Speed/thrash metal is an acquired taste. It’s musician’s music, every note thought out. It’s played incredibly fast with dramatic time changes, the proficiency levels are high, and the listener is rewarded. Megadeth, pioneers of thrash, embody this spirit, and it won’t take a metalhead long to smile after they start listening to this album.
The songs are top-notch, excellent, tight and solid. Like the ’72 Dolphins’ No-Name Defense, it’s hard to beat. And, for the record, this album was not recorded by any no-names. Joining frontman/guitarist Dave Mustaine and bassist David Ellefson are Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler and Angra guitarist Kiko Loureiro. All the members are dialed in with clarity without sacrificing their sonic spectrum.
I’m not sure this one includes any hits that will last decades, but this is certainly a record you can put on decades from now and be pleased with the results. After 14 previous studio albums, it’s no surprise the band brought its A-game. The lead track, “The Threat is Real,” is appropriately a standout song, setting the tone for an on-edge and aggressive outing. It delivers the goods. The instrumental “Conquer or Die” has some massively sweet guitar playing on it — classically influenced, building to a crescendo, reminiscent of the late great Randy Rhoads. It wouldn’t be a stretch to hear this song segue into Ozzy Osbourne’s “Diary of a Madman.”
As long as we’ve known his music, Mustaine has been one pissed off lyricist, and this is probably a good thing, considering the genre. His longtime Christian faith is not overtly preached or bluntly advertised, but the message comes across as informed through a compassionate, discerning, forgiving, wise and honest worldview. There are signs of faith, for sure: blood-red moons, living on knees, prophets, grace and sin are all discussed. Moral lessons are to be had, for sure.
“The Emperor” shows Megadeth’s classic backbone of questioning authority that they’ve never shied away from, touching on the classic fable of the deluded and naked emperor that supporters propped up in falsehood. “The Threat is Real” also touches on vacuous leadership and the gullibility of the public. “Fatal Illusion” is a fun, almost zombie-like story of a rampant killer raised from death. “Bullet to the Brain” is a wryly-written tale of love gone wrong, so to speak. The social commentary of “Post American World” and “Lying in State” tip Mustaine’s hat to the right with the better-watch-what-we’re-doing sense of responsibility of an elder statesman. There’s an equal mix of intellectual food for the left brain and metal riffage for the right brain.
Megadeth has just raised the bar for the Big Four. In terms of current output, Megadeth is looking in the rearview mirror at Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax as they speed away at breakneck speed.