[2 November 2011]
Amidst the resurgences of Metallica and Anthrax and the genesis of an entire new wave of thrash metal around the world, Megadeth has been consistently and quietly releasing solid albums for the past ten years. The problem has been that the group’s new albums end up being outshined by other new albums, from either their peers (in the case of 2009’s Endgame, it was passed over by critics in favor of Slayer’s World Painted Blood) or newer, more vibrant metal bands with large followings (such as 2004’s The System Has Failed being outclassed by Mastodon’s Leviathan). It’s likely not what Dave Mustaine envisioned for the band’s return from hiatus in 2004 and subsequent signing with Roadrunner Records in 2006. Nonetheless, Mustaine and his cohorts are still making great music and keeping classic thrash relevant in the metal community. They’ve certainly accomplished that on their thirteenth studio album, appropriately titled Th1rt3en. But there is also plenty about the album that makes it different from its predecessors.
Over the course of their 28-year career, Megadeth has experienced a number of style changes, so hearing new things from the band is nothing new. That said, Th1rt3en is a very strong album with the same thrash style as the seminal albums Rust in Peace and Countdown to Extinction. Mustaine’s solos are very diverse, some going for all-out speed and shred, with others focused on technicality and precision. The balance among the solos is one of the album’s greatest assets, as it is also an indicator of how diverse the compositions are. The pure thrash songs on Th1rt3en are among the best that the band has written in years. “Never Dead”, “Sudden Death”, and “Wrecker” are all excellent examples of how thrash ought to sound and what the genre is capable of creating.
The rest of the album is mostly good, but there are some songs where the genres choices are a bit head-scratching. Some choices show that Mustaine is enjoying a rare opportunity to show how skilled he is at different genres. With songs like “We the People”, “Guns Drugs & Money”, and “Deadly Nightshade” showing a strong groove metal influence, it seems clear that Mustaine is channeling a love of Pantera and the guitar styles of Dimebag Darrell. These tracks and the inspiration that spawned them are great, and they help to offset the mediocrity of the tracks that have a clear hard rock or mainstream rock tone. Sure, Megadeth has created and performed songs worse than “Public Enemy No. 1” or “Fast Lane”, but next to the high quality of the rest of the album, these songs just seem lackluster.
Overall, though, Th1rt3en is the latest in a series of well-composed and well-executed albums for Megadeth. Unfortunately, it seems likely that the group will be overshadowed once again, this time by their Big 4 comrades Anthrax and their new album Worship Music. In spite of that, though, Megadeth is still very relevant, setting the standard of consistency among thrash bands the world over. Within the Big 4, no one has had the output or the quality of Megadeth since 2001, and outside of the Big 4, Megadeth is still a name that is synonymous with excellence in thrash.