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Megadeth's new effort, United Abominations, has been passed around the metal community with rather mixed reviews. Some people praise the album, saying that it's as close to thrash as they've come in years and their best since their classic material, while others think that the band still has a ways to go as far as returning to their roots.
I would fall under the former. I find some of the criticism undeserved, and this is my third favorite Megadeth outing next to Rust in Peace and Peace Sells...But Who's Buying.
The production values are at top form on this record. When I heard the record, I didn't even realize that they were on Roadrunner Records, because this sounded like Megadeth at their peak. They manage to give this album a bit of a modern touch and blending that in with the pristine production of Rust in Peace and Countdown era Megadeth. The guitars are finally back at the forefront after being lowered in the mix beginning on Cryptic Writings, which was already worked on with their previous effort, The System Has Failed. You finally feel that power that Megadeth's guitarwork used to have. The basslines are as audible as they ever were, and pack a bit of punch. The drumming is rather crisp, which makes this record all the more unique. With the great production value seen here, you'll have much to look forward to when purchasing this album.
The instrumentation is stronger than anything they've released in the past decade. Mustaine wasn't lying when he said that he finally found musicians he could work with. Mustaine's vocal performance on United Abominations may rival that of Youthanasia. He's finally using his trademark snarl again, and blends this with the vocal style he used on Youthanasia. The guitarwork is excellent. Mustaine is finally back to playing riffage that may not reach the complexity of Rust in Peace, but is still very technical. He is joined by Glen Drover. He is not Marty Friedman, and I am glad. He plays his own style, and along with Dave, creates some of the most complex and diverse riffs in the Megadeth catalog. Solos, the trademark feature of Megadeth, are everywhere on this album, appearing on every track. The solos shred and tear through the album without sounding like they just put them there to fill space, not to mention that Dave is finally contributing solos again. The basslines hold more prominence than on albums like The World Needs A Hero. James Lomenzo harkens back to a more traditional metal style of bass playing, which shows that Megadeth is grasping to those NWOBHM roots that they are so accustomed to. Shawn Drover is definitely not a slouch behind the kit. He plays with the upmost confidence, throwing out a style that is a cross between their early material and the more mid-tempo drumming on Countdown to Extinction and Youthanasia. Dave Mustaine and company are still very adept musicians on this recording, and it isn't hard to see why.
The songwriting is a very unique feature on United Abominations. The lyrics have received a lot of flack for being too cheesy and tongue in cheek. I question why this is a problem, since Megadeth's lyrics have always been like this. People who looking upon this album negatively expected to hear another Rust in Peace. This is not Rust in Peace 2, and there never will be a second Rust in Peace. Why? Because Megadeth is smarter than that. Dave Mustaine and company are professional musicians in metal, and they would much rather grow and diversify their sound instead of putting out the same record 500 times. This album has Megadeth rising out of the ashes not to recreate Rust in Peace, but to outdo it. The haven't accomplished this yet, but they are on their way. The songs are very diverse, and they do happen to have that slight progressive edge from Rust in Peace. The two most powerful tracks on the album are the opening track "Sleepwalker", a song with a melodic intro that turns into a mid-tempo metal anthem with a few speedier tempo changes thrown in along with an excellent dual solo, and the closer "Burnt Ice", which shows Megadeth returning to their thrash roots while throwing in a modern twist, with Mustaine and Glen soloing their asses off. "Never Walk Alone...A Call to Arms" starts off fairly speedy before reaching a very catchy chorus, with two excellent solos, while "You're Dead" plays with a few different tempos while tossing out some amazing guitarwork at high speed, especially towards the end of the song. "Washington is Next" has that NWOBHM tone that Megadeth wears proud. With a semi-fast rhythm section and melodic leads everywhere, the song wouldn't sound out of place on an Iron Maiden album. "Pray For Blood" may very well be the catchiest song on the entire album, thanks to Shawn's drumming, with more awesome soloing towards the end. The title track is similar to "Foreclosure of a Dream" from Countdown to Extinction, except a bit heavier, while "Gears of War" rides on riffs that are a bit simpler than most of the songs, showcasing a rather mainstream sound (but not in a bad way). "Amerikhastan" is the most political song on the whole album, with some more great riffs and solos that you'd expect from Megadeth, while "Blessed are the Dead" has sound similar to The System Has Failed style Megadeth, with more great leadwork. The most controversial song on the album is the remake of "A Tout Le Monde", with Lacuna Coil's Cristina Scabbia on vocals. This is definitely the weakest track on the album, and it seems a bit out of place. However, I also find it to be very underrated. It may not match the beauty of the original, but the song is still pretty cool, and doesn't deserve as much criticism as it gets. Overall, a great job for Megadeth.
Mustaine has finally found a band he can work with, and is finally making the music he wants to make. Is this a thrash metal album? Not completely, but is it a metal album? Hell yes! This is a great example of Megadeth growing and evolving their sound. Hopefully this will be a sign of even better things to come.