The most prolific Big Four thrash metal band, Megadeth, finally released their new (sixteenth in a row) album on September 2, called “The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead!” There has never been such a big break between records in the band’s history. The last Dystopia album was released back in 2016. During this time, there have been various events in the band, and in the world, that did not contribute to the release of this work.
First, about the personnel changes. Chris Adler, who drummed on the last album, decided during the tour to devote himself to his main band Lamb of God. Thus, the new drummer is the Belgian Dirk Verbeuren, who used to be the drummer of Soilwork and also is still a member of the Norwegian death metal band Cadaver. Well, there were more serious and interesting adventures with the bass guitar. In May 2021, following a notorious sex scandal, one of the founding members, bassist David Ellefson, who had already recorded all of his parts for the new album, was fired from the band. Dave Mustaine announced that the bass parts would be re-recorded by another musician, none other than Steve DiGiorgio. And James LoMenzo became the permanent bass player again.
But Dave Mustaine himself had to endure the most serious ordeal. In the summer of 2019 he was diagnosed with throat cancer, the band cancelled the concerts, and Dave started the treatment, which fortunately turned out to be successful and on January 20, 2020 Megadeth were on stage.
Among other things, because of the pandemic, guitarist Kiko Loureiro had to work on the album remotely, as he was in Finland. All this led to the fact that the album release date was repeatedly postponed: at first to spring, then to summer, and then to autumn 2022. All in all, the album was not easy to make, but the more interesting is the final result. After the unsuccessful Super Collider and some rehabilitation on Dystopia, everybody wondered what Megadeth would present this time, especially since the lineup had changed by half.
The album consists of 12 tracks plus two bonus tracks, which are cover versions. The album was produced by Dave Mustaine himself along with Chris Rakestraw, who also produced the last album.
The first single, which is also the closing song of the album We’ll Be Back, was released on June 23. The song will undoubtedly please any fan of the old school American thrash metal with its guitar playing and heaviness. The fastest song on the album and one of the most memorable and recognizable Megadeth songs. Obviously it’s not without self-plagiarism, but it sounds great and powerful. It is a soldier’s story about courage, personal sacrifice and the will to survive. This is the first part of a trilogy of videos, which was released by the band in conjunction with the release of the new album.
On July 22, the second single Night Stalkers was released, the most eventful and longest song on the record. It is undoubtedly also one of the best and most recognizable songs on the album. Classic and quite aggressive thrash metal with the best riff on the album. There is a guest appearance by rapper and Body Count frontman Ice-T, who inserted a verbal verse into the song.
In general Ice-T is known for his love to heavy music. For example he collaborated with Slayer, Motörhead, Pro-Pain and Six Feet Under, and also performed with Black Sabbath. Although, in my opinion, the inclusion of hip-hop in a thrash metal song is totally inappropriate and generally a bad idea.
All in all, the composition turned out to be quite layered. There’s even something like a flute solo and a clean bass guitar that appears around the 5th minute. It’s a song that could very well be a masterpiece, considering how much is going on during its performance, but at the same time it seems messy, especially with the rap.
The song itself is apparently dedicated to the U.S. Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, also known as the Night Stalkers. By the way, Ice-T, himself a former ranger, so his participation in the record in this respect is not accidental.
The third single Soldier On! was released on August 12. The song itself is slightly unusual in terms of swinging rhythm, which makes it stand out among the released singles, nevertheless heavy, but not as powerful as the first singles. The song has a very long and catchy refrain about the need to fight no matter what.
On the day of the album’s release, the band released another music video, for the album’s title song, aka the opener, The Sick, the Dying… and the Dead! The song begins with an unsettling intro with bells and repeated cries of “Bring out your dead” The song itself is a thrashy heavy metal song, it’s quite dynamic and there’s a lot to it, including the solos. It’s a good opening, but far from a hit.
Next up is Life in Hell. A short and fast thrash metal action in the best traditions of the band. There is a groove-oriented bridge, in which Mustaine reads out like an incantation the story of his aimless life, and the Devil at the end says: “Welcome to Hell, I am your host.”
Another six minute song by Dogs of Chernobyl. The song is at a more medium tempo, which then increases, and Dave talks in an almost rapper-like recitative about the horrors of being in a nuclear disaster zone. By the way, Dave’s oncologist recently told me that he co-wrote the lyrics for this song, that Dave needed very descriptive lyrics about radiation.
Then comes the middle part of the album, consisting of 4 tracks, which, in my opinion, somewhat falls out of the general structure of the record. When you get to track #5, you start to get a little bored. In general such songs as Sacrifice, Junkie and Killing Time are not that bad, but there’s also nothing to latch on to, they have much more simple structure but as a result are less catchy. Late Megadeth with an obvious heavy metal bias. In this set there is also the track Psychopathy, which is just a minute interlude.
Track #10 Célebutante is one of the shortest, but also quite good. It’s like a fan’s reward for the unfortunate middle part of the album. Mostly a fast-paced track with great riffs and solo parts. Special thanks to drummer Dirk Verbeuren.
And the penultimate track and the last one in the review is Mission to Mars. Nice and cheerful song, which can be easily played on the radio, at least up to the middle of the track. I liked the intro very much. Closer to the end there is a very nice music part, but all spoil all sounds of some cosmic negotiations and not even on the background, but on the foreground, which just kill everything. In short, the song is full of different effects, sounds, etc.
As a general conclusion. Megadeth recorded a very diverse and very uneven album. Partly, it was probably due to the problems with the line-up, but they had happened before. Certainly Dave’s serious illness had its effect, despite which his voice, so disliked by many people, doesn’t sound bad at all. And in general he deserves all the respect he can get.
The minuses of the album. The record is just overloaded with different samples, phrase inserts and stuff like that, and besides it’s stretched too much – 55 minutes and that without two bonus tracks. Some songs have unnecessary and superfluous elements, and some songs shouldn’t have been included in the album at all, which would only benefit from cutting a couple of songs to make a denser collection. The record really sags in the middle after the interesting opening tracks and before the closing ones. Certainly, self-plagiarism takes place, but here I would like to say that the music should still keep in touch with the past, if only to ensure the durability and longevity of the band itself.
Pros of the album. There are quite interesting and powerful compositions on the record. The new members fit into the band perfectly and the technique of the performance is at the highest level. Special mention should be made of Dirk Verbeuren on drums, who brought an extreme-metal flavor to some of the songs. Kiko Loureiro is an excellent guitarist and he was obviously given more freedom in terms of songwriting and they harmonize very well with Dave. In general, the current Megadeth lineup is without a doubt the best since the ’90s, especially now that James LoMenzo is back as the permanent bass player.
Well, I’d like to finish with the words of Dave, who said:
It was great to work with Kiko and Dirk for three months in Nashville in the summer of 2019 to make these demos into songs. I would get to the studio and they would all greet me with hugs, high fives and pats on the back. All I got was encouragement. I’d play something and it was: “Great solo, Dave.” Just encouragement, encouragement, encouragement. And I think besides making a great record, we’ve made a great band.
What can I say, the lineup is really great, we are waiting for new works.