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Not even worth a full 13. - 12%

Empyreal, June 25th, 2014

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.