Album Review – Megadeth / Dystopia (2016)

And the dystopian world portrayed in the brand new album by the iconic Dave Mustaine and his Thrash Metal army is beyond awesome.

Rating2

megadeth_dystopiaDys·to·pi·a
\disˈtōpēə\
noun. An imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.

It’s this hopeless but unfortunately actual view of our decaying society that inspired the one and only metal lord Dave Mustaine and his Thrash/Speed Metal infantry Megadeth to compose Dystopia, the fifteenth studio album in their magnificent career and, in my opinion, their absolute best since their 2009 album Endgame. The reason behind that? Well, Dystopia is a rip-roaring feast of lancinating riffs, crushing beats and spectacularly austere lyrics, all led by one of the most influential, unrelenting and technical musicians in the history of Heavy Metal. In other words, Mr. Dave Mustaine nailed it once again for our total delectation.

Let’s say that this remarkable achievement also comes partially from the band’s  two new members, the awesome Brazilian guitarist Kiko Loureiro (Angra), who took the six-strings from the also amazing Chris Broderick, and especially the insane American drummer Chris Adler (Lamb of God), replacing longtime drummer Shawn Drover. While Kiko added a lot of feeling to Megadeth’s distinct guitar lines, Chris simply came smashing everything and everyone with his groovy and bestial technique, and the final result is what every single “MegaFan” in the world was expecting from this iconic band from the United States.

The smooth vocals by Jordanian singer Farah Siraj kick off Mustaine’s dystopian world in the magnificently trenchant chant The Threat is Real, a killer traditional Megadeth song with the trademark piercing riffs by Dave and his always politicized lyrics (“See the burnished images / Of a crest fallen nation see / Violent conditioning, cause the nature of the enemy / You’re terminal lack of vision / Blinded, I see no light / A chronic lack of perspective / Their cancer now eats us alive”). I can’t wait to see this played live, and don’t forget to check its awesome animated video because Vic Rattlehead gets his revenge in the official video (including references to some of their old albums) for the following tune, the superb Dystopia, with highlights to its strong feeling of desolation and its thoughtful lyrics (“Demoralized and overmastered people think / The quickest way to end a war is lose / Dictatorship ends starting with tyrannicide / You must destroy the cancer at its root”). Not only its initial riff is outstanding, but its chorus is so catchy I’m sure it will be one of the best moments of their future live performances.

Fatal Illusion, which brings lyrics about a person who is a misfit in society and ends up getting taken before the judicial system (“Lost inside the system, locked away without a key / No one will ever miss a menace to society / A gross lack of potential, bad decisions made in spite / A touchy hairpin trigger and such a wasted life”), clearly showcases the enormous positive impact Kiko and Chris had on the overall result of the album in terms of groove and complexity; while Death from Within, another dark and bitter composition by “MegaDave”, gets closer to what he did in albums such as The System Has Failed and United Abominations. Moreover, Chris is simply pounding his drums with endless anger, in a classy exhibit of how good heavy drumming is supposed to be. And in Bullet to the Brain, an eerie intro morphs into a heavy and psychological tune, blending old school and modern Megadeth while focusing on the guitar riffs and solos by Dave and Kiko, with Dave providing an excellent chorus to be screamed along with him.

megadeth 2016Post American World is perhaps the darkest of all songs, with many elements from their classic “Symphony of Destruction” added to its musicality. Dave sends a strong message to his countrymen, whereas bassist David Ellefson keeps delivering his precise and thunderous bass lines, just as expected from such an amazing musician. Then guest singer Farah Siraj returns with her gentle voice in Poisonous Shadows, a pensive and melancholic aria that will please most fans of the band where Kiko Loureiro displays some of his abilities on the piano, and guest musician Charlie Judge takes care of the orchestrations amidst the song’s gripping riffs.

