Dystopia has everything you need from a new Megadeth record.
It would be pretty difficult for Megadeth to disappoint. Their now patented blend of thrash and heavy metal is as tight as ever. Dave Mustaine’s vocals continue to creep out listeners and pump up the precise musicianship. And, let’s face it; the guitar work is nothing short of righteous. They’ve got a formula and it works, and Dystopia has everything you need from a new Megadeth record. No ifs, ands, or buts about it, their 15th outing is a neo-classic in their catalog and it’s as if they didn’t even have to try. It’s just what they do.
“The Threat is Real,” the hyper-paranoid opening track, is a gnarly stomper of a song best played at full blast whilst speeding down a highway with the windows down and sunglasses on during the gloomiest day on the seven-day forecast. It’s not a fast tune, or the best one on Dystopia, but it’s a clear example that sometimes metal makes you feel like one bad-ass motherfucker. If it weren’t for the isolationist, panic-inducing lyrics, there wouldn’t be a single reason not to love it—but more on that later.
The second cut, “Dystopia,” on the other hand, is the best song on the record—if not one of the best Megadeth has written in last 15 or so years. The guitar licks alone shred in all the right ways, displaying precision and creativity while putting to shame the mindless noodling many newer bands trying to sound like the legends of old put to disc. Mix that with a strange but simple, straightforward but intricate drumbeat Chris Adler (Lamb of God’s rhythm machine) lays down and the dark and twisted chord progressions Megadeth is known for and you’ve got yourself a tune that begs to be replayed. But, once again, Mustaine’s lyrics, if you listen close, mar the track with a lack of tact and finesse similar to that of a Fox News talking head. Starting to notice a pattern here?
While tracks like “Post-American World,” “Conquer…or Die!,” and “The Emperor” (to name a few in an attempt not to include the entire track list) razzle and dazzle the eardrums in all the right ways, there is a distinct agenda to the lyrics that can’t be ignored. While there could be room for interpretation in some cases, others scream of a post-9/11 isolationist paranoia that you could label dangerous. Look, I’m not trying to tell you what to believe, or that you should choose a side, or even that Mustaine doesn’t have the right to his opinions. This isn’t a free speech issue; it’s a question of subtlety and tact. Now, you could argue that heavy metal’s purpose is to eschew such things to get thoughts—no matter what they are—out into the world in an abrasive (and awesome) manner, but there are more artistic ways to do such things without beating a listening audience to death with a bag full of distrustful platitudes and venomous bile. It doesn’t seem like Mustaine is trying to prove a point, either. It’s just a stream of consciousness nastiness diatribe.
The fact is, Megadeth’s lyrics have always lacked a certain…well let’s just be honest, talent. The truest reason to listen to Megadeth is to inject some righteous tuneage into your life. Dystopia does that 11 times over—and they even include a cover of Fear’s “Foreign Policy” to add some historical depth to the high. While the lyrical content may be secondary to a Megadeth listening experience, it certainly can’t be ignored here however and from a critical point of view that has to be taken into account. But hey, if there’s one thing Dystopia does well, it brings together metalheads of all walks of life with all types of opinions to the table for some honest-to-goodness headbanging with its ravenous beats and nuanced shredibility. And when all is said and done, what do you think fans will discuss? Mustaine’s politics, or the righteous damn metal music? I choose to believe the latter.