MEGADETH — Countdown to Extinction (review)

MEGADETH — Countdown to Extinction album cover Album · 1992 · Thrash Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
"Countdown to Extinction" is the 5th full-length studio album by US thrash/heavy metal act Megadeth. The album was released through Capitol Records in July 1992. It´s the successor to "Rust in Peace" from 1990, which was an album, which received a lot of critical acclaim. While the material on "Rust in Peace (1990)" were primarily written by lead vocalist/guitarist Dave Mustaine, "Countdown to Extinction" features more contributions from the rest of the band and it´s obvious the lineup of Dave Mustaine (vocals, guitars), Dave Ellefson (bass), Nick Menza (drums), and Marty Friedman (guitars) had now settled a bit more into the role of a permanent band. "Countdown to Extinction" went on to become Megadeth´s most commercially successful album, selling more than 2 million copies (US double platinum status).

Stylistically the material on the 11 track, 47:31 minutes long album is generally less thrash metal oriented and not as fast-paced as the material on its predecessor. There are quite a few more traditional heavy metal elements and more focus on melody on "Countdown to Extinction" than the case was on "Rust in Peace (1990)". When that is said Megadeth were never the most savage thrash metal act on the scene, and all preceding releases also feature a healthy dose of tradtional heavy metal elements and focus on melody. This time around it all just sounds a bit more planned and structured, which means the tracks are generally instantly accessible and catchy. That doesn´t mean this is simple music by any means. The songwriting is very sophisticated, and there are many intriguing compositional details featured throughout the album. The lyrics are also quite interesting, dealing with topics like politics, environmental/social issues, and consequences of crime/punishment.

The musicianship are on a high level on all posts. Mustaine´s voice and singing style will always be an aquired taste, but he arguably provides the band´s music with something unique. He has audibly honed his skills on this release, and he now "sings" more than ever. The rhythm section play organic and sharp, the riffs are powerful and delivered with skill and precision, and the lead guitar work is stunning.

One of the greatest assets of "Countdown to Extinction" is that each and every track featured on the album stand out, and while tracks like "Skin o' My Teeth", "High Speed Dirt", and especially the iconic "Symphony of Destruction" are probably some of the most known tracks off the album, all tracks are highlights worth a mention. You honestly can´t say that about that many album releases. While every track is unmistakably the sound of Megadeth, there is also great stylistic diversity between the tracks. Some are relatively fast-paced and energetic like "Skin o' My Teeth", "High Speed Dirt", and "Ashes in Your Mouth", some are mid-paced and heavy like "Symphony of Destruction" and "Architecture of Aggression", some feature great focus on melody like "Foreclosure of a Dream", "This Was My Life" and the title track, and some feature twisted humour and a different take on thrash/heavy metal like "Sweating Bullets" and "Psychotron".

"Countdown to Extinction" is produced by Dave Mustaine and Max Norman and the album features a clear, detailed, and powerful sound, which suits the material perfectly. So upon conclusion "Countdown to Extinction" is another high quality release by Megadeth. They already left a bit of their frenetic fast-paced thrash metal sound behind on "Rust in Peace (1990)", but "Countdown to Extinction" is an even less thrash metal oriented release. At least in the respect that it´s a much heavier and only occasionally fast-paced album. Megadeth haven´t however lost any of their appeal here, and although "Countdown to Extinction" overall was the most mature and sophisticated release by the band up until then, there is still plenty of aggression and heavy riffs featured on the album to satisfy most thrash metal fans. A 5 star (100%) rating is deserved.
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