Album Review: Megadeth – Th1rt3en

Entering their twenty-eighth year of hard graft, Dave Mustaine leads his Megadeth charges once more unto the breach to cry God for all thrash metal with Thirteen. Bassist David Ellefson is back amongst the cavalry after a decade-long absence for their ‘imaginatively’-titled thirteenth full-length release, and the result is one of the most impressive Megadeth records since Cryptic Writings.

Despite having built a career on fostering an ‘us against the world’ mentality, right from the circumstances surrounding the band’s formation, Megadeth have rarely gone against the grain in the last ten years. Instead, Mustaine has focused on refining his songwriting and technique after being stung first by the negative reaction to Risk, and then by a career-threatening arm injury at the turn of the millennium. With Slayer floundering in mediocrity, Metallica taking an age to release records that are panned for their production standards or written off altogether, and Anthrax an unfortunate mix of both, Megadeth have entered an Indian summer by releasing consistently high-quality records with little fuss or controversy.

Thirteen is Megadeth’s third release with Roadrunner, and if the rumours are true, it will likely be their last. The hour-long spin is made up equally of re-released or unrecorded material and several songs written since the release of United Abominations. Following a drawn-out introduction, ‘Sudden Death’ explodes as a Megadeth classic that will already be familiar to many fans from the Guitar Hero video game series, with ‘Public Enemy No. 1’ and ‘We the People’ continuing this superb fettle. In the tradition of ‘Sweating Bullets’ and ‘Victory’, this record contains the standard ration of poorly-written lyrics: ‘Whose Life (is it Anyways?)’ and ‘Guns, Drugs and Money’ are embarrassing and juvenile at best, while ‘Wrecker’, an otherwise fantastic song, contains lyrics that are sub-standard to the degree that they were likely completed in the time it took for the shreds of the band’s Roadrunner contract to float on to the carpet.

The last half of the album sees the introduction of much of the aforementioned re-recorded material, with both ‘Millennium of the Blind and ‘New World Order’ written during the Youthanasia era, and ‘Black Swan’ released as a bonus track on some editions of United Abominations in 2007. Nevertheless, this is not a record that feels like a compilation, and tracks that were written up to two decades apart work remarkably well off of each other, particularly the frenzied ‘Never Dead’ and the high-octane ‘Fast Lane’, which resembles Countdown to Extinction’s ‘High Speed Dirt’ both lyrically and musically.

It is disappointing that more new material was not included, as it is clear that Mustaine has not lost an ounce of talent; that he can include bonus tracks and polished demos on a record and still manage to upstage recent efforts by Metallica and Slayer is a massive statement in itself. There’s a relative absence of the astonishing technicality of Peace Sells… or Rust in Peace, and little of the engrossing atmosphere that cloaked Cryptic Writings, but the sound remains unmistakably Megadeth. It is likely that, with a new record deal due, Megadeth’s next release will surpass this one, but Thirteen is a fearsome full stop on their Roadrunner years, and extends their formidable legacy close to a fourth decade.


About Stuart

I have been writing for about seven years, my only writing qualification is a poorly-deserved grade C in GCSE English Language. I write mainly on music and literature, but have also written about the politics of sport, for some reason. I generally listen to horrible music, so my reviews will invariably be of black metal, grindcore or noise bands. Interests include attempting to play ice hockey, relieving Oxfam charity shops of every last book that they receive, and becoming TOP DOG in the world of Polish football spread-betting.

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