The Angry Scotsman
A standard album for Megadeth over the previous decade: Dave Mustaine has surrounded himself with very good talent, and managed to melt it all into a pot of mediocrity.
While Megadeth's last two albums were increasingly depressing efforts, I couldn't help but find myself intrigued by Dystopia because it's Megadeth...and I was impressed with the additions of Kiko Loureiro of Angra and Chris Adler of Lamb of God. I have long been a fan of Adler's drumming, and after exploring Angra it's no doubt Loureiro is a very talented musician.
Loureiro does lay down some nasty solos, (and damn impressive acoustic work), and Adler's drumming is solid, but his unique style has been shoved into the Megadeth formula...and that's really the way I'd describe "Dystopia". Formulaic.
The album isn't bad, though it isn't anything special, there are some great riffs, melodies, solos and moments sprinkled throughout, while the rest is filled with uninspired, generic music. It's modern Megadeth by the numbers: lots of mid temp chugging, mix in speed metal riffs and double bass chain drumming, some unique moments, shred solos and very rare thrashing. There's really just not much about this album that stands out either way.
Mustaine's vocals continue to show signs of age, but aren't too bad honestly. Recent attempts at singing have been abandoned for his trademark gruff, talk-singing style that does remind me of his classic days, though no doubt it lacks its past ferociousness and sarcastic bite.
"Dystopia" starts on a high note with "The Threat is Real" a very solid song, then "Dystopia" which may be the best on the album with its awesome riffs, melodies, solos and song structure...it really moves, never lingers too long or grows boring. "Fatal Illusion" is another good song that reminds me of classic Megadeth: dueling guitars, harmonized melodies, explosive solos and anarchic structure. After this 3 song burst the album goes bland, exception being the instrumental "Conquer or Die". This song competes for best on the album, opening with an awesome acoustic lick before launching into some wonderful dual guitar work. Spidery riffs, blazing yet varied solos all within a slowly building framework. Right out of the classic Megadeth playbook.
So what to make of Dystopia? There are some good songs, but nothing spectacular, which stand out in an album of generic, frankly uninspired feeling, music. Those who worship at the church of thrash shouldn't bother with this, those that enjoy the newer, modern metal style Megadeth, will probably like it. I don't feel it's thrash or nothing myself, I just believe Mustaine is not good at writing non thrash music, which "Dystopia" continues to prove correct. The two best songs sound like good ol fashion 80's Megadeth, while the rest spins its wheels in the mud that has been the band's 4 of their last 5 albums.
Overall, an OK album that won't blow anyone's mind. Fans of newer Megadeth will find it acceptable, and it's certainly better than the disaster that was "Super Collider". You won't find anything new, but nothing really bad. Fans of pre mid 90s Megadeth will find little to enjoy here.
TWO AND A HALF STARS