Dave Mustaine is a legendary songwriter. His fame is not as big as Metallica’s but artistically, he has pushed so many boundaries with each release. Sometimes he wins, sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes his words get him in trouble. But one thing is clear when it comes to Mustaine. He is real and he speaks his mind. Which is against what everyone tries to be today. Everyone wants to be liked, so they hold their tongue.
Which brings me to “Dystopia”.
In thrash metal circles, it’s up there. Each song is chaotic and expertly crafted, which means after 4 to 5 minutes, when the song ends, your ears are bleeding and you are left trying to remember how the song began.
Welcome back Mr Mustaine and one of the best decisions you’ve ever made is getting Chris Adler to beat the skins and Kiko Loureiro to decorate the songs with his tasteful leads and a few co-writes. Adler by far is the best drummer to appear on a Megadeth album and from hearing the work that Loureiro did on the album, he is up there as well as one of the best guitarist. He is more complete and well-rounded than all who came before him.
It would have been easy and maybe profitable to get the “Rust In Peace” line up back together. Hell, all of the press about it, sealed the fate for Broderick and Drover.
But Mustaine had the balls to bring in new talents who grew up on Megadeth and respect the band’s history and place in metal history.
It’s a triple knockout, right off the bat. “The Threat Is Real” is classic old school thrash metal, while “Dystopia” is classic melodic metal and “Fatal Illusion” is classic technical thrash metal.
THE THREAT IS REAL
As soon as the riff kicks in after the middle-eastern style voices, you know you’re in for a classic Megadeth song. Chris Adler drives the song forward, with his galloping beats.
No one cares anymore
The messiah or mass murderer
No controlling who comes through the door
It’s typical Mustaine. Angry and snarly.
The clock runs out, the weakest link
A deadly strike, the threat is real
Brilliant lyrics over a chaotic bed of war like riffing.
That intro riff and the controlled double kick under it, is enough to get the blood pumping. Add to that the lead breaks, and what you have is the foundations for another classic Megadeth song. Words cannot describe the power of that intro and the way it fills my head space.
The combination of the vocal melody over the “Hanger 18” inspired verse over the double kick gallops from Adler is fist pumping stuff. Do you reckon Mustaine would sue himself for copying himself?
“What you don’t know” the legend goes “can’t hurt you”
If you only want to live and die in fear
They tell us to believe just half of what we see
And absolutely nothing that we hear
And then a lead break.
And then another lead break. It’s an inventive way to do a chorus. Each time it appears, the lead breaks from Kiko are different, which makes each Chorus new.
And then that outro. As with the intro, words cannot describe how that outro makes me feel. The riffs are spectacular, but the moment belongs to Chris Adler. It’s the way he aggressively builds it to a climax with his drum patterns. It’s a note to all drummers to sit up and take notice. As soon as the song is over, I press repeat.
This is classic progressive/technical Megadeth. The proggy intro, the double bass drumming, shredding between the verses (which is what Chris Poland did on the first two albums) and the lack of a song structure. It feels like each section is verse after verse. A drug trip
Guilty of the crime of nonconformity
Then when the Motorhead sounding flat line bit kicks in, the groove makes me want to snap the table in half.
DEATH FROM WITHIN
It’s got that “Kingmaker” vibe, which is the same vibe and feel as Sabbath’s “Children of the Grave”, which I dig. Actually the whole album has that triplet 12/8 feel. Maybe it’s due to Adler bringing a certain galloping swing to it all.
Its judgment time… when death comes from within
That lead break in the song is wicked. Kiko brings out a lot of Petrucci inspired lead breaks. No Megadeth guitarist has done that before. Chris Poland brought a jazz fusion element, Friedman brought a neo classical edge at the beginning, while Pitrelli brought his classic rock influences, Drover and Broderick brought a technical scholarly element to Megadeth and now Kiko brings all of his influences to the fore, and one of them being Petrucci.
BULLET TO THE BRAIN
It’s got this Draiman Disturbed like feel in the Chorus. I love it.
The start of the lead break again feels like it’s written by Petrucci.
POST AMERICAN WORLD
It’s got this “Symphony Of Destruction” feel in the first verse. It’s the first song on the album to feature a co-write with Loureiro.
We see each other through different eyes
Segregating ourselves by class and size
It’s me against you in everything that they do
This planet’s become one big spinning disaster
If you don’t like where we’re going
Then you won’t like what’s coming next
What will we look like?
In a post American world
And that Chromatic riff after the Chorus is typical Mustaine. It started with “Phantom Lord” from his Metallica days, continued with “This Was My Life” from Countdown and now that riff is all over this album. Each time it sounds different because of what Adler does under it with the drums. His patterns and phrasing are unique and it makes a normal derivative riff sound original and awesome.
That classical like intro and the lead break that comes after is brilliant. It’s a Mustaine and Loureiro composition.
Is it my face you see, do I haunt you in your sleep
On your hands and knees, when you crawl through your nightmares
When there’s no more grace, does your heartbeat start to race?
Clawing everywhere in the dark, poisonous shadows
It’s a great mid tempo song, more in the vein of the “The World Needs A Hero”.
CONQUER OR DIE
It’s an instrumental written by Mustaine and Loureiro. For under 3 minutes its a cool little intermission in the album sequencing.
LYING IN STATE
This is the song that is my favourite on the album purely for a certain section in the song.
Another day, another manufactured crisis keeping the people distracted
The “new normal” or just more of the same?
The section from 2.21 to 2.54 is infectious. What a groove. It makes me want to break stuff. And then when Kiko chimes in with a Maiden like lead break from “Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son” at 2.32 to 2.54, I’m ready to elevate.
Get ready to have your mind blown.
Because you make me sick, you prick
Don’t you know… don’t you know who I am?
You know I like your face, to kick
If your lips are moving, I know you must be lying
Fucking brilliant lyrics by Mustaine.
The album is near perfect and monstrous. And yes, it’s a comeback album from Megadeth and Dave Mustaine. He’s recaptured the magic of metal and thrash in general. It’s an artistic triumph.
Will enough people care?
Time will tell.
I sure do.
It has been on constant rotation on Spotify for me, plus I purchased the CD from Amazon. And when will people just stop complaining about Spotify payments. We went from vinyl to CD’s to Napster to iTunes to and to streaming. And the enemy is copyright infringement, otherwise reframed as piracy or theft. Get more people to pay for Spotify and listen on it and watch the payments grow. Then you’ll need to negotiate a better rate with your label.
“Dystopia” is a love letter to a metal past that everybody over forty remembers and now everyone under 40 will also remember that same past.
History will show Metallica as legends of rock/metal and Megadeth/Dave Mustaine as a mere footnote.
However, history is judged and re-written by what is popular and there is no album more popular in the Soundscan era than Metallica’s self-titled “Black” album, which is an excellent album. Meanwhile, Megadeth never had sales as high as Metallica.
But. Megadeth and Mustaine were always first.
First to make a video clip. First to do a thrash titans tour.
Does anyone remember the “Clash Of The Titans” tour?
I can tell you, not a lot of people do, however everyone remembers “The Big 4” tour. Funny how an innovative tour featuring thrash bands and headlined by Megadeth and Slayer in the Nineties is largerly forgotten, but a similar tour, almost 20 years later, organised and headlined by Metallica is legendary, innovative and original.
Welcome back Megadeth.