Written by Alex Stojanovic
The Sick, The Dying...& The Dead
Life In Hell
Night Stalkers (feat. Ice-T)
Dogs Of Chernobyl
Mission To Mars
We'll Be Back
Release Date: September 2, 2