With just days to go until the release of the new Megadeth album, Dystopia, I thought we should take a look at what to expect from the hot prospect. The article will cover aspects learnt from other features, interviews with Mustaine, and insight gained from the band’s access all areas on Pledge. I will also offer my own opinions of what the album will contain based upon prior knowledge, and examination of the promotional released tracks.
The most obvious place to start is with the sound of the album; Mustaine says he likes to make every Megadeth album different in their own way. Which he admits is difficult given their giant back-catalogue now. However, they always have a general Megadeth sound to them and only manage to put their own unique spin on the Megadeth sound to make them stand out: Some are faster (Killing), some are more political (United Abominations); some are more technical (Rust In Peace), and some are much more commercial (Risk). So to look at what is the defining sound for this album, you have to look at a variety of things: the members, outside influences, Dave‘s personal influences at the time of writing; and their back catalogue. This album is expected to be thrashier than Super Collider, and there are some aspects that definitely point to this, and others which point towards the contrary.
The first things to discuss is the new line-up. It is perhaps the thing that will have the biggest impact on the overall sound of the album. After the departure of Drover and Broderick; Mustaine says the option was open for him to re-assemble the ‘best line-up’ in Megadeth‘s history (Or at least the line-up that lead to their most critically acclaimed records). However a reported lack of interest from Friedman and Menza and Mustaine deciding that the album would benefit from new members; aiding in the progression of the band, and minimising the risk of moving backward; becoming an old version of themselves that would surely come in for a vast amount of criticism if the album wasn’t up to the standards of Rust In Peace. Therefore, following auditions and a lengthy decision process, Kiko Loureiro and Chris Adler were hired on lead guitar, and drums respectively.
Chris Adler is a name known to almost every metal fan following his success in metal giants Lamb Of God. Speaking about Adler‘s influence on the band, Dave described him as “quiet, but makes his thoughts and feelings know in private conversations or through his actions and body language”. His musical ability is an undoubtable asset to the band, with Mustaine citing his excellent musicality as a key reason for his seamless integration into the band:
“I think that that’s why we chose Chris, is his extraordinary ability to master his instrument, starting out as a bass player and jumping over to drums, as Chris did, I think gives him a little bit more musicality than other people who just drum, or people who just play the bass…my approach towards playing the drums has always been ‘lead drums’ and a lot of times when we do a drum fill, we’ll use the notation of the tom toms to match the guitar riff”,
This feature is apparent in a lot of Megadeth songs, and is part of what makes their transitions so effective and powerful, and the drumming sound so virtuosic. Therefore having someone like Adler who is capable of playing these ideas was clearly very important, and will surely only improve the band.
I had never heard of Kiko Loureiro before, although I don’t often sit at home watching guitarists, finding new guitarists as I know others like to do in their spare time. Mustaine said that while Broderick was in the band, fans sent messages of “why is Chris [Broderick] in your band, this guy [Kiko] is much better”, while Dave is keen to say that he doesn’t label musicians as better or worse than others; pinpointing Broderick‘s impressive technical abilities; it would have been something that impacted his decision I think. A recent interview saw Mustaine saying that he really wants to connect more with the Megadeth fan base, and a lot of what he wants to achieve outside of music is to do with interacting with the Megadeth fans, and getting to know more of them. He clearly listens to what they like and dislike, and that may have had an impact on him. When speaking about Loureiro‘s talents Mustaine described him as a “Band leader”, and a great help with the songwriting process and a tremendous presence in the band and studio, citing his foreign heritage meaning he is more open and honest; and less afraid of making his thoughts and opinions known. He also enjoys joking around, perhaps a bit more than maybe Dave would like, but having a personality like that around can only be a good thing. Regarding the hiring process of Kiko, Mustaine said that the audition itself was less about seeing if Kiko could play the songs and was impressive technically, this was already apparent from watching youtube videos, but the audition was more of a ‘getting to know you’ session, in which the pair obviously got on very well, otherwise Kiko would not have been hired.
With regards to the songwriting process Mustaine admits he has had to make some sacrifices that will affect the outcome. He described the album as a return to more of the thrash style that they are so renowned for, and The Threat Is Real and Fatal Illusion definitely support this point. They support his description that the songs have a lot of twists and turns, and are not overly melodic; both common feature of Thrash metal. The riffs are also pretty fast throughout the promotional releases, although this album definitely will not be an all out thrash-fest, something alluded to in both the release of title track Dystopia and Mustaine‘s interviews.
The track Dystopia is my favourite of those released so far, but that’s because it’s a lot more melodic than the others released so far; it is by no means radio friendly, but more akin to something from Cryptic Writings, a somewhat mixed bag of an album featuring some all out thrash songs, and but also dabbling in hard rock aspects. Mustaine said that he wants to put more melody into the songs, saying that it’s something lots of metal bands these days ignore.
