Review by Chris Pratl on August 29, 2017.
Just when I thought it was safe to effectively write off Megadeth as officially out of ideas (or at least good ideas), I am treated to this collective of powerful, thrash metal perfection called Dystopia. As a friend of mine remarked on social media, I'm not sure what fire was lit under Dave Mustaine's ass, but we like it!
What we have here is a seemingly reinvigorated quartet that just kicked off my year nicely, considering last year's musical output was, for me, lackluster for the most part. When I say this is the best Megadeth album in the last 20-years, I say that with no trepidation whatsoever (and I actually rather enjoyed a large portion of Endgame). The addition of Kiki Loureiro from Angra has proven to be one hell of an acquisition; I'm not sure if the new blood was what kicked this album into gear, but this lineup is probably the best Megadeth line-up in as many years. I'm ecstatic to see the band back to the familiar form of a hungry, heavy metal machine.
The album kicks off with "The Threat is Real", a slow build-up emerging into my ears, followed by a tremendously speedy riff galloping perfectly into my sensory chamber. Dave's vocals are a bit gruffer with age but a solid fit due in large part to his not attempting to push boundaries where none are to be pushed. What I find most engaging are the guitars - fast and furious, yet stylish with some great hooks - and I'm even more enthralled to find that this isn't a one or two-off occurence; the album is rife with such moments of musical lucidity. We seem to get a taste of every single era of Megadeth wrapped up in Dystopia, though the Youthanasia to Countdown to Extinction era is quite prevalent throughout. I feel like a 19-year old kid again that's overly excited by a Megadeth release, and there's nary a weak or contrived moment herein.
Aside from a stellar production and revitalized musicianship, the added flavor of this album is the lyrical content, where Mustaine doesn't deviate far from any suggested blueprint. Social segregation, dangerous and forbidden liaisons, a degenerative society crumbling under the weight of political correctness (without overt preaching) are all covered with a swift, yet finely-crafted energy that never falls into trite predictability. The title track is destined to become an instant Megadeth classic, while "Post America World" is a somber warning on the current state of the world and just what lies ahead. This type of cryptic musing is Dave Mustaine's strong point and always has been, and it hasn't been nearly up to snuff in recent years, starkly evident by Super Collider and its infantile musings that are almost cringe-worthy. From "The Conjuring" through "Holy Wars...the Punishment Due" up through "Lying in State" and "Bullet to the Brain", there is always a distinct shadow over Mustaine's writing that pulls no punches and awakens the stagnant mind's eye to both the hidden and plain-view horrors of modern civilization. After hearing this album for the third time I keep reminding myself that Megadeth, while largely hit-or-miss in recent years, is back with a rancorous vengeance, my friends. One word I keep seeing when Dystopia is mentioned is "rejuvenated", and it seems to be the mass consensus. It's about time!
What has happened to Megadeth over the last few albums is a familiar sandtrap that too many bands fall into where an album has anywhere from one to three charging songs that resonate (if only momentarily), then falls apart in spotted, uninspired disarray. Metallica hasn't been able to crawl out of this particular hole since 1991, and many "classic" bands are also unwitting victims to this particularly unsilent killer. I can't state any more emphatically how good this Megadeth album is from start to finish. I've seen some random comments on social media about how many people gave up on Megadeth but decided to give this current album a go-round after I praised it for being a return to form. I guess when you're known to be particularly hard to please in my middle-aged old fart state, some folks take it to heart when I actually hail something on such high. So far I've only read one unimpressed comment amid a sea of surprised and excited sentences, and that makes me feel damn good. Megadeth is a large part of my life and many people's lives, good, bad and ugly, and to see them return to a nearly-forgotten form is both illuminating and thrilling.
One of the 11 standouts on the album is the instrumental "Conquer or Die", a groovy little three-minute-plus venture that transitions from subtle acoustic harmony smack dab into a crunching scale-driven opus of sheer orgasmic polish. The Fear cover of "Foreign Policy" is brilliant, showcasing Dave Mustaine's longtime love and admiration for the punk era. There is a tight-knit uniform surrounding the Daves, Kiko ands Chris Adler from Lamb of God who is handling the drumming on the record, and I sincerely hope that the core of this line-up stays around for a while. I believe there was a Megadeth album that stated that "...the world needs a hero", and this piece is a definitive hero all over. For me, I think this album might be a top five contender at year's end, and I've a distinct feeling I won't be alone in that assertion.
Welcome back, Megadeth...we've missed you!
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
(Originally written for www.metalpsalter.com)