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I really fucking hate this album. Megadeth apparently decided after Endgame that they liked Disturbed and other mainstream metal mag-friendly acts better than actually creating good music. I’m not one of those people addicted to speedy, balls out thrashing, but if you’re going to sell out and write something as radio-friendly and pandering as Th1rt3en, the least you could do is not release it at all and keep it in your bedroom garbage can where it belongs.
This is a highly dubious album full of groovy riffs and catchy choruses with a definite angle pointed at the mainstream. There’s nothing wrong with that in concept, except for the fact that Megadeth can’t seem to pull it off well at all. The style here is notably more restrained and laid back than the aggressively tinged Endgame, with much more of a rock styling, and Dave’s gravelly, strained vocal constipation behind the mic goes from ‘distracting’ as it is on most latter-day Megadeth albums to outright unlistenable pretty much all the time on this. When he tries to sing the catchy hooks on the midpaced tunes which make up most of this album, it literally sounds so bad it makes me want to turn it off. The balladic opening of “Millennium of the Blind,” where he sings A Capella save for a few misty-eyed acoustics, is absolute ear cancer. I seriously don’t know who told Dave it would be a good idea to try something like this, but safe to say I will not be buying the inevitable “Dave Does Karaoke” album when it comes out after that person does some more of their devil’s work on his creative processes. I’d rather listen to Kermit the Frog trying to sing “Bohemian Rhapsody” over and over again, all day, than listen to even one more note of THIS song again.
The guitar work is mostly turgid groove riffs and foot-tapping rhythms that are inoffensive at best – while it’s obvious the band is tight and has chops, the songwriting is strictly pedestrian and phoned-in. Every musical decision here feels ancillary to the album’s main goal of just getting each song over with as fast as possible – the riff progressions are so generic they could be from any band and the songs are all structured in very similar, basic ways – always around the very trite, played out harmonized choruses. The choruses all pretty much sound the same, too, lending an extra degree of facelessness to an album that could already be a skinned victim of Leatherface out in the woods. By track two, you’ll have heard everything the album has to offer – while “Public Enemy No. 1” is a song not even worth dragging out of the underbelly of a sewer, it is at least better than the following musical excrement droppings simply by virtue of coming before them in the track listing. You know it’s a bad album when that’s the only differentiation between songs.
There are only a few “bright” spots here, and even then only in relation to the fact that the multitude of awful songs is SO unpleasant that even the simply acceptable moments sound better by comparison. “Fast Lane” isn’t a bad tune, mostly saved by way of its fairly killer guitar break near the end – but really calling it a good song is kind of damning this album with faint praise. Yeah, you’re a 30-year-old band that can manage to write a dumb rock song about cars. Halle-fucking-lujah. Do you want an award for that? It’s kind of like applauding a movie because the director remembered to turn the camera on. “Never Dead” manages to drag its ass off the floor long enough to show that the band still has a pulse at all. And the title track isn’t too bad, though it goes on too long.
That’s really about it. The rest of the shit on here ranges from forgettable like “Wrecker” and the Guitar Hero-bait opener “Sudden Death” to unlistenable dreck like the awful “Whose Life (Is it Anyway?),” the vomit-worthy “We the People” and the hillbilly-rock enema that is “Deadly Nightshade.” All of these songs pretty much sound the same, as I’ve said – groovy, puerile riffing, annoying mainstream-ish choruses – but I feel the need to point them out anyway just to drive the stake deeper into this album’s black void where a heart should be.
Of special note is the track “Guns, Money and Drugs,” which is a sort of thematic track about Mexican drug cartels, except it’s got no real ambiance or atmosphere and nothing to distinguish it from the other turds on here. It just points out how utterly soulless this all is – they’re just going through the motions. Songs about death, vaguely ‘badass’ topics, cars and – Dave’s favorite – politics, are all touched on in the most rote and unexciting ways, with no imagination or real point of view. I guess you could say he has some direction with the political shit, but then again, I don’t really need to hear a born-again Christian right wing nut job preaching to me when I listen to rock music. You know what you’re getting into with a Megadeth album – though that just means anyone with sense needs to stay away.
Mostly this is just worthlessly commercially-minded, without a sincere bone in its body. If you’re a fan at all of real metal, the smugly self-satisfied attitude this album exudes in spades will disgust you, as there is no real genuine emotion here – certainly none of the primal anger Megadeth used to have in the 80s. When a band is young and free-spirited, writing exuberantly stupid anthems to cars and drugs, it’s cool. When guys in their 40s are writing those same songs, it’s one of two things – either the band is desperately out of touch about their own age and going through a midlife crisis, or they’re just phoning it in for a paycheck.
I think this is a bit of both, actually.
It’s just so obvious to me that everything on this album was made solely to sell records and move units. There’s a big sense of pandering to this – it sounds like every decision the band makes here is just trying to check boxes to appeal to long haired burnout bums who throw up the horns every time a Lamb of God song or something off of God Hates Us All comes on the radio. The technically competent but soulless guitar riffing patterns, the slick radio-friendly choruses, the rockish tempos not aggressive or nuanced enough to appeal to thrash fans, but more than loud and raucous enough to land this album a place next to Nickelback and Disturbed on a modern rock fan’s music shelf – it’s focus-group rock without any real identity to it. Don’t get me wrong, if you like this kind of shit, don’t let me stop you – but albums like Th1rt3en are the opposite of artistry in music. It’s plastic, manufactured metal with every little iota of spontaneity or mystique siphoned out like the genre was given a back-alley liposuction.
I had the highest expectations for this album, first off David Ellefson had finally returned to the band and this was his first album back with the band since "The World Needs A Hero". Second, I thought Megadeth was out of creative juice until they pulled a treat like "Endgame" out, so i had high expectations that they were gonna get back on the right track. But even before they actually released the album i was already disappointed, seeing that when the band revealed he song names i had already heard a large amount of the songs in the first place.
To start off, the first song on the album "Sudden Death", had already appeared on Guitar Hero so i was somewhat familiar with song even though they did a great job rerecording it for the record. Second, the 7th track on the album "New World Order" had been a demo song floating around for a while which was on the remastering of "Youthanasia" as a bonus track, but then again the did another great rerecording of the song. Now 3rd, the song "Black Swan" which is the 9th track on the album had already appeared on the Japanese version of "United Abominations" which turned out good but then again it was nothing new. Now last is another demo song which also appeared on the remastering of "Youthanasia" and that is "Millennium of the Blind". However they really gave the song a makeover, moving the intro towards the end of the song and then adding now verses and its own chorus (where now Dave makes it yet another political song). So to sum things up, by the time i actually received the album there were only 6 songs i hadn't hear yet because of the songs i just mentioned and the fact that "Public Enemy No. 1" and "Never Dead" had already been revealed. But the good thing of this, all those songs were great, they were nothing less of thrash with some killer riffs to add to it. My personal favorites were "Sudden Death" and "Never Dead" because of the great soloing, killer production, and overall song writing.
