warm up.
For those who saw the recent tour, we know that Adler is as good as anyone on those tubs and Kiko can shred with the best of them (as well as being annoyingly good-looking, according to a few female friends). This album is their first chance to show their skills off fully in the Megadeth environment and they don’t disappoint.
While there have been some decent Megadeth albums in the last 22 years (!), the sum total of really good tracks from them would probably fill a two-disc “best of” for me. Dystopia is good from the opening sound sample of “The Threat Is Real” to the closing guitar wail of “Foreign Policy”. This is a solid, heavy, thrashing (in places) Megadeth album with a great variety in the songwriting. As far as I can ascertain, all the song-writing is to be credited to the two Daves with maybe some work down by departed drummer Drover – I don’t have any liner notes – so the new boys had little if any input.
We have eleven tracks here, (more on some special editions). One is an instrumental (“Conquer or Die!”) and one cover, Fear’s “Foreign Policy” which closes the album. The rest pull from the band’s history in terms of style and there are some familiar sounds here and there which may be cause for complaint from some. Yes, a riff here and a lyrical structure there are a little derivative of their classic material, but who cares? They’re plucked from the band’s best songs, and take us back twenty-plus years to some great times.
Go about 3:20 into “Fatal Illusion” and the lyrics are spat out in a similar manner to the awesome “Black Friday”, for instance. Utterly forgivable because it makes you want to dig Peace Sells back out again. Ellefson’s bass solo near the start is a thing of plunky beauty as well. This was the track from the album that they chose to play on the last tour and I was very impressed with it at the time. Having heard the recorded version it exceeds expectations.
The overall feel is of an album nearer Countdown to Extinction in tone. Heavy, melodic with some great speed metal fretwork and interesting tweaks in the intros. “Bullet To The Brain” has a nice, twangy guitar intro before launching into something more crunchy and creepy. “Poisonous Shadows” opens with acoustics and has a beautifully orchestral feel to it. I gather the keyboards in the song are done by Kiko and it’s a great song. If there’s a track I’d like to see a video for, it’s this on. Emotional and dark.
The only song which doesn’t quite fit is “Foreign Policy”, but it is a cover after all. Let’s be honest, “Anarchy in the UK” wasn’t a natural fit on So Far… either, but it became a mainstay for many years.
Right now I’m just hopping back and forth between the tracks and enjoying dipping into them randomly. A riff change here, a fist-pumping chorus there, a headbang-inducing solo elsewhere. Loving it.
The end result is superb and growing on me with every listen. Is it the next Rust in Peace? No, I doubt anything will top the 1990 classic for me. But it’s right up there in a creditable runner-up position and is an album that’s going to live up to its “most anticipated” badge given by Loudwire. To those who helped crowdfund it – thank you. And I’m sure you won’t be disappointed when you get your paws on it!
Dystopia is out on January 22nd