Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Th1rt3en not a lucky number for Megadeth

Megadeth has been building up a head of steam over the past few years. United Abominations was a nice kick in the pants that served notice to all Dave Mustaine doubters. But 2009's Endgame delivered the band's biggest statement in over a decade. That album was a career revitalizer, packed full of aggressive energy and brimming with thrashy take no prisoners riffing that signaled a full fledged return to form for the Southern California metallers.

How do you follow that up?

Apparently not by sticking with what got you to that point in the first place. Th1rt3en vies for much simpler song structures and cuts away most of the excess riffing and intensity that made Endgame such a standout. Instead, Dave Mustaine is left to carry much of the load with his voice rather than his guitar, and the results are about what you'd expect.

The guitar solos are nice, for sure. The opener, Sudden Death, perhaps comes the closest to capturing Megadeth's signature thrashy rage. The lead single, "Public Enemy No. 1" has a nice lead in that recalls the carefree exuberance of 1980s heavy metal, coupled with a blistering solo that takes me back to the Peace Sells days. But only for a moment.

One major problem is that most of the song structures are very simple and formulaic, whereas Endgame had fewer qualms about mixing things up. Another issue is that Dave's vocals are really no longer up to par at this stage in the game. Mustaine's voice was widely considered the fly in the ointment on Endgame, but everybody was too busy paying attention to the instrumentation on that album to care.

His voice in general comes out very flat and lifeless, and when coupled with the safe and predicatble song structers it causes the album to feel flat and lifeless as well.

Lyrically, Megadeth continues with many of its conspiracy/anti-government themes, but it often comes across as more farfetched. On "Millenium of the Blind," Mustaine urges the American people to abandon U.S. leadership entirely, while "New World Order" treads on similar material we've heard Dave spout all too often before.

But perhaps the political soapbox suits Megadeth better, because the lyrics certainly don't get better when they tackle other subjects. "Fast Lane" feels like an old, cold retread of "1320" from the previous album, while "Whose Life (Is It Anyways?)" is a blantant attempt to cash in on the teenage angst/Hot Topic crowd.

"Wrecker" starts off with one of the best intro riffs on the album, but is quickly washed away by lyrics dealing with drama and realtionship issues. "Guns, Drugs, and Money" at least goes for a slightly different bent, telling of a doomed drug dealer who winds up in a heap of trobule after trying to execute a drug deal south of the border.

Th1rt3en isn't the worst album Megadeth has done but it does come across as extremely derivative and lackluster. Most of the best riffs are only found in the intros in most songs. There are some nice solos too,, but Megadeth seems to have forgotten one key thing.

Metal is all about attitude, which is one area where Endgame never faltered. Amidst all the riffs and the mayhem, there was always a cocky, fighting spirit that permeated that entire album. Th1rt3en, unfortunately, feels completely dead by comparison.

Score: 68/100

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