Now to talk about the 6 songs i didn't hear yet when i got the album. First off "Whose Life (is it Anyways?)" is an overall okay song, the lyrics are cheesy for Megadeth as well as the intro to the song as well. In fact most of these songs are cheesy for example the chorus to "Guns, Drugs & Money", it is such a simple, poorly written chorus and for me it ruins the whole song, the pre chorus however in this song is much better than the actually chorus itself! Other songs too like "Wrecker" just make me cringe listening to it, anytime Mustaine goes near a love song or talking about women i cringe. The whole song is a about how a woman or having a wife will wreck everything you own, the whole song is pointless. "Deadly Nightshade" is a pretty good overall song, the overall riff through the song is good, even though the song sounds more Mettalica based than Megadeth.
Now the title track on this album was okay as well, the beginning of the song (especially right at the start with the acoustic) had me cringing from Dave's vocals, to the lyrics as well. But the song picks up and has some decent riffs that come out of it, so overall the song wasn't bad nor good. "We the People" was a good song overall, fun and catchy but didn't rock my socks off. The last song i haven't mentioned makes me sick thinking about it, i would of given this album a better review if this song wouldn't of soiled the album. And that song is of course "Fast Lane", a total abomination of a song, from the brain dead 12 year old lyrics, to the mediocre rushed song writing on all instruments in the band. The whole song just screams rushed, it is a horrible filler written last minute with one of the most disgusting choruses ever spawned. Just take this part of the song: "Fast lane, like a jet plane Like a freight train, I’m driving insane", that whole snippet of the chorus shows the careless rhyme scheme that was written, absolute garbage.
My conclusion however is still more of a positive one. No, it didn't keep the momentum of "Endgame" going, and yes i heard a large amount of the songs before hand, i was still entertained by it and absolutely loved several songs on the album like "Sudden Death", "Never Dead" or "Millennium of the Blind". I wouldn't however say this is a solid album however because it does have its pot holes, but it does however have its good moments so ill leave the review at that.
Originally published at http://suite101.com
Before we talk about Megadeth’s thirteenth studio album, let’s get one thing straight: this is not a comeback. Those who are keeping score will know that the band had their biggest return to form with 2009’s Endgame, a release that just might be their most enjoyable since the early 90s. This album appears to have a different mindset than the last few though, unlike their friends in Metallica, the band doesn’t seem to be in any sort of identity crisis. There have been some significant changes in the band’s dynamic as longtime bassist David Ellefson has returned to the fold, no longer making Dave Mustaine the only original member, and Chris Broderick has become the first lead guitarist to stay on for more than one album since Marty Friedman left in ‘99. On the other hand, Johnny K, a man best known for his extensive work with Disturbed, was the one that ended up producing this album and even co-wrote a few songs on it…
While Endgame was mostly presented as a thrash metal affair with some hard rock influenced songs thrown in, this album appears to have an opposite effect going on. The band has been quick to compare this release to the classic Countdown To Extinction though a careful ear will also find references to past albums such as Youthanasia, Cryptic Writings, and United Abominations. But while the album’s noticeable emphasis on choruses and accessible structures may lead some to wonder if Mustaine is trying too hard to reach the Billboard’s number one spot again, there is still a lot of ground covered here in terms of style. The technical thrash still comes up on the Guitar Hero-friendly “Sudden Death,” but the release also shows off a slew of more foreboding numbers, mid-tempo rockers, upbeat traditional metal on “Public Enemy No. 1,” and some borderline punk on the rather angsty “Whose Life (Is It Anyway?).”
Through it all, the band manages to sound pretty good though there are some changes that have been made to accommodate the material at hand. With a few exceptions, the guitars seem to be a bit more restrained in terms of soloing and Mustaine’s voice still has its trademark sneer though it also seems to be more melodic than usual. Fortunately there is still a good amount of grit so listeners shouldn’t be too disappointed with how things are. However, one thing that is somewhat disappointing is the bass playing’s stance in the mix. While Ellefson gives solid backing on tracks like “New World Order” and even gets a brief moment to shine on “Deadly Nightshade,” it doesn’t seem like he’s as prominent as he used to be. This is thankfully more of a mixing issue than his performance, so one can hope for a remedy if the band is releasing a follow-up anytime soon…
While the songwriting itself isn’t too atypical for Megadeth, what really makes this album weird is the number of older songs that were included just so the band could have thirteen songs on their thirteenth studio album. In addition to two songs previously used for video games and a single song available on the Japanese edition of United Abominations, “New World Order” and “Millennium Of The Blind” both have compositional roots in the early 90s with their original demos being included on the 2004 Youthanasia remaster. Some listeners have complained about the excessive amount of recycling, but I don’t think that it is necessarily a bad practice. Sure it’s hard to justify the placement of a rather recent bonus track on here but it is great to see some of the older tracks come to light and show their full potential. Jon Oliva’s newest band has been using old Savatage outtakes to fantastic effect and I’ve personally wanted them to put out developed studio versions of “New World Order” and “Millennium Of The Blind” for years…
And for what it’s worth, these songs do manage to sound pretty good. “New World Order” is a fun track with some rarely encountered gang vocals shouted out during the chorus, “Millennium Of The Blind” is stretched out and turned into a dark ballad, and “Black Swan” is a rocking track that makes one wonder why the rather artificial remake of “A Tout Le Monde” couldn’t have been the Japanese bonus track instead…
But even the newer compositions have a few tropes that are quick to remind one of past moments. The galloping riff on “Public Enemy No. 1” isn’t too far off from the one found on “Tears In A Vial,” “Deadly Nightshade” feels like a darker version of “Almost Honest,” and the closing “13” is a somber retrospection in the vein of “This Was My Life” or “Of Mice And Men.” With all this in mind, is the resurrection of old unfinished songs really such a crime?
Overall, this release ends up more or less being a “typical” modern Megadeth album. It’s certainly not a low quality effort and has a lot of good songs for the sheer quantity that it is trying to push, but there’s not too many moments that truly make it worthy of a classic status. It could make a nice accessible release for newer listeners but an album like Countdown To Extinction would be a better fulfillment for that kind of job. If you’d like to hear modern Megadeth at their best, give Endgame a listen. If you’d like to hear an amazing album released in 2011 by an old thrash band, feel free to see what their old pals in Anthrax are up to. But whatever you do, just make sure you don’t spend too much time dwelling on this album’s god-awful title…
“Public Enemy No. 1”
“New World Order”
“Millennium Of The Blind”
The Mustaine train has been rolling on a steady uptrend since the collapse of musical credibility that was “Risk”, producing a string of albums that have been increasingly more consistent and ultimately, more political. While Megadeth has always been a socially aware institution with its roots firmly in the mentality of the punk scene, the politics of the lyrics have been on a fairly steady evolution in response to the goings on of the time. The peak of this upward movement towards former glory seems to have peaked with the release of “Endgame”, as the latest incarnation of the band sees a return of longtime band mate Dave Ellefson, but also a few steps back in the musical department.
