Megadeth have been on somewhat of a roll in recent years. 2007’s United Abominations represented a strident return to the critical good books while 2009’s Endgame kept the momentum rolling, reminding the world that Dave Mustaine and company were far from washed up. This latter-day purple patch proved so convincing that comparisons were quickly drawn to Megadeth’s white-hot career peak, Rust In Peace, an album voted the greatest of all time by influential metal websites.
As if enough pressure hadn’t been heaped on their shoulders, July saw Megadeth celebrating the 25th anniversary of the sensational Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying with a five-disk box set, that finally saw the band garner recognition from both the mainstream and indie press. In short, Th1rt3en, the bands latest album has drawn more eyes, more attention and more bated breath than anything the band have released since the great Rust In Peace.
Thankfully, listening to Th1rt3en is a joy. This is not an album burdened by expectation, as Mustaine and the boys appear to be having an absolute riot as they rip off some of their most infectious “should be” singles in years. “Sudden Death” sets the tone with a towering array of squealing guitars and ominous overtones that quickly give stabbing bursts, spiraling licks and a ludicrous chorus that sees Mustaine railing about the end of the earth. The track, originally written for Guitar Hero, is suitably OTT when it comes to guitar work, but rather than disappearing into a black hole of soloing for the sake of soloing, the whole track is anchored around, and ultimately returns to, the skyscraper vocal hook.
From then on in Megadeth cut loose with “Public Enemy No.1”, a rambunctious marriage of fast thrash to Thin Lizzy anthemics, while “Whose Life [Is It Anyways?]” is the kind of wonderfully naïve angsty assault you’d expect from an angry upstart, not a supposedly weary veteran who just turned 50. That said, despite it’s youthful exuberance the track can easily be read as the lament of a weary relationship tested by time: “You Hate The Way I Wear My Clothes, You Hate My Friends And Where We Go/You Think You Know What’s Best For Me, You Hate Everything You See In Me”.
The role of the skulking know-it-all teenage outcast is one that Mustaine has always relished, and here Megadeth appear to be throwing an entirely knowing melodramatic strop for the ages. Politics and bankers take the stiffest beating, as Megadeth turn the thunder and judgmental rage of metal’s monolith chords on endemic corruption and distrust. Always unafraid of their cornier nature, the band willfully embrace a type of snappy sloganeering that’s so shamelessly direct it becomes impossible not to enjoy, and I challenge anyone not to raise a smile when Mustaine snarls: “The Constitution Isn’t Worth The Paper It’s Written On”.
Unfortunately, Megadeth can’t maintain the momentum and at times they try too hard. The straining “New World Order” is an embarrassing exercise in forced rhymes and generic guitar work, while “Deadly Nightshade” feels tired and uninspired, and you get the distinct impression that the band forcibly, and unnecessarily, extended the album to 13 tracks as a part of a lame duck marketing gimmick.
Nevertheless, a few missed steps can’t sink a breezy delight of an LP that sees Mustaine recapturing his youthful vigour in the face of a world political crisis, and Megadeth revisiting some of the classic thrash sounds of their past. “13” brings the project full circle and is a worthy album closer as Mustaine puts his rage to one side to reflect on a draining career of substance abuse, soul crushing metal and vitriolic outpourings. Introspection suits Mustaine surprisingly well and while he may appear to have reached the end of his tether emotionally; spiritually and sonically Th1rt3en represents a thrilling renewal.
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