The beautiful instrumental tune Conquer or Die! sets the stage for the heavy as hell Lying in State, my favorite of all tracks by far. This kick-ass chant will penetrate your mind and soul and crush you mercilessly, with Chris and David demolishing everything that crosses their path with their boisterous drums and resonant bass lines, respectively. Needless to say how violent and acid the lyrics are in this awesome Thrash Metal anthem, right? Anyway, in the high-octane thrashy tune The Emperor, the biggest question is who the lucky person being “honored” by its lyrics is (“You look so perfect, but everybody knows / Their petrified to say the emperor has no clothes / So bloody perfect, but everybody knows / Their just so petrified, the emperor has no clothes”). Even if you have no clue about the answer, just enjoy this straightforward Megadeth tune, where Dave steals the spotlight with yet another intense performance. And closing Dystopia in solid fashion, Megadeth offer us their flawless cover version for Foreign Policy, one of the biggest hits by Fear, a Hardcore Punk band from Los Angeles, California (take a listen at the original version HERE).

In a nutshell, if there were any fans still a bit skeptical about the direction the music by Megadeth was taking after the good but controversial Super Collider was released in 2013, I’m pretty sure their fears are completely gone with Dystopia. As aforementioned, Dave Mustaine didn’t disappoint at all, providing his legion of loyal admirers another marvelous chapter in the band’s history. Thus, it’s sad to realize we’re actually living in a dystopia, where everything surrounding us seems to be tending towards a tragic ending. However, at least the dystopian world created by the iconic Dave Mustaine and his Thrash Metal army is indeed beyond awesome and will surely make our lives less miserable for years to come.

Best moments of the album: The Threat is Real, Dystopia, Lying in State and The Emperor.

Worst moments of the album: None, of course. This is Megadeth at their finest.

Released in 2016 Universal Music

Track listing
1. The Threat is Real 4:22
2. Dystopia 5:00
3. Fatal Illusion 4:16
4. Death from Within 4:48
5. Bullet to the Brain 4:29
6. Post American World 4:25
7. Poisonous Shadows 6:02
8. Conquer or Die! (Instrumental) 3:33
9. Lying in State 3:34
10. The Emperor 3:54
11. Foreign Policy (Fear cover) 2:28 

Japanese edition bonus track
12. Me Hate You 3:44

Spotify bonus track
12. Melt the Ice Away (Budgie cover) 3:28

iTunes & Best Buy edition bonus tracks
8. Look Who’s Talking 4:14
12. Last Dying Wish 3:49

Band members
Dave Mustaine – lead vocals, lead, rhythm and acoustic guitars
Kiko Loureiro – lead, rhythm and acoustic guitars, piano on “Poisonous Shadows”
David Ellefson – bass guitar, backing vocals
Chris Adler – drums

Additional musicians
Farah Siraj – guest vocals on “The Threat is Real” and “Poisonous Shadows”
Charlie Judge – orchestral arrangements on “Poisonous Shadows”
Miles Doleac – voice-over in “Conquer or Die!”
Steve Wariner – steel guitar
Chris Rodriguez – backing vocals

Album Review – Escapetor / Fear (2014)

A serious contender for “Thrash Metal Album of the Year”, as heavy, invigorating and awesome as it can be.

Rating3

ESCAPETOR - Fear cover artWhen you think of that insane Thrash Metal from the 80’s, your head automatically turns to North America, more specifically to the San Francisco Bay Area and to South Florida, where monsters such as Slayer, Megadeth, Metallica, Anthrax, Exodus, Testament and many other great bands simply made history with their never-before-seen heavy music. But what if I tell you there’s also excellent Thrash Metal music in the “Land of the Midnight Sun”, the stunning Kingdom of Norway? And what if I tell you it’s the most awesome Thrash Metal music you can find anywhere today?

That’s exactly the case with Norwegian Thrash Metal band Escapetor, who after a few demos, EP’s and a debut album, are about to release their second full-length album, entitled Fear. Not only that, this Rogaland-based group also adds lots of elements from more contemporary bands like Pantera and Slipknot to their songs, which ends up elevating the overall fierceness of their musicality to a level all Thrash Metallers from anywhere in the world will love from the bottom of their hearts. In other words, if you do not like the Thrash Metal by Escapetor, you’re not a good person.