“Th1rt3en” saw the usual string of promotional singles before the main course was unleashed upon the masses, and it was in these appetizers that somewhat deceptive picture of how this album would turn out was established. The lead off song “Sudden Death” was the first single, and it presents this album at its most aggressive, which turns out to be a somewhat modern sounding half-thrash song with a slight hint of pre-thrash heavy metal that somewhat resembles a faster song on a 90s Overkill release. The song is heavily sugared up with solos to the point of being pretentious, which was a staple of “United Abominations” and seems to have been one of the dominant influences on the shape of this overall album. This somewhat overblown song was followed up with “Never Dead” which ventures the closest to the thrashing glory of “Endgame” with a thudding mixture of riffs and angry growls, and a more radio friendly yet still rocking mid-tempo rocker in “Public Enemy No. 1”.
Sadly enough, these 3 promotional songs prove to be almost the full extent of this album’s glory moments. Coming in behind them is a mishmash of earlier influences, essentially retracing much of Mustaine’s various songwriting eras from 1992 to 2007, and what sounds like a systematic of anything resembling his greater moments from earlier or on the last album. The best parts come in with a couple of asides into Dave’s politics in “New World Order” and “We The People”, which hearken back to the “Youthanasia” days the most with a slower feel and a much more formulaic structure that borderlines on radio rock. The most intense moments of these songs are generally found during the lead breaks, as catchiness is the implicit goal of these songs, and in this respect they are a success.
The bulk of the remaining contents on this album generally go for the 90s Megadeth sound, sometimes resembling “Countdown To Extinction”, at others going for the non-thrash metal yet still reasonably good album that followed it. There’s a handful of songs here that are pretty catchy, particularly “Millennium Of The Blind” which brings in the ballad element a bit yet manages to remain fairly heavy and aggressive, and even brings in a bit of a sing along factor. With the exception of the closing flop of a title song “13”, which reminds of the more limp-wristed balladry heard on select songs of “The World Needs A Hero”, nothing on here comes off as being overtly awful, but it definitely wants for more energy, especially compared to the last couple of albums.
As best as can be articulated; this album should have been released between “The System Has Failed” and “United Abominations”. It is possible to present a better album while using a past template as a guide for molding together songs, as was proven on the last album, but here it just doesn’t quite hit the mark and gets bogged down in too many similar sounding ideas. This approach to songwriting works when the tempo is faster and the songs tend to be either shorter or done in a more artful fashion, but neither of those things really materializes on here. This is not an essential purchase for those outside the Megadeth club, and core fans are encouraged to seek this album second hand or maybe just cherry pick the mp3s of the better songs.
I'll start off by saying that there are some bands that sound good throughout their entire career. Sure, they might release a shitty album here and there, but they always sound great whether playing their legendary or shitty material. Megadeth, however, is a different case. The many years of feuding and trying to be better than Metallica has hampered Dave's creative process. How else could you make Endgame and then follow up with a shittier version 2 years later? That's got to be the reason because what else could have caused this?
I'll start of with the vocals because they are my biggest issue with the album. To put it lightly, they are bad. I had to cringe my teeth while listening because hearing those forced vocals that Dave spits out is a torture. Now I know that Dave hasn't gotten any younger and his voice deteriorated, but I will go as far as to say that even Hetfield sounded better on Death Magnetic. The lyrics aren't that clever either and relying on repetition (Public Enemy No. 1) does not always work.
The riffs themselves sound recycled. There is not a lot of distinction between them, and even the songs themselves lack it, too. Not only that but they also bore the hell out of me. This modern Megadeth sound irks me the most. However I will admit that there are some cool parts such as in "Deadly Nightshade" and occasionally good solos here and there.
To sum it up, this is like Endgame except even worse. So Megadeth diehards and fanboys alike rejoice for yet another thrash release by the once great Megadeth. As for me, I am grateful that through the power of the internet I was able to hear this album without spending my hard-earned money on it, and so should you.
The first time I listened to"Endgame", I felt it was a reunion of Mustaine with the old fashioned style that made him so great and unique in the 80's, that same style that brought us "Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?", "So Far... So Good... So What?" (so underrated), and "Rust in Peace". However, with "13" (I'm not gonna explain how childish the actual name spells), it's like Dave took a middle point between "Youthanasia" and "Countdown to Extinction" without the mid-paced rhythm of the first and the reminiscent youthful anger of the last one. You might think that this is a good thing, but let me tell you: it isn't. This is not a good record, and in my humble opinion it's a step down from their previous effort.
It doesn't start off badly as the first two tracks give attitude to the album. "Sudden Death" and "Public Enemy No. 1" are very motivational, you might say. They're fast, evil, and start off the record in a good way. Like I said in a previous review, "Sudden Death" is one of the best releases from Megadeth in years. The on and on changing between Mustaine and Broderick in the solo department kinda reminds me of "Hangar 18" with the technical and skillful performance. After these two, you get a few fillers that really don't bring anything new to the table. This, in particular, is one of the things that bothers me more about this release: is full of non-sense, juvenile tracks all around. Not only has about three songs that were already presented in prior records, but some of the new ones are plain boring.
Then, "Never Dead" comes and gives another kick to the album with a mysterious and sober intro that turns into a riff-fest with fast drumming to go along. The lyrics, again like in "Sudden Death", take a detour in the political rebel way that Mustaine always tends to use and gives more emphasis on the darkness and evil, using analogies of the zombies and the torments of the undead. From there, is a downstream of slow catchy tunes, with a couple of good riffs. If this was another band, I wouldn't care. But, people, this is fucking Megadeth! You can't expect three or four good songs on a whole record with these guys.
Something that really highlights "Th1rt3en" (I had to spell it, otherwise it would be confused with the track...FUCK!) is the production. The bass and drums are thick and it's heavy with crisp guitars piercing your ears with the (I have to accept it) amazing solos that Broderick and Mustaine bring us. As has become a costume in the new century releases from Megadeth, the aspect done in the post-recording is done properly. Sometimes, you wonder how "Killing is my Business..." would sound like with a production like this.
Like I said at the beginning of this review, I enjoyed the sound on "Endgame" and this is clearly a watered down effort in comparison. To be honest, it's a mediocre effort from these giants. And this is from a man that has a Deth' title song as an username. I really hope that Dave takes back everything that was done right in "Endgame", make an improvement, and dump every radio friendly ideas that has been carrying along for several years. I'm not expecting (like so many) "Rust in Peace 2" or something like that, but Dave is old enough and has come a long way, to write something better.