Further, hearing the band discuss one of the first tracks written “Poisonous Shadows” leads me to believe that the album will be more of a mixed bag similar to Cryptic Writings or So Far, So Good…So What!. Poisonous Shadows is set to feature a variety of new instruments that don’t lend themselves to thrash metal very easily. Loureiro‘s addition to band brings with proficiency on piano, set to feature on Shadows along with an orchestral arrangement by Ronn Huff and steel guitar performance from Steve Wariner.
The other thing to affect the thrash element, is Dave himself; since he underwent surgery on his neck, he subsequently has pain in his left hand, and a metal box in his throat. He has admitted to struggling with pain while playing Holy Wars live. While he does play through the pain for this, it is a necessity and I highly doubt that he would take those risks, and put that strain on himself when writing new material which in turn could lead to fewer fast riffs, or consistently slightly slower or less technical riffs. Having the metal box in his throat has affected his vocal range, resulting in the album being written in a drop D tuning. This is unusual for Megadeth and something that Mustaine does not like to do “being in drop D tuning has made it a little harder for us to keep the melody stuff, because some of the articulation of the picking, when it’s tuned that low, you can’t really make out the notes”. This may then suggest less of the intricate open string riffs we’re used to hearing from Megadeth.
Thankfully, Mustaine has been around in the thrash game for a very long time and will know how ensure songs still sound heavy and thrash-y, even with slightly slower material. He spoke about the songs containing a vast number of twists and turns, resulting in difficulties with writing lyrics. These twists and turns will really help increase the variety in songs, and cement them more in the thrash genre. Also, the drop D tuning will actually help make the tracks sound heavier, although the vocals may stand out a bit less.
No Megadeth album would be complete without Mustaine‘s thought provoking lyrics revolving around current social issues and taboo topics. I have no doubt that this album will follow in a similar ilk. The previous album Super Collider was written by the band at a time just after Mustaine‘s neck surgery, and shortly after the death of his mother. These are most definitely not exciting, controversial or hate-fueled topics. They instead lend themselves to a remorsefulness, and sadness that comes across in the songs on that album. Thankfully Mustaine promises that “This album is more charged and energetic”.
Mustaine states that prior to the album’s conception he had been reading about world history and “crazy science stuff”, yet in a Q&A session, he mentioned attempting to write lyrics for 30 songs, and becoming invested in the concept before realising they didn’t fit together. If nothing else, this tells us that the lyrics will have been thoroughly considered, and appropriate to the music. However, it does also suggest that there is no overriding concept to the album, and that each one covers its own topic and is formed around its own concept.
The lyrical content on the tracks released so far covers mostly the topic of political unrest, and voices Mustaine‘s discontent on the subject. Fatal Illusion covers the subject of evil; with the verses describing the removal/ killing/ extermination of an evil person, only to find that either someone else keeps taking their place or the person returning. The line “It’s a fatal illusion/Evil never dies” epitomises the sentiment. The Threat Is Real discusses the US government and the lack of control the citizens have over the running of their country. Although they have the right to vote, there is no telling how the President will act when they come into power: “The Messiah or mass murderer/ No controlling who comes through the door/ A culture made of cover ups” It is possibly also relevant now as Donald Trump is discussed as a political candidate (although I don’t think that idea coincides with the writing of the lyrics). Finally, the Dystopia lyrics describe some of government’s dealings, and how little we know about what really happens: “you only want to live and die in fear” and “Resist the truth no matter what the cost”, Mustaine is describing the world we live in today as a Dystopia.
Conclusion and Expectations
Overall the album promises to be a good one. Despite Mustaine‘s injury, and the drop D tuning, the tracks released so far are full of high energy, fast paced riffs, with some melodic content, especially in the solos. The release of Dystopia and the range of instruments featuring on Poisonous Shadows suggest that although there will be a big emphasis on thrash, the album will feature some variation in sound, probably as a result of Loureiro‘s influence, and to utilise his range of abilities. Adler‘s addition will help ensure the technicality of the tracks. The drop D tuning will also help the tracks sound a bit heavier than previously. Finally, the lyrics seem to focus on Mustaine‘s issues with the US government and the political system currently in place. So far the lyrics have been clever and well-written, providing hope for the rest of the album. Where the album will rank on a list of Megadeth‘s greatest is still unknown, but I have a feeling the final product will be similar to United Abominations. Either way, I’m tremendously excited!
Remember to review some of our other Megadeth related articles here. And be sure to return for more Megadeth updates tomorrow when I rate their albums, and the long awaited review to coincide with the release on Friday!