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This album is, by far, the most controversial of the releases that MegaDeth put out during the 90s. Unlike Risk, which everyone can pretty much agree was a complete parking lot full of dinosaur shit, this album has some redeeming moments mixed into a batter of slower and more radio-friendly tracks and some god-awful attempts to match the dry sound of the alternative rock scene. As such, it is necessary to analyze every aspect of this album so that we can measure the weight of the arguments of the defenders and the detractors of this release.
The first thing to address is the question whether this is MegaDeth’s Black Album, and to this I answer with a highly resounding “NO!”. The Black Album was a complete renouncement of the thrash genre, from start to finish, in favor of a more down tempo and repetitive hybrid of doom/thrash-like style with some cliché and obviously mainstream-friendly lyrics. Furthermore, the Black Album had a stellar production and showcased an across-the-board attempt to simplify what was once a highly non-conventional approach to song structure. This album, by contrast, has a rather obvious collection of pure thrash and speed metal songs, mixed in with a collection of songs that are similar to the Black Album’s down tempo approach to riffing, and some rather horrid rip-offs from bands like Soundgarden and Alice in Chains.
The first set of songs to deal with are the hold-over thrash tracks that stick out like a sore thumb on here. “The Disintegrators” is the first example of a speedy song, and other than a rather abrupt intro, cooks steadily throughout. The rest of the thrashing tracks, not surprisingly, are all huddled at the tail end of the album. “FFF” is pretty much a politicized version of “Motor Breath”, it's difficult to grasp the point Dave is trying to make here, but the song cooks quite well. “She-Wolf” is probably the only track on here that I can’t find any flaws with, it has a great galloping guitar line that is reminiscent of MegaDeth’s glory days in the mid-80s, and the lyrics fit right in with the subject matter found on classic albums like “Peace Sells” and “Rust in Peace”. “Vortex” mostly consists of a riff that sounds like it’s quasi-Judas Priest inspired, which fits well with this outfit as they pretty much borrowed many of their ideas from the NWOBHM, though the contrasting riff right after the solo meanders like crazy.
The next collection of songs are the ones that have been beaten up rather badly for their radio-friendly nature, though in themselves they are quite strong. “Trust” and “Secret Place” are my two favorites from this mix as they have fairly inspired solos and some rather interesting musical devices at play, in addition to some rather thoughtful lyrics. “Almost Honest” is pretty much a metal/rock single song that is meant for mainstream consumption, but this doesn’t really bother me as I couldn’t care less what the song was intended for, it’s catchy and it’s fun. “Use the Man” is basically an acoustic remake of the interlude to “Phantom Lord” with some rather goofy lyrics, this would be a song that I’d peg as mediocre although I did enjoy the fast ending.
Now it’s time to deal with the painful part of the job, the disgusting pile of excrement on here that is occupying the remaining 4 tracks on this album. “Mastermind” has two good riffs that are a bit similar to “Jump in the Fire”, but unfortunately this song is completely destroyed by some of the most ridiculous vocal tracks ever conceived, resulting in perhaps one of the most absurd choruses I’ve ever heard out of a metal band. If they had dropped the stupid fucking interchange between the voices during the chorus, and just kept the “Mastermind” vocal drone, I wouldn’t hate this song so much. “I’ll get even” is a slow, repetitive, and ultimately boring Alternative Rock song with a bassline that was ripped off of Peter Steele’s bass part to Type O Negative’s more hard hitting and inspired 1996 song “Love you to Death”. Suffice to say, all the caffeine in the world won’t keep you awake during this one. “Sin” is another song tainted with Alternative rock influences, and features one riff repeated much and varied little, although if you can manage to suffer through first minute and a half you get some fairly decent soloing followed by a more metal-like riff section. “Have Cool, Will Travel” has some solid riffs that are completely destroyed by an annoying as all fucking hell harmonica part. Hey Dave? You already wrote “I Ain’t Superstitious” back in 1986, not to mention that corky blues solo to “High Speed Dirt”, these kinds of musical jokes do eventually get old.
This is the actual beginning of MegaDeth’s musical decline. Essentially this album is 2/3 good, which would make it worth about $9 to the fan of metal. However, if you are a fan of MegaDeth’s early thrash and didn’t like the changes that started on “Countdown”, I’d suggest looking for it at $4 or less, as it only has 4 songs that really qualify as worthy of your consumption.