P.S: Mustaine has been posting lately little teaser videos about the 14th production, and it feels just like the teaser videos that he released prior to this. Please, Dave, prove me wrong!
One the most glaring problems with metal’s nostalgia fetish is that bands’ latest releases are constantly being judged in terms of their legacies/past glories, rather than the actual content of the new offering being evaluated. This is especially true of the genre’s titans, most of whom were blessed/cursed with releasing perfect or damn near perfect albums early on in their careers. Such is the case with Megadeth, who are shouldered with the considerable burden of having released not one but two genre-defining thrash albums in the form of Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying? and Rust in Peace.
This is part of a larger problem. Metal doesn’t take kindly to its heroes growing up. Average joe’s like you and me are allowed to change through the years, but our favorite musicians aren’t. I’m not the same person I was twenty years ago, but for some reason Dave Mustaine is expected to remain the same fucked up, angry young man that wrote “Holy Wars… The Punishment Due” and “Take No Prisoners”. Um, guys, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but MegaDave is fifty years old, sober, and down with the G-O-D (the latter much to my chagrin). I realize that metal is positively filled with sufferers of “Peter Pan Syndrome” and some metal veterans have admirably held on to their original fire (see Sabbat’s Gezol and Vader’s Piotr Wiwczarek), yet I can’t help but look at things from my own perspective; I’m 32 years old this month, I’m happily married and have a good job… acting like the pissed off teenager who wants to “fuck on the floor and break shit” (to borrow a phrase from Henry Rollins) seems a tad silly. Does this make me a “sellout” or “not metal”? I think metal is in your heart and your soul, not in juvenile, over-the-top antics, or trying to re-write an album you wrote two decades ago, and I think scene godfathers like Mustaine would agree with me. Just because you’ve grown up and are content in life doesn’t mean you’ve lost your passion. Expecting Mustaine (or any other artist for that matter) to be in the same place musically and artistically at fifty as he was in his twenties is just flat out ridiculous. Human beings do not exist in stasis.
Which brings us to Th1rt3en (henceforth referred to as Thirteen because I’m far too lazy to keep spelling it that way), Megadeth’s thirteenth album (duh) and the first to feature long lost bassist David Ellefson since 2001′s The World Needs a Hero. On paper, the hodgepodge nature of the album (two songs written for video games, three that have already appeared as demo/bonus tracks for older Megadeth releases + a handful of brand new songs) seems like a recipe for disaster or a sign of lacking inspiration, but Megadeth manages to rustle up a cohesive album that largely sounds to these ears like a cross between Youthanasia and Cryptic Writings (okay, I know I just griped at length about people making these types of comparisons earlier, but I guess it’s inevitable… shit). Some of you will immediately dismiss the album based on that comparison alone, but as someone who grew up with and also happens to dig that era of Megadeth, I’m all for Mustaine and Co. not taking the obvious route of attempting to create Rust in Peace 2.0.
Of course, with thirteen tracks and almost an hour run-time, Thirteen isn’t without a few clunkers. ”Guns, Drugs and Money” “Fast Lane” and “Wrecker” are the obvious filler songs that should’ve remained unfinished in the studio, but even these lesser tracks aren’t completely unlistenable. On the other hand, there are numerous songs that exhibit Megadeth’s patented blend of precision, aggression and technical wizardry to the fullest, such as “Black Swan” “Deadly Nightshade” “Never Dead” and “Sudden Death”. Mustaine and Chris Broderick (ex Jag Panzer, Nevermore) deliver some serious guitar pyrotechnics, with Broderick cementing himself as the best six-string foil for Mustaine since Marty Friedman. Some of these songs might have been around since the nineties, but Megadeth inject them with plenty of energy and modernity, making you wonder why they waited until now to include them on a proper album.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Thirteen is ridiculously catchy front-to-back, probably the most infectious batch of songs Mustaine has put together since the aforementioned Cryptic Writings (damn, I did it again). I’m a sucker for catchy choruses, and make no mistake that this album is rife with them, from the political call to arms that is “We The People” to the nightmarish “Deadly Nightshade”. Megadeth have always been expert craftsmen, but it really feels like this time out they put extra emphasis on creating memorable hooks. I’ll put it this way, I can’t remember any of the choruses off the top of my head from United Abominations or Endgame, but numerous refrains from Thirteen are already well upon their way to committing themselves to the inner workings of the skull beneath my skin for all eternity.
In addition to being brimming with multiple guitargasms and catchier-than-herpes choruses, Thirteen sounds great. There had been some concern regarding Megadeth’s choice of nu metal guru Johnny K to produce, but fear not rattleheads, Thirteen still sounds like a Megadeth album. While K’s production scheme might not be quite as crisp and biting as Andy Sneap’s (producer on United Abominations and Endgame), there’s still plenty of crunch and bottom end, which serves Megadeth well whether they’re channelling Black Sabbath on “Millenium of the Blind”, getting thrashtastic on “Sudden Death” and all points in-between.
Megadeth have put out a killer album with Thirteen. Fans expecting a rehash of the band’s past will be extremely disappointed, but those willing to throw their absurd expectations out the window and listen to the album on its own terms will find much to enjoy. Thirteen is not a perfect album, but it is a damn good album; another impressive addition to Megadeth’s discography that serves to further solidify the band’s position as the most consistent, musical and technically sound member of thrash’s Big 4.
Originally written for http://thatshowkidsdie.com
I’m not superstitious either, but in this case number thirteen really means BAD LUCK for Dave, the other Dave, and the lads. AND the fans! This album is really disappointing, though I’m not exactly the greatest Megadeth fan out there. I can name several thrash metal bands I vastly prefer to listen to, but I consider Rust in Peace one of the greatest albums ever and an absolute favorite, easily among my top ten metal albums. Besides classic Megadeth albums, I have also fairly enjoyed the band’s 21st Century output, especially their previous album, Endgame, which I found to be interesting and engaging, with varied songs ranging from speedy numbers to moodier and catchy but still heavy tunes. I was hoping for at least a continuation of that quality with TH1RTH3N, maybe even an improvement, as Endgame was good but far from perfect. Instead, MegaDave has produced a really lackluster album, a resounding step back, back to their mid-late 90’s mediocre material.
