After the double platinum success of 1992’s Countdown to Extinction, it’s fair to say Megadeth entered into lengthy periods of creative blight during the dying years of the ‘90s and most of the decade that followed. But the release of 2009’s Endgame revealed a revitalized and focused Megadeth intent on showing the world why it was regarded as one of the four thrash metal pillars upon which the genre was built during the late ‘80s. It seemed as if Dave Mustaine had put all of the personal and professional drama behind him, and with original Megadeth bassist Dave Ellefson rejoining the band in 2010, and drummer Shawn Drover and guitarist Chris Broderick providing their expertise, Megadeth became truly relevant again. Musically, Endgame placed weight on the technicality and tenacity that made Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying and Rust in Peace thrash metal masterpieces. Working in conjunction with this came the song-writing sheen that made Countdown to Extinction, for better or worse, a massive commercial hit. It was a sigh of relief for Megadeth fans the world over who had to trudge through the five albums since 1994’s Youthanasia looking for hidden gems amongst the good, bad and mediocre.
Megadeth took its foot off the gas when it came to following up Endgame, as 2011’s Th1rt3en lacked the killer instinct and the band began reverting to bad habits. It sounded rushed, and the song-writing was limp in comparison, with some of the riffs and melodies leaning on old ideas and lacking that characteristic bite of Megadeth’s classic material. And as Mustaine has been slowly disintegrating publically through ill-measured insults and radically opinionated sound-bites in the time since its release, the future of Megadeth once again looks frail. With less than two years having passed, we now have another new Megadeth album upon us. It’s the band’s second album in a row with producer Johnny K (Machine Head, Black Tide), Super Collider. The warning signs flew red the moment a new album was announced. Surely it was too soon to have strong, new material compiled? And when the first single off Super Collider, the title track, was released, this initial concern was confounded. The title track off Super Collider is a ghastly attempt at writing an arena rock song that even Bon Jovi would have thought twice about releasing as a B-side. Mustaine’s vocals—which have always been Megadeth’s weakest link—have been pushed to the front and the technical riff wizardry has been diluted to service his vocals; it’s indicative of the band’s approach to the album as a whole. It is Countdown to Extinction taken to its most nightmarish conclusions, and when Mustaine lets out a “Huh!” half way through “Super Collider”, just before another nauseous spin through the song’s toothless chorus, you know things are not as they should be.
“Super Collider” follows the opening salvo “Kingmaker”, a song that is a false representation of what the rest of the album has in store, in that, it is actually a decent thrash metal song, even if it does unashamedly pillage Black Sabbath’s “Children of the Grave” during its verses. But from “Super Collider” to the finale of “Cold Sweat”—a Thin Lizzy cover and the only other song besides “Kingmaker” that has some balls to it (too bad those balls belong to Phil Lynott)—the majority of the other tracks veer from cringe-worthy to make-it-stop-now. “Burn!” houses so many clichéd lines within its chugging sleaze metal, with its chorus, “Burn, baby, burn ‘cause it feels so good… Burn, baby, burn like I knew it would…,” riding high beside “Forget to Remember” in the hideous stakes. “Built for War” is a pathetic attempt at groove metal, and sounds more Five Finger Death Punch than Pantera. And it’s left to the last minute of “Dance in the Rain” to give us a quick glimpse of the Megadeth we all know and love, but the rest of the song is so heavy on melodrama that it sits awkwardly. However, not as awkward as the dark Americana of “The Blackest Crow”, a banjo-led song that has no place on a Megadeth record.
Sure, the riffs of “Don’t Turn Your Back…” do have some temerity, but after the tracks that fall before it, it’s like being starved and presented with a can of spam—you are going to wolf it down. The ironic thing about it all is that this album will probably sell extremely well, as it is aimed at the Neanderthal brain of a Nickelback fan. It sounds so contrived yet at the same time hastily assembled that claims of Mustaine suffering a middle-life crisis wouldn’t be too hard to believe. Some men buy a shiny new car and a leather jacket, Mustaine has given us this abomination; a contender for the worst metal album of 2013, and worst Megadeth album of the band’s near 30-year existence. With the thrash metal’s “Big 4” in various stages of disarray, now was the time for Megadeth to stride to the front and don the crown again. Instead Mustaine sings, “Crazy, I’m going crazy. This world’s gone crazy. I’ve fallen off the edge,” during “Off the Edge”, and with this sorry excuse of an album out there for all to hear, you have to agree with him for once.