Yesterday Megadeth released the title track and single number three from their upcoming fifteenth (!) studio album Dystopia, due out January 22nd.
Interestingly enough, after the near-universal panning that 2013’s Supercollider received from fans and critics alike, Megadeth have once again found themselves in the underdog position with album number fifteen, one in which they have tended to thrive throughout their career. And with the three singles unveiled thus far, the band is certainly showing a lot of promise. First the thrashy “Fatal Illusion” (which I wrote about here) and “The Threat is Real”, and now “Dystopia”.
To my ears, “Dystopia” is the strongest of all three, but perhaps most notably, it’s the most tuneful. See there’s a period in Megadeth’s career – the one metalheads tirelessly and (mostly unjustly) rail against – in which their brand of metal became more song-centric. It began with Countdown to Extinction and progressed through Youthanasia and Cryptic Writings (both of which I earn minority status by holding in high esteem), before crashing and burning with Risk. But here’s the catch: despite much of the Thrash being absent in Megadeth’s mid-90s output, Mustaine’s songwriting was exceptional. The well-crafted hooks – whether on vocals or guitar, mind you – are light years beyond the capacities of most bands of the Thrash persuasion. But with the breakneck pace and sneering confrontation of Megadeth’s early years missing, it’s understandable why these albums didn’t fare too well. In reality, what truly needs to happen for a stellar Megadeth release is a fusion of the aforementioned song construction with balls-to-the-wall, guitar-driven speed metal. And “Dystopia” might be the closest we’ve gotten to a sonic manifestation of this dream in quite some time.
The track opens with a mid-tempo groove and a simplistic, ear candy guitar melody a la Youthanasia. From there, hasty yet modestly concise verses allow the guitars to take center stage, the long solo section after the second chorus being Exhibit A. In general, “Dystopia” is peppered with the most exciting guitar solos that have been on a Megadeth track in God knows how long. Let’s be honest, Kiko Loureiro SMOKES every Megadeth guitarist since Marty Friedman. I don’t care what you think. Like what the actual fuck is he doing with those octaves at 1:43??? I really hope an official songbook comes out for Dystopia so I can give some of these mind-blowing licks a spin.
But “Hangar 18”-style extended leads aside, Mustaine and Co. still bring the riffs. The winding groove after the solo section is classic Megadeth before the song is given a dramatic send off with an dopamine-pumping dual guitar harmony that crescendos beautifully to wrap everything up.
A Megadeth diehard, I’ve been in a state of “eager anticipation” since the announcement of Dystopia back in October. But the title track, which balances out the energy of “Fatal Illusion” and “The Threat Is Real” perfectly – clueing us in to what has the potential to be an excellent, well-rounded release – has allowed me to say I’m “excited” now for reasons other than just being a fucking stan. January 22nd, I’m ready for you!
UPDATE: Full Dystopia review here