The main problem here, are the riffs. That’s almost the only thing wrong with this album, but it’s more than enough. At this stage of their career, you can’t (or shouldn’t) expect a band like Megadeth to have production issues or bad musicianship, and of course none of that is found here. However, sub-par riffage and mediocre songwriting are constant threats to any band, novice or veteran alike. And this album features really boring and uninspiring riffs found in most of its thirteen compositions. Moreover, most songs are totally forgettable and just plain boring. There’s not much to hold one’s attention on, though the album starts in a deceiving way with its strongest songs, “Sudden Death” and “Public Enemy No. 1”. Not excellent, legendary stuff, but altogether quite enjoyable and memorable. The first one is a faster, lead-filled tune, that harkens back to their 80’s classic stuff, and the second one is more akin to their heavy/thrash hybrid style of the 90’s, catchy and radio-friendly yet worthy of attention.
And that’s about it folks. The rest of the songs, are totally disposable exercises in amazing (from a technical point of view) soloing and a few catchy vocal lines the ones only MegaDave con utter. Like I hinted before, musicianship here is rock-solid. But there’s not much cohesion keeping it rolling. Those sweet solos and choruses are mixed with insipid rhythms and mediocre song structures. Lyrics are best left unmentioned please. Not even mighty David Ellefson shines here like he should. And is not that the songs sound the same, they don’t, and are rather diverse, from mildly fast thrashers like “Never Dead”, “Fast Lane” and “Wrecker”, to heavy groovy tracks such as “We the People”, “Guns, Drugs & Money” (the mariachi ending was a nice touch though) or “Deadly Nightshade”, to the most obnoxious of the bunch, the ballads “Millennium of the Blind” and “13” itself. Bad luck to us all.
Truth be told, there’s only another song I could consider a highlight of sorts, and that would be “Black Swan”, a limping warrior amidst crippled soldiers. Deep inside the album, it grabs your attention right as it starts with a nice lead intervention, waking you from the somniferous effect induced by the rest of the tracks. Its greatest asset, are the memorable vocal lines, but it also boasts decent riffs. Ironically, the only thing keeping it away from stellar status is that it lacks a strong solo, unlike other, less-compelling songs of the album, and instead we have a few-second inoffensive fret-board attack. However that’s not the case, sadly. Again, bad luck to us all.
Deth’s thirteenth (so sick of that number by now) album ends up inoffensive and bland. In comparison, the so-so but overall better Worship Music by Anthrax sounds like a modern Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?. To leave things clear, I wasn’t expecting or craving for a Rust in Peace part II, that would be entirely naïve. But neither did I expect something as bad and tasteless as Cryptic Writings. This record is not entirely worthless, but I wouldn’t recommend it even to rabid Megadeth fans, although I’m afraid that won’t stop them from lauding this album. And again, bad luck to us all.
I love when a new Megadeth CD is released. It's not even because I'm a huge fan of the band. It's because the reviews are always so polarized. The negative ones are often hilarious in their use of verbiage to explain why nobody should like the CD, particularly Megadeth fans. The same stock arguments always appear: it's not another Rust in Peace, and it's not fast enough. Gah. You'd think that by now people would 1) realize that Megadeth, after all the credit they gave Endgame, is pretty damn good with styles other than balls-out thrash, and 2) stop buying shit they are apparently predestined not to like. I mean, the amount of dumbassery involved with buying a CD you're not going to like just to review it and then copy-and-paste the review to a bunch of websites (apart from this Holy Shrine of Awesomeness, of course) is worthy of a philosophy Master's thesis. There has to be some seriously inflated self-worth involved; that, or some sort of immunity to how Congress is continuously managing to not fix the economy. Either point clearly bears investigation.
Fortunately for me, I subscribe to the Schwarzenegger school of thought, which states "If it bleeds, we can kill it." This is commonly interpreted as per the performing arts as "If it rocks, we can mosh to it." Besides, I already know that I have a hugely inflated opinion of myself, so I'm perfectly fine spending my time writing music reviews because, clearly, people need to know the shit that's inside my head. Seriously. OK, there was supposed to be a review in here somewhere...
Oh yeah, Megadeth. New CD and crap.
Personally, I had mixed hopes for Th1rt3en. Th1rt3en. I have to think twice when typing so it doesn't come out as Thirteen. In fact, let's start there with Th1rt3en. And thirteen, actually (that one wasn't a typo). Me, I got why Mustaine chose Th1rt3en for the title. It's a significant number in Megadeth. It's their thirteenth studio album, he started playing guitar at thirteen, and so on. Oh and holy crap I just realized that there are actually thirteen songs. Th1rt3en! It's a title, give the guy a break. And when you think about it, it's a pretty insightful title, even. Plenty of releases have WTF titles, yet awesome music. It's like nobody has seen a pre-Heartwork Carcass CD, which is almost blasphemous in its own right. Besides, Mustaine earned the permanent right to use whatever collection of letters and/or numbers to title his CDs when he came up with...Capitol Punishment!
Back to my mixed hopes for the CD. See, as an admittedly huge Megadeth fan, I used to buy singles, EPs, and imports back when they actually meant something, as in they had b-sides you couldn't get otherwise. I wanted all the songs, dammit. Hell, I even bought four copies of Cryptic Writings, so I could have the normal release, the black covered release, the two-disc Japanese release with Live Trax II, and the Japanese release with One Thing. As a result, my bank card emits a weird noise I can only assume is a cry for help when a new Megadeth release comes along. It's OK dude, they're doing BS live cuts of stuff we already have at this point, relax. What this all means is that when the track listing came out, I did a double-take. New World Order? Millenium of the Blind? Black Swan? Hold on a minute here, I've already got those, Dave. Has the economy also launched a blitzkrieg on your bank statement? I can relate. There was Sudden Death-already released, Public Enemy No. 1-already played to death on my Zune as the first single release, and Whose Life (Is It Anyways?)-played slightly less as he second single release. So I was really only thinking I'd get seven brand-new songs. So with a chunk of the CD already old news, I was a bit skeptical as to the effort they'd go to get the rest of it out. It seemed to me like they were just going through the motions to get away from Roadrunner. There's also the fact that I really enjoyed Endgame, and was hoping for something spectacular as a follow-up, particularly with Ellefson back on the bass.
OK, mostly, it turns out that I wasn't disappointed. Let's get the easy stuff out of the way first: the production. This might be the best-produced Megadeth CD yet. Everything is crystal clear, the mix is solid, and even played through crappy earbuds you can hear each instrument playing its part. A lot of times the bass guitar gets lost behind the wall of distortion provided by the guitarists, or the drums get mixed too far to the front confusing everything. This certainly isn't the case here. My only gripe is that you can hear EVERYTHING. Let me explain. Listen to, say, the first verse in We The People. Johhny K must not know just what Pro Tools can accomplish. Every time Mustaine sings a line, there's the obligatory fraction of a second where you hear him inhale. Because the production is just that clear, it's so obvious that it's almost a distraction. Dude, K, you couldn't have Pro Tool'ed out those second fractions? Admittedly, however, that is a really small gripe to have, and one that isn't obvious in every track, either.
