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A flying start, followed by a decent album - 80%

Agonymph, May 19th, 2007

A new Megadeth-album is always a guarantee for a lot of debate among fans and critics. There will always be people who will only be satisfied with another ‘Rust In Peace’ and as a result were disappointed by any album that came out since. For me personally, only ‘Risk’ and ‘World Needs A Hero’ were shit products, but even those albums had their moments. Megadeth’s latest effort ‘The System Has Failed’ was to me a great album. Maybe not the Megadeth we could hear on ‘Rust In Peace’, but – although I wouldn’t complain if we got another ‘Rust In Peace’ – that’s not really necessary either. The newest effort, ‘United Abominations’, more or less falls into the same category as its predecessor: it’s a very decent Heavy Metal album with Dave Mustaine in top form again. Nothing earth shattering, but nothing to be ashamed of either.

With that in mind, the beginning of the album comes as a very pleasant surprise. ‘Sleepwalker’ and ‘Washington Is Next’ are simply the best two tracks Megadeth has started an album with since ‘Holy Wars’ and ‘Hangar 18’ on ‘Rust In Peace’. ‘Sleepwalker’ even contains the so desired Thrash riffing that old school Megadeth-fans have yearned for for so long. The great guitar solos (Glen Drover is every bit as good as Marty Friedman) and an extremely pissed off Dave Mustaine just give the song the finishing touch it needs. ‘Washington Is Next’ is more melodic and packed with irresistable, infectious melodies. Those verses just gave me goosebumps. And as the title suggests, religious or not, Dave Mustaine will always be pissed off at governments in general.

That’s where the problem starts. And the problem I want to point out is two sided. First of all, it might not have been a very good idea to start the album off with its two best tracks. It’s like wasting the vast majority of your ammunition on your first two enemies, only to find out that there’s a lot more waiting after that. There’s still a lot to enjoy after that, but the high level of the first two tracks is never reached again.

Second part of the problem is that Dave Mustaine sometimes seems to put his political views higher on the ladder of importance than the music itself. ‘United Abominations’ has some killer riffing, but Mustaine just doesn’t seem to know when to stop his rants. Way too many spoken words. The same goes more or less for ‘Amerikhastan’ (notice the pattern in wordplaying in the titles?). It’s annoying. And that’s not necessarily because I disagree with Mustaine – although I definitely think he exaggerates in the album’s title track – but I’m interested in what Mustaine’s guitar has to say and what he has to sing, not in his speeches.

The lyrics to ‘Blessed Are The Dead’ are extremely cheesy as well. Seriously, the whole four horsemen theme is a tap from which all of the good water is already taken. Especially when it’s done as uninventive as in this song. Musically, the song isn’t all that interesting either. And ‘Never Walk Alone...A Call To Arms’ is a complete ripoff of ‘Vortex’ from ‘Cryptic Writings’. The slower tempo and the song’s good chorus don’t really mask that.the main riffs of both of the songs are quite similar. Not a bad song at all, but let’s just say I prefer the original.

Speaking of prefering the original...the absolute low point of the album is the remake of ‘A Tout Le Monde’ from ‘Youthanasia’. Contrary to a popular opinion (although the ones bashing the song are usually the same people that sing the song along the loudest), I really like the original. And nothing can outdo the original, right? Definitely right in this case. The higher tempo doesn’t suit the song at all and the addition of Lacuna Coil-singer Cristina Scabbia adds absolutely nothing to this version. Maybe some abominable vocal harmonies that are slightly off-key. Mustaine never should have raped this otherwise fine ballad this way. I suspect that letting Scabbia guest is purely based on commercial motives.

However, there is still quite a lot to enjoy on ‘United Abominations’. ‘Gears Of War’ is a very powerful track and its solo section is probably the finest on the album. Not the solo itself, but the riff underneath the solo is especially something to my delight. It really has this mighty eighties feel and it gave me goosebumps. Totally killer riff fest as well by the way. Another great solo section can be found in the song ‘You’re Dead’. The ending of the song is pure speed Metal. That solo section may be a little short, but definitely very fine! The song itself is a bit more progressive, but that suits this lineup of Megadeth fine. And ‘Burnt Ice’ is a nice closer. It slightly reminds me of ‘Ashes In Your Mouth’ from ‘Countdown To Extinction’, although the latter is definitely better.

So now for the hardest part of this review...where to place this album in Megadeth’s curriculum? I think it fits best somewhere between ‘Countdown To Extinction’ and ‘Youthanasia’. Stylistically, the balanced mix between Hard Rock, traditional Heavy Metal and Thrash / Speed Metal would fit well on ‘Countdown To Extinction’. But quality-wise, this album is closer to ‘Youthanasia’. I think ‘United Abominations’ is slightly more consistent than ‘Youthanasia’, but ‘Youthanasia’ fits certain moods better than ‘United Abominations’.

Fans of Megadeth’s post-1990 work can blindly buy this album. ‘Sleepwalker’, ‘Washington Is Next’ and to a lesser extent ‘Gears Of War’ alone are already worth every penny you pay for this album. It may be a bit of a letdown after ‘The System Has Failed’ though. ‘The System Has Failed’ started out with seven stellar tracks. There aren’t even seven steller tracks on ‘United Abominations’ as a whole. What you get in the form of ‘United Abominations’ is a decent Heavy Metal album that proofs Megadeth isn’t dead yet. Not even close.