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One of the things that I’ve come to understand about my love for the musical genre of heavy metal is all the controversy surrounding it. Nowhere is this more present than in the case of MegaDeth’s latest compositional offering “United Abominations”, which is the closest thing to a return to form for Mustaine musically, although lyrically it may go down as the most misunderstood album by those who are otherwise fans of MegaDeth’s heavily present political ideology.
Musically this is the greatest thing I’ve heard out of the band since “Youthanasia”, and in certain areas surpasses both that release and its predecessor “Countdown to Extinction” in terms of sheer energy. The lead work put forth by Mustaine and Glenn Drover alone blows most of their 90s material clear out of the water, blending memorable melodic ideas with plenty of shred passages, and resurrecting the once thought dead dueling guitar dialogues that this band used to pump out with intrigue. There are also some signature riffs put forth on the first single “Gears of War” and “Never Walk Alone” that challenge some of the 80s material, to speak nothing for the sub-par work afterwards.
The pacing of the entire opus listens like a classic thrash album with a sizable slow spot in the middle, probably the only real flaw aside from a somewhat botched attempt at a remake in “A Toute Le Monde”. We start off with “Sleepwalker”, which sounds like “Blackmail the Universe” minus the repetitiveness and the spoken parts, definitely a keeper. “Washington is Next” ratchets up the tempo even more with a crushing galloping riff with a beat to match; some peg one of the guitar parts as a Maiden rip-off, but I don’t hear it anywhere. After “Never Walk Alone”, a song that reminds me somewhat of “Island of Tornados”, the tempo drops significantly and you’re left wondering where all the thrash went.
“Gears of War” the title track and “Play for Blood” are solid slower tracks that listen like something off of “Youthanasia”, and do occasionally pick up a bit after a while. The other 2 songs stuck in the middle of what would otherwise be a strict thrash album, however, don’t quite measure up. “A Tout Le Monde” puts together two elements that I would otherwise approve of, but fails to recapture the spirit of the original in any way, shape, or form. I can picture Cristina Scabbia’s eyes full of stars at the thought of doing a duet with Mustaine, since it’s more than likely that he was one of the ones that inspired her to join a metal band. Unfortunately the song is just too fast to fit the subject matter, and the ending lead section that gave me goose bumps in the original version has been drastically diminished.
The closing 3 songs on here take the album back to where it should be, speeding down the highway with the high beams blaring. “You’re Dead” easily beats the other two, combining together some heavy as hell grooves during the early sections with a blazing solo section that takes you back to the glory days of “So Far, So Good, So What?”. The other 2 songs that round out the mix are also solid thrashers employing plenty of masterful guitar ideas with Dave’s angry, singing through his teeth sounding voice. If these don’t make you shout out that MegaDeth is back, nothing will.
Many have noted the controversial political rhetoric found on some of the songs on here, particularly those containing spoken sections. Although to many the thought of attacking the UN seems a Neo-Con method of propagandizing the metal masses into the blind patriotism that the current American government seeks from its citizens, this conclusion fails to appreciate the complexity of America’s body politic and that of this entire album. It is somewhat odd that someone would glorify the foreign policy of George W. Bush in the title song and then criticize the proliferation of weapons technology in “Gears of War”. In fact, it seems more likely that Mustaine is attacking the UN because it has shared complicity in most of the atrocities visited upon Iraq and several other poorer nations.
The political message on here seems less in line with the Neo-Cons, who are mostly pro-UN, and more in line with Libertarian hardliners like Alex Jones who regularly tear apart the likes of former Presidents FDR and Harry Truman. The first spoken passage of the song “Amerikastan” sounds more like a warning to the American people about the potential for what the CIA refers to as “Blowback”, while the second suggests that America’s foreign policy has been hijacked by Halliburton. This is not the kind of viewpoint that I would associate with the Corporatist ideology of the Neo-Cons, but if not taken as a whole it is understandable that one would think this album is praising America’s disastrous foreign policy.
If you liked MegaDeth before the incident that is otherwise known as “Risk”, you will be greatly pleased with what has been recorded for your listening pleasure. Although not a full return to the glory days of “Rust in Peace” and “Peace Sells, But who’s buying”, there is far more good to be heard on here than bad. If you don’t like thrash metal for the politics, it’ll be a bit tough to tune out the narrations found on a couple of the songs. If you do follow the politics of the music you buy, try to take this album as a whole before jumping to conclusions about what it is saying. I for one have been waiting 13 years for an album that sounds like this from Mustaine, and I plan to give it plenty more attention before shelving it to devote time to newer purchases.