Great, so it sounds awesome. But does it have awesome sounds? Short answer: yes. Now for the long answer. Th1rt3en plays like a sequel to Youthanasia. It's built more on mid-paced songs, vocal melodies, and relatively benign structures. Yeah, that means it still isn't Rust in Peace II, but so what. There are some speedier, thrashier bits, but for the most part the album seems to rely on what has rapidly become Megadeth's real strength nowadays, especially after Endgame: kick-ass, mid-tempo awesomeness.
It all starts with Public Enemy No. 1 (the mid-tempo stuff, not the album). A few triplets in the verse riff provide the perception that things are moving along a bit faster than they really are, but that just helps to set the beat. The chorus is pretty damn catchy and definitely a foot tapper. Oh, and no, that's not quite Hangar 18 you hear, either. That specific chord progression comes out of something with Mustaine's name on it, but that you won't find on a Megadeth release. Clearly, not enough people remember The Call of Ktulu. Oh well, LuLu does that, I guess. Moving forward a bit, we arrive at the best song on the CD, and probably my favorite Megadeth song since the aforementioned Youthanasia album: We The People. Seriously, Mustaine needs to just set his mind to writing a purely politically-themed album. The chorus to this one is flat-out insane. Hell, the whole song is insane. The worst thing I can say about it is that it's over too soon! Guns, Drugs, & Money follows We The People, and the ascending verse riff is a nice buildup leading into the well-executed vocal layers found in the chorus. Wrecker...ok, this is where we have to remember that Dave does have a sense of humor. Sure, it's a silly as hell song. But it's hilarious! This is probably my favorite "pay less attention, because we're not serious" moment since Bullprick. Deadly Nightshade, stuck back towards the end of the CD, may feature the best vocal performance by Mustaine on the entire CD. You can tell he was really getting into the chorus, and once again the layered vocals are a huge plus here.
For those looking for something with a bit more speed, we interestingly need to delve into the video game stuff. Sudden Death gets a little bit of a pass, seeing as how it was written for Guitar Hero. The reworked version found here is still basically a box of leads packaged into a song, but hey, who else can manage to fit the word lithospheres into a metal song? Never Dead, written for another video game, has a pretty balls-out verse riff complemented by a simpler chorus accentuating Mustaine's vocal delivery. At the end of the day, though, you get the impression that the speedy stuff just isn't where they're at these days. Hence why the thrashier tunes weren't specifically written for the album.
Oh, with all of this video game talk, I find it obligatory to mention that the lack of Megadeth's version of the theme song in Duke Nukem Forever was a criminal omission. Moving on.
What about the three reworked older tunes? Pretty solid efforts, actually. The re-recorded New World Order retains all of the attitude and riff work of the original, with the major change coming right at the end of the track. I loved the original two versions, and this one is just as good. Fits in well as a complement to We The People as well, now that I think about it. Oh, and sorry guys, this is probably the only way to get the words Marty and Friedman into the liner notes these days. Minor win? Black Swan sounds more like a remix than a "finished" version. Actually it seems like it followed the same formula as The Active Mix of Breadline: take a song that started out pretty simply, and throw a meatier riff from the inner workings of the song at the front to change things up. Then stick some lead bits on top of it, and move on. It's not a bad track, I just prefer the original arrangement. Millenium of the Blind also isn't bad, it just didn't do much for me either. I'm not sure what I really expected here, but I'm relatively sure this wasn't it. Most of that stems from the fact that it's trying to be two songs, the new stuff and then the old lyrics stuck in there at the end.
That pretty much leaves the song 13. This is where things get a bit weird. The song itself is very much badass. When Mustaine writes about his life and his experiences with Megadeth, like Liar or Of Mice And Men, the results are pretty much guaranteed to be gold. But then you wonder why this one got stuck at the end of the CD (yes I can count, it's the thirteenth track, shut up and listen for a minute). We get a band whose latest album has a bunch of already released or re-hashed songs. And then we get this line: "I just don't think I can give any more". And just about then, we notice the liner notes for the CD (see, it pays to still buy real CDs), and see Vic in a coffin, and funeral imagery all over the place. Remember The Funeral Album by Sentenced? Looking at the total package you can see how this just might be the end of the road; if not done intentionally (Gigantour 2012 is on the books, after all, and he says he's feeling reloaded after neck surgery) then at least you get the impression that Mustaine might at least be open to the possibility that the future is no longer guaranteed. Or, I could be reading way too much into this crap. But one should remember that they are now without a label, and anything can happen.
Despite all of the highs, the album as a whole isn't quite the obliterating follow-up to Endgame that I'd hoped for. Fast Lane is another hilarious song, but doesn't quite work. The lyrics, the riffs, the vocal work...nothing stands out as "wrong", but it just seems like this track was crying out to be done at a much higher tempo. C'mon, it's Fast Lane! How is this not about 50 bpm faster, at least? Then, there's the guitar solos. This is the first time that the lead work just hasn't really stuck in my head. The soloing by both Mustaine and Broderick is technically precise (Mustaine), suitably but not overly embellished (Broderick), and executed well (both of 'em), but it just doesn't seem to be overly inspired. Well, maybe inspired isn't quite the word I'm looking for. Sue me, I'm not a thesaurus. Suffice to say that the lead work is not a detraction, but it's not really a high point, either. Maybe this is a side effect of the abbreviated recording process. They've clearly still "got it", as evidenced by Endgame, but for some reason this time they just don't blow your socks off.
So what's the score here? It has to be pretty damn high, right, with all of the sonic badassery? Not so fast. To start with, Dave's breath sounds are getting a point deducted. Then I'm knocking ten points off for putting a bunch of stuff better suited for a Hidden Treasures II type compilation (or the next greatest hits album, which at the rate they turn those out these days has to be coming) onto the CD. Yeah, the songs were good to great, but at the end of the day they deprived us of three more all-new tracks on the album. Finally, ten points off for the fact that I just didn't feel the lead work this time around. That leaves us with 79 out of 100. This is probably one of those cases where the score doesn't really indicate how much I like the album, either. And in my case, at least, I also hope it doesn't mark the end of the road for one of my favorite metal bands of all time. Me, I actually like this album as a whole better than Endgame, and yet I gave that one an 85. But it is what it is.
Besides, if this crap was an exact science, some jackoff with the RIAA would've patented it by now and shut down all of these sites, right?
Since Dave Mustaine regrouped his baby in Megadeth in 2004, they have released a steady string of albums which has been seen as a return to form for the band since the majestic days of the 80s and early 90s. Their last output, “Endgame”, saw the band go back to their speedier side, but also strong songwriting which made it a great effort. “Th1rt3en” has a tough act to follow, but luckily it stands up to the groups name.
