Contact CU Independent Entertainment Writer Thomas Roller at email@example.com.
God, I wish this album sucked.
It would make this whole ordeal so much simpler. I could tell you that Dystopia is a sad joke and a sign that one of the most venerated acts in heavy metal is finally past its prime, and we could forget about this whole mess.
But it’s not that simple.
Remember old Megadeth? Remember Rust in Peace, and how it was a masterful treatise against warmongering politics and religious intolerance? Remember how vocalist-guitarist Dave Mustaine once sang, in a brazen act of rebellion against the man, “What do you mean I don’t pay my bills? Why do you think I’m broke?”
Yeah. Those were good times.
Dystopia is Megadeth’s fifteenth studio release. It’s a follow-up to 2013’s Super Collider — or as most fans call it, the worst Megadeth record ever. Now, when a band releases an awful album, the album after that is an important moment. It’s a chance to save the band’s reputation. It represents, depending on the quality of the album, a triumphant comeback or the start of a slow, painful slide into failure and obscurity.
Megadeth has hit this point a few times in their career (ask a Megadeth fan about Cryptic Writings. They might flinch a little bit at the name). Gee, Thomas, you sure are dancing around the actual reviewing part of this review. Well, hypothetical reader, that’s because Megadeth is one of my favorite bands, and it’s hard to talk about this because some of the lyrical content is… uh… xenophobic.
Before I get an inbox flooded with hate mail, let me say that yes, I realize that no explicit references are made in this album to any specific minority groups at any point. That being said, this album’s first song is called “The Threat is Real” and it starts with an intro featuring Middle-Eastern style stringed instruments. To what else could Mustaine possibly be referring? Combine this with some eyebrow-raising lyrics, such as on “Post American World,” where Mustaine says: “Why cower to all those who oppose the American world?”
Or on “Lying in State” where Mustaine makes a not-too-subtle reference to Barack Obama: “It’s opiates for the masses under cloak as hope and change/The ‘new normal’ or just more of the same?” This album’s title starts to take on a much more worrying connotation.
Megadeth has always been about anger, to be fair. Albums like Peace Sells… but who’s Buying? and the aforementioned Rust in Peace were driven by a youthful raging against the establishment, and even the band itself was created out of Mustaine’s anger for being fired from Metallica all those years ago. The difference between those albums and this one, though, is that there the anger was less specific, and you really got the sense that Mustaine was a talented underdog. The anger in Dystopia is directed towards a very specific group of people, and Mustaine comes off more like an antiquated bully.
With those kinds of damning cards on the table, you’d probably think I’m about to put on a pair of soccer cleats and stamp all over this album’s face. That’s where it gets complicated. Once you get past Mustaine’s “inhalant-addicted paranoid doomsday prepper” persona, the rest of the album is pretty solid. I love everything about “Fatal Illusion,” from the slow intro to the noodly bass solo to the fact that the last verse is punctuated between lines with these little ripping mini-solos. If not for the lyrics, this album could absolutely keep Megadeth in the status of a respected legacy act. Is it as good as their 1990s releases? Of course not. But it is pretty good.
I haven’t really made a decision on whether you should listen to this album or not. What I will say is that, if you can ignore the intolerant and paranoid undertones of the lyrics, and convince yourself that Mustaine is talking about an entirely hypothetical dystopian future, then yeah, give it a listen.
But this isn’t a new attitude for Mustaine, and up until now, he’s at least kept his personal views away from Megadeth. But now he’s not separating himself from the art anymore, and I think that has the potential to harm this veteran band’s reputation amongst the community that was responsible for elevating them to the status they currently enjoy.