“A Post-Super Collider World”
I was pretty certain that I would not listen to “Dystopia”, or even review it for that matter after the trainwreck that was “Super Collider”. I didn’t even care about the new line-up changes. However, when I saw a wide range of people greeting this album with open arms and flattering words, I decided to take a look. I’ve even heard some people calling this album the best since “Rust in Peace”. I can spoil that for you right away. It’s not. But it is still a pretty solid outing.
Before I even get to the album itself, I want to criticise the wide selection of editions there are of this album. The standard edition of this album features 11 tracks, but when you combine all the editions there is a total of 15 tracks. There’s the standard edition, iTunes, Best Buy, Spotify, Japanese and a limited edition. I don’t think that an approach like that is consumer friendly in any way, and it’s not like there is a big label dictating all of this, as it is released through Mustaine’s own label, Tradecraft. I’m not in favour business-models like this, and I never will be. All of this will of course not count in my rating of this album, but I will be accounting all 15 tracks into it.
“Dystopia” is a move far, far away from what both “Th1rt3en” and “Super Collider” was. This time we see a return to the more thrashy and heavy roots of Megadeth. Of course an artist should explore the ways they want to and not be subjugated to what fans want. Some bands are really good at making diverse albums, but when a band’s main songwriter is just one guy, like in Megadeth, it can hit and miss. I definitely don’t belong to the group of people who thinks that Megadeth only writes good albums if it is thrash albums. “Youthanasia” is among my favourites. With this new album we’re offered a very well produced album and some solid songs, but a lot of them goes into one ear and out the other. One song that definitely does catch on is the title-track, Dystopia. A very well composed mid-paced song with great melodic elements that you will hear from the beginning. It also features some great solos on top of that, which you also will encounter on the album opener, The Threat is Real. From around the middle of the title-track and until the end it is instrumental with riffs, and solos between Mustaine and Kiko Loureiro and also harmonies. That specific structure and feel does remind me a bit of Hangar 18. The more I listen to the title-track the better it gets, and it is one of the best composed songs Megadeth have released in years. It is without a doubt the absolute shining highlight of this album. Another track from “Dystopia” that gives me somewhat of a “Rust in Peace”-vibe, and that is Conquer and Die, the instrumental of this album. When it breaks into the electric guitar section, I just think back to their 1990 album. But that being said, do not expect a part two of “Rust in Peace”, because that will never happen. My apologies if I erected an excitement boner. All of the nods towards the album is, however, a pleasant listen.
The production on this album is really, really good. The guitars in particular sounds perfect for a Megadeth album, they sound just the way they should. The bass is right beneath the guitars adding a certain heavy feel to the thrash and that is without a doubt a good thing. In spite of this, I do definitely have a problem with a certain aspect of the production: the vocals. Mustaine’s vocals have never been known for a ton of range. He has definitely lost some and that is clear to hear on this record. And that ties in with the production. The vocals on “Dystopia” rarely sounds clear. Sometimes there is some kind of effect on Dave’s vocals, and at other times it sounds like he recorded the same line twice, but at a different pitches to give it more of a punch. But it does not really work for me. If you listen to Look Who’s Talking, in the beginning of the song Dave uses his normal talking snarling voice. But as soon as the song breaks into verse, it just sounds different. This can also be heard on Lying in State where it starts out with the altered vocal but in the middle he shifts to the before mentioned talking snarling voice, and the effect is gone. And on The Emperor you can hear it with the first line of the song, “Who do you think you are?“. When he stretches out “are“, I can’t help but cringe. All of this is apparent throughout the entire record and it hampers a lot of my enjoyment of this album. The Threat is Real, Dystopia, Poisonous Shadows and Conquer or Die. Those are the songs I enjoy the most from this album, and they are all on the standard edition. I don’t feel like any of the bonus tracks really add that much to the rest of the album.
I do not think that “Dystopia” is as good as “Endgame”, and that comes down to the songwriting and the vocals. That does not mean that there is nothing worthwhile on this album because there certainly is. There is a lot of great solos and interesting riffs, but overall it is does not feature as many memorable tracks as “Endgame” did. Please don’t encourage the shoddy business model for this album and just get one edition. Before this album I had written this band completely off, but this new album, and this new line-up has rejuvenated my interest in Megadeth. “Dystopia” starts off really strong and it can make you extremely ecstatic, but as it goes on it starts to dwindle. However, this is an album that a wide range of Megadeth fans can enjoy. It stands on its own, and I am looking forward to see this line-up reach its full potential on upcoming albums.