“Th1rt3een” sounds mostly like a cross between “Countdown to Extinction” and “Youthanasia.” There are more hard-pounding guitars surrounded by dark melodies that resonated in those releases. It is no coincidence either seeing as two tracks from those sessions made it on this album in “New World Order” and “Millennium of the Blind.” Both of these songs could be found on the “Youthanasia” remastered edition as extra tracks. Hearing these songs receiving their proper release is a great to hear, especially “New World Order” with its awesome lead guitar part before the chorus and the thrashing ending at the end, but I actually like the demoed version of this song better. A grittier, raw sound fit this song perfectly, but the clean version on here takes away from the destructive nature of this song. “Millenium of the Blind” has been built to a full song and the chorus songs like zombies marching towards slowly. I’m not sure if that is a good thing, so I’ll leave it at that.
The production on here is too clean, too polished. Everything sounds too neat. There is nothing that resembles the chaos of “This Day We Fight!” or “Burnt Ice” from the past two Megadeth albums. “Th1rt3en” could benefit more from a more dangerous, more chaotic sound.
With that being said, Mustaine delivers his signature snarl in the fashion everyone knows and love and hearing him rage about the injustices of the world, and the joys of driving fast never becomes old. It is wonderful to hear Dave Ellefson back in the fold because he just makes Megadeth be Megadeth again. His signature bass sound always held the backbone of the older releases. Tracks like “Public Enemy No. 1” and “Wrecker” relish in his grooves.
By far the best songs on here are “Never Dead” and “Public Enemy No. 1”. The brooding intro followed by the snarling riff are awesome. The verse passages and the chorus flow brilliantly and it has stuck in my head since listening. “Public Enemy No.1” resembles something from “Countdown” and has a great driving riff and Mustaine is great in the delivery of the vocals. Other standouts include “Guns, Drugs, and Money” which makes the listener imagine being in a Mexican action movie. The theme and rhythms of the song match perfectly. The other highlight is the closer “13” which is mostly a short biographical account of Mustaine’s life. The moody, mid-paced riff sticks through and is strong closer to this superstitious album. Another plug to “Whose Life (Is it Anyways?)” has a chorus that will stick in your head for days and the rocking, fast paced guitars meld with the fueled charged grievances towards people for not accepting who someone is or think they what’s best for someone.
In the end though, the songwriting is just not as memorable as “Endgame”. That album was going to be hard to beat, but still it is what it is. “Sudden Death” was taken from the Guitar Hero video game last year with blazing leads and solos, but it seems that the verse structures were just an afterthought and is a poor opener to the album. “We the People” is a politically charged rant with a flat chorus, but I suppose it is to resemble a political speech given by some candidate. However, we the people say this song is no good.
As a huge Megadeth fan, I am both pleased and somewhat disappointed with this album. I feel like the band has been stuck in neutral since “United Abominations.” While the band has hit a groove with solid metal tunes, I don’t feel that necessity to go back and listen to it like “Endgame” or the interesting and creative songwriting of “The System Has Failed.” I would like to see the band progress more in the future instead of relying on the past to illustrate its future. Overall, any Megadeth fan should like this and tracks like “Never Dead” and “Public Enemy No. 1” show the band still has the chops to be awesome. If the songs were stronger and the pacing was steadier then it would be a standout, but in the end, we have an above average, but not quite great Megadeth record.
Originally written for nicksmetal.blogspot.com
Originally posted on my reviews-blog at heavymetalspotlight.blogspot.com
Megadeth were, without a doubt, the first metal band I was into. Maybe they're not always in my top-ten bands of the moment anymore, but they'll always have a special place in my heart, as I'm sure anyone can empathise. "Th1rt3en" marks the bands... well... thirteenth studio album, and seems to, in places, take a softer approach to the band's sound, with a more "Countdown to Extinction" and "Youthanasia" style approach.
One thing which is immediately apparent, so immediate that you're well aware of it before actually listening the album at all, is that a certain proportion of the songs on the record have been recycled. I'll leave you to look at the tracklists yourselves, but I'll state that some of the re-workings are more welcome than others. "Sudden Death" seems a bit pointless - sounding almost identical to the version released as a single only about a year before, and despite being one of my favourite B-sides, "Black Swan" isn't done much justice, it's majestic intro exchanged for a chaotic and much less beautiful sounding affair. That said, "New World Order" is tolerable, although I still much prefer the demo version, where the riff isn't spoiled by lead-work. The new material on the album, accounting for nine of the thirteen tracks, certainly has a much less thrashy edge than "Endgame" or even "United Abominations" did, and goes down a more simplistic road, reminiscent of Megadeth's middle-era, especially, as far as I can hear, "Cryptic Writings", which is regarded as quite tame, but not, thankfully, as much as "Risk".
While many of the new songs are quite enjoyable, for instance, "Public Enemy #1" is immensely catchy and well put together, quite a lot of the material seems very filler-like. A lot of the songs, like "Guns, Drugs and Money" have almost no distinguishing features whatsoever, seemingly a miasma of forgettable guitar, with little apparent structure. Th1rt3en feels less like an album, and more like a collection of songs which just so happened to exist at the time, which, at least, brings in some pleasant windfalls, such as "Never Dead", which is possibly the one genuinely thrashy song on the album which hasn't been released in some shape-or-form already. As much as I really rather want to like this album, I can't help but feel that it comes nowhere near the fantastic peak re-claimed by "Endgame". The production seems a bit off, too - I like crunchy guitar, but they seem a little too crunchy on this album - quite often robbing the song of the sharp edge which Megadeth use to excellent effect. The vocals sound a little bit drowned out, too, but all in all, it's adequate.
It's a step down, but it's not a bad album of it's own right. Sadly comparison to other work by the band is inevitable, and I can safely say that it's not a continuation of the peak of excellence that "United Abominations" and "Endgame" built. It's not overtly disappointing, but it's a bit of a comedown from even it's most recent predecessors.
It's been one hell of a ride for/with this reborn Megadeth entity. This is said with a healthy amount of loyal worship on my end, but I've also held them accountable to more than a few bouts of questionable antics, both musical and personal, that have transpired over the years. Now granted, I know that Mr. Mustaine in this day and age isn't the same Mr. Mustaine from over 20 years ago (to which he's rather unfairly criticized for nowadays by a few "elitist" fools out there), but WHO here in this world is still the same idiot today they were in the past? But it shouldn't matter, really…what matters is the overall output, the reason why you checked the fucker out in the first place, and, even today, I feel that Megadeth's music is still relevant, if not MORE relevant than before, as they continue to make us wake up dead with increasingly killer post-millennial material.
So let's see how this new album stands in its own right...
