31 October 2011
by Amit Sharma
It’s only been two years since Megadeth unleashed Endgame and despite the hectic tour schedule over that time, they are back with their thirteenth studio album TH1RT3EN. This is the final release in their current recording contract with Roadrunner Records, and various interviews with Dave Mustaine would indicate it is quite likely to be their last. Following the glowing response that met its predecessor and all the extra exposure generated from the Big Four shows, it would be fair to say the pressure is on and expectations are high.
‘Sudden Death’ opens the album with all the classic flavours of Megadeth in good place – the dramatic rhythm section build-up and terrifying shred guitar runs offering an early indication that this might be the Megadeth record we’re all hoping for. The delivery of tight, crushing, single-note driven riffs is something Megadeth have excelled at for decades and TH1RT3EN is no departure from this. What does feel different is how ideas are centralised to form choruses that verge on the catchier side of Megadeth and feel quite reminiscent of their Countdown To Extinction era, but with a modern production quality closer to recent efforts. ‘Public Enemy No. 1’ proves to be a well-chosen lead single with galloping rhythms, intricate guitar lines and a massive half-time chorus weaved into just over four minutes. The pain and anger in Mustaine’s strained vocals are apparent as ever, sounding genuine in a way that his old band struggle to do so nowadays.
Despite the stunning job he did on Endgame, Andy Sneap was not chosen as producer this time round, instead the band going with the services of “Johnny K” Karkazis. TH1RT3EN sounds ever so slightly less explosive that its predecessor, though this is somewhat down to the guitar sound being a touch cleaner with less gain. Which is not necessarily a bad thing when it allows for the speed metal riffs to feel tighter and more controlled underneath the ferocious widdling coming out of Chris Broderick’s amp. It just wouldn’t be Megadeth without the excruciatingly complex guitar leads wrapped around each song and Broderick has earned his stripes as a shredder up there with the very best in the Megadeth hall of fame.
‘Never Dead’ is one of the heavier tracks on this record that boasts the kind of up-tempo riffery we heard on Endgame as well as a chorus hook that isn’t too far off Symphony Of Destruction. This album also marks Dave Ellefson’s return to the band as a recording member, having rejoined midway through the Endgame tours when the band were playing Rust In Peace in its entirety. Interestingly, two tracks on this album have Marty Friedman credited as a songwriter and these were originally written back in 1991 around the time of Countdown To Extinction – which says a lot about what MegaDave is trying to achieve here.
With Metallica discovering their arty side alongside Lou Reed and Anthrax incorporating more hard rock hooks into their music, it seems the recordings that followed the initial Big Four dates have been ironically less thrash. In the cases of Anthrax and now Megadeth, moving towards a more contemporary sound without compromising those quintessential tonalities has definitely worked in their favour. If you want to hear modern metal anthems executed by a legendary thrash band revisiting the sound of their very prime years – look no further. Songs like ‘Black Swan’ and ‘Wrecker’ show Megadeth on top of their game and prove exactly why they could be the best of their breed, at least based on recent output.
Sounds like: Countdown to Extinction meets Endgame
Top tracks: Sudden Death, Never Dead, Black Swan, Wrecker
Guitar solo rating: 6/6 obvs, it’s Megadeth