November 7, 2011 by Dan Swinhoe
Following the Big Four performances in the last couple of years, speculation was rife on how it would affect the bands’ next releases. Anthrax finally released ‘Worship Music’ after nearly a decade, and on the same day Metallica and Megadeth release albums that couldn’t be more different.
Why there is such focus on the 13 theme (13th album with 13 songs and the number 13 worked clumsily into the title) when Mustaine refuses to play songs like ‘Black Friday’ and ‘The Conjuring’ because of the devilish themes seems a bit odd, and all in all it’s a bit trite in 2011. That being said the artwork, Vic Rattlehead with his back turned, is simple but effective and easily the most inviting covers for a while.
For the last ten years Megadeth have released a series of strong albums, starting with ‘The World Needs A Hero’ through to ’13’. There’s little to pick between them (For me it’s ‘…Hero’) and it’s more down to which one you bought first. But it’s an approach that has paid off, Megadeth’s fanbase has steadily grown and are bothering the charts in the same way they were back in the early nineties.
As expected, the guitar work is top-notch. Mixing catchy, easy to listen riffs with laser precise solos have been Mustaine’s speciality throughout his career and the reason, even during Megadeth’s low years, he has been heralded as a virtuoso and one of the most respected six-stringers around. Megadeth have been almost as consistent as Slayer over the years, but have always tried to move on musically, trying to go forward while keeping the core elements of what made them so good.
’13’ does it’s best to encompass all the sides to Megadeth. There’s a few fast and heavy songs, ‘Sudden Death’ and ‘Never Dead’ especially hit the spot, there’s plenty of mid paced songs of varying quality of which ‘Black Swan’ and first single ‘Public Enemy No.1’ are the best. Overall the album is reminiscent of early to mid-nineties, when the high-speed technical thrash were making way for mid-pace mainstream acceptance. Some of the songs have roots from that era, ‘New World Order’ has been on a few albums over the years as a bonus, but is saved from any sort of ‘A Tout Le Monde’-esque Christina Scabbia collaboration.
What comes as a nice surprise (and usually a Mustaine tradition) is the burst at the end. Far from fading away, the triple punch of ‘Millennium For The Blind’, ‘Deadly Nightshade’ and the title track are the best on show. Showing some real rage, both politically and personally, highlights the lack of teeth that much of the album threatened with it’s bark. All three tracks move from slow and mid-pace, and remind of ‘1000 Times Goodbye’ or maybe ‘Skin Of My Teeth’. Sometimes you’ve got to wonder, now Mustaine has found god, is there that much he can get angry about these days?
In the history of Megadeth, ’13’ is in the upper half. Musically and quality wise it slips in between ‘Countdown To Extinction’ and ‘Youthansia’ pretty well. It’s not perfect, there’s a few filler songs and ‘Fast Lane’ is a lyrical let down, though there probably is a market for songs about cars and racing somewhere. Dropping Uber-producer Andy Sneap (Machine Head, Trivium) for Johhny K (Disturbed, SOiL) seemingly hasn’t rocked the boat at all.
It’s a sad but true fact that the glory days of the big four, creatively speaking, are over. And it’s about time people accepted this. Expecting middle-aged guys, whatever their former glories, to recreate or match music they made over twenty years ago is unreasonable. Instead we should be thankful that between them they are all still a genuine force playing live, and that they are ticking over with decent albums.
So while Mustaine and Metallica have battened down the hatches on old feuds and are old pals again, you can’t help but notice the two bands released albums on the same day. And if anyone out there has compared the two, you can’t help but think somewhere Mustaine is grinning to himself.