Going in, I had that sinking feeling that whatever would come next would have a hard time trying to outdo the devastating "Endgame", which itself was quite the hard act to follow, and for that I cannot fault "Th1rt3en" in any hang-ups it possesses due to such high expectations. Instead, what we get here is a solid affair in its own right, if a touch underwhelming with its lack of overt violence and rage. Still, its strengths seem to lie in the band's songwriting area, where potent riffs and surprisingly dark melodies replace the more brutal musical ends, and it looks like we have one of the more complex-sounding modern Megadeth releases in a while, the result of a long time of tightened chops and clenched fists. There's no real sensation of just phoning it in like a few of their contemporaries have done lately, and the thick guitar riffs, fluidly-fast solos/leads, lyrical odes of corruption and darkness, punishing machine gun drums and Dave's agitated snarls (the last one still at all time highs), and the sheer monstrousness of songs like "Sudden Death", "Millennium of the Blind" and "Wrecker" get the juices flowing as best as they can.
Still, for as great as it is in the end, I'm afraid I'll have to admit that there were moments that I wasn't really absorbed into the album as I’'d been in the past few years. It could be a number of things, but it seems that the biggest sin is that some of the topics are starting to get a little tired and long in the tooth ("We the People", "Sex, Drugs and Money", "Fast Lane"), and even Mr. Mustaine himself doesn't sound as passionate about them as he used to be. Granted, he's still Dave, and he's still pissed, but after it starts with a strong opening, the album becomes like a roller-coaster, where it deflates a bit as it bores on through, only to end up coming back to life before being buried once more. As I've stated before, the sensation of pure unadulterated venom is in more scant quantities this time around, and the fist to the face is now just a mere hard shove, which could leave a few listeners a bit languid and listless. It's a shame that a band I'd held a flag so high for so many, MANY years couldn't leave me spellbound as they'd done in the past, but this really isn't anything to hold against them.
At the end of the day, "Th1rt3en" is a pretty good foray into modern heavy metal angst, something that is what it is in spite of itself. Chances are I'll still gives this little doozy the time of day time and again, but probably not as much as some of their other, stronger albums. Nevertheless, this is good for what ails you in this day and age. Trust me.
Originally written for The Offering
Oh, my God. I get it. I GET IT guys! The number '13' is in the title Thirteen. How ingenious is that? In hindsight, I'm astonished that Dave Mustaine and Megadeth have made it this far. With all the drug problems, the emotional discord, the lineup shifting, and the conspiracy theories, I'm amazed that Dave hasn't simply dropped out of civilization and started a commune somewhere. Curiously enough, his last full-length outing Endgame was rather good, a return to the songwriting aesthetics of the 1986-1990 era, but as anything this band will likely every produce post-Rust in Peace, it met with a very mixed reaction. The lyrics were admittedly a mixed bag of stupidity and acceptable camp, but at least when I was listening through it I experienced nostalgia for exactly what I liked about Megadeth in the first place: the snide, anti-authoritarian attitude and the blazing, killer riffs and leads. Endgame was in my opinion their best release since Youthanasia 15 years earlier.
And a reference to Youthanasia is no accident, since three of the Th1rt3en tracks were originally included on the remastered version of that album. Here they have been reworked, and yet the very presence of tunes penned in the early 90s shows that Mustaine seems committed to this mid-life crisis of wanting to return to the band's earlier rocket to popularity. Granted, none of this triad is all that great, and I can see why they weren't included with either Countdown to Extinction or Youthanasia, as their choruses are pretty meek and frankly they almost entirely lack for the compelling riffs so important to the Megadeth sound. "Millenium of the Blind" is a boring, forward rolling ballad which opens in cleans and graduates to dull crunching patterns; "Black Swan" has some nice leads for a mid-paced rocker, but it's never very catchy; and "New World Order", while better than the other two, is not even at the level of something like "99 Ways to Die" from the Beavis & Butthead soundtrack...
So that leaves us with the newer crop of 10 songs to leave an impact, and those few times it does succeed do indeed rest on the shoulders of cuts like "Never Dead", which builds from a moody string intro through bland chugging and into a pretty killer hook. The verses are exceedingly simple, just a speed metal muted anchor with groovy fills, but Mustaine's vocals really work on this tune and it's the one I've gone back to revisit more than any other here. "Guns, Drugs & Money" also relies a lot on stock grooves and a few mediocre chugs, but at least I felt that the song built a steady, compelling momentum and offered enough bluesy wailing leads to flesh out its Mexican cartel encroachment subject matter. A few of the later tunes like "Wrecker" and "Deadly Nightshade" were also decent, but again the riffs offer a very simple architecture that seeks to excel on its production and vocal/guitar balance rather than the steps of innovation the band were once taking on their 80s efforts.
As for the rest of this, I can't say that it feels very well ordered or written. Songs like "Public Enemy No. 1" and "Sudden Death" seek nothing more than to capitalize on the fan's nostalgia for "Hangar 18" or "In My Darkest Hour", and you'll feel that comparison through their chord progressions. Both of those are right up front in the track list. "Whose Life (Is It Anyways?)" feels too rock & roll, almost like an escapee from the pathetic Risk or Cryptic Writing sessions, and it's worthless outside of the bits of shredding. "Fast Lane" sticks with a simple low end thrash groove like a "Symphony of Destruction", but nothing interesting ever happens. "13" and "We the People" straddle between decent hooks and dull melodic escalations, slower paced tunes that strive for a money shot but leave the listener in a softcore labyrinth.
I will say that Dave's voice sounds quite good throughout the album. Clearly with the right level of production his snarling and melodic sensibilities are intact, and he's all over this thing. The leads are in general well written if not exactly memorable, and feel snug as a bug as a contrast to the simplified composition of many tracks. The bass is punchy and thick, yet I never feel like Ellefson ever pulls off anything interesting, and the drums are pretty much rock standard, no more complex or impressive than what you heard on Youthanasia or Cryptic Writings. All of this is mixed quite cleanly, but I almost feel as if it's 'too' clean, targeted for major radio exposure but not suiting the band as much as a grimier finish might. If Mustaine is so serious about getting back to the roots, I think it would be more compelling if he gave it a dirty sheen like the first two albums. Th1rt3en is loud and clear, but comes off too poppy, sparkly and polished.
Ultimately, this is one of those 'meh' Megadeth recordings with 1-2 songs you might add to a highlight reel, but no degree of consistency. Like The World Needs a Hero, or The System Has Failed. Catchy choruses are few and far between, and the riffs always seem played out and derivative, even in "Never Dead" which I tend to enjoy. The lyrics are half-on, half-off, but even where they're better scripted, they seem derivative of subjects the Dave has already explored previously, numerous times ("Fast Lane" feels like another "502" or "1,320" for example). It's not a terrible listen, but neither is it pushing the boundaries of what can be done within the medium like the band's past opuses Peace Sells... or Rust in Peace. It's more of a flat tire than an engine breakdown, but nonetheless is unlikely to standout to Megadeth fans past the next few exit signs.