The initial riffs and fast drums of the opening track, The Queen, say it all: it’s fuckin’ brilliant Thrash Metal, so good I bet no one can stand still while tis song is played. In addition to the flawless instrumental, with highlights to the aforementioned powerful guitar riffs, the performance by German singer Claudius Bormuth is beyond superb, turning this song into a unique heavy music delight. What a great voice, perfect for Escapetor’s musicality! If only Metallica were doing something as enjoyable as this. Anyway, that was just the beginning of Fear: the melodic mid-tempo song Dark Past, with its more modern sonority perfect for headbanging and for some crazy air guitar, has some excellent guitar solos accompanied by a strong and catchy chorus (“Can you feel it, burning inside / I can’t take it anymore. / All these feelings tearing me apart, / Cause I know it is my dark past.”); while Unknown Thoughts, a pretty decent song with an interesting job done by drummer Leif-Ove Haugstad, reminds me of a more contemporary Metallica.

Dealing with Fate is pure riffs and heaviness where you can sense the influence from the band’s biggest idols in terms of harmony and rhythmic breaks. Besides that, its backing vocals are an amazing addition to the already great vocals by Claudius, and everything gets even better due to an outstanding guitar solo at the end. The following track, Mr. Hyde, showcases a refined mix of Thrash Metal and Southern Rock, something I’ve seen only Testament doing properly. It’s direct and powerful, straight to your face, with its lyrics inspired by the “Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” being an extra ingredient to this great recipe (“Last night, I woke up, I had the same old nightmare / What have I done, Mr. Hyde has taken over”).

ESCAPETOR band photoThe title-track, Fear, is truly kick-ass, with its deeper growls in the chorus and all variations from a faster rhythm (perfect for mosh pits) to a heavier and slower tune (tailored for intense headbanging) perfectly exemplifying the total synergy among all band members. The mighty bass lines by Dan Gundersen set the tone for another badass ferocious track, Shadow, where guitarists Ragnar Nord-Varhaug and Axel Feller keep up with the tradition of dynamic and technical guitar duos in Thrash Metal, followed by Escapetor, with its epic intro and an astonishing atmosphere created by the guitar riffs. Not only this is one of the best songs of the album without a shadow of a doubt, but its pure old school musicality and lyrics (“We are Escapetor, here in your town / Delivering metal to you our crows / We travel the wastelands, we sail over seas / To bring you our music, to make you feel free”) make me feel like I’m listening to a classic band from the 80’s.

Then it’s time to bang our fuckin’ heads with Suicide, an evil version of A7X (which is indeed something very positive), with highlights to its great vocals and to drummer Leif-Ove Haugstad simply smashing his drum set. It can’t get any heavier than this! The next track, Time, reminds me a little of Iced Earth and although it might not be as brilliant as the rest of the album, it’s a pretty decent song anyway; while the Testament-ish tune Creatures of the Night offers us some very dark and solid guitar lines, with the final part of the song being so damn heavy it’s impossible not to love it. And finally, Escapetor offer all fans of good music an incredible gift, with their impeccable cover version of Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues. I have to say this is more than just a cover version, it’s a superb tribute to one of the biggest music icons of all time, and seriously, this song made my day a lot better.

Call it the “New Wave of Norwegian Thrash Metal”, “Boknafjord Area Thrash Metal” (the largest bay in the county of Rogaland), or create your own definition of it, but one thing is certain: Fear is surely the “Thrash Metal Album of the Year” so far, and there’s a huge chance it will remain in the top spot when 2014 is over. If you cannot wait to listen to more of Escapetor’s crazy Thrash Metal, a preview of the entire Fear is available HERE, and you can already pre-order it at the official Crime Records webshop. Let’s say that only Thrash Metal behemoths Exodus can beat them, but it would be an honour anyway to be second place just behind Gary Holt, Zetro & Co., right?

Best moments of the album: The Queen, Fear, Escapetor, Suicide and Folsom Prison Blues.

Worst moments of the album: Unknown Thoughts and Time.

Released in 2014 Crime Records

Track listing
1. The Queen 5:52
2. Dark Past 5:05
3. Unknown Thoughts 4:33
4. Dealing with Fate 6:42
5. Mr. Hyde 5:03
6. Fear 3:56
7. Shadow 3:45
8. Escapetor 4:52
9. Suicide 4:24
10. Time 5:46
11. Creatures of the Night 5:53
12. Folsom Prison Blues (Johnny Cash cover) 2:30

Band members
Claudius Bormuth – vocals
Ragnar Nord-Varhaug – guitar
Axel Feller – guitar
Dan Gundersen – bass
Leif-Ove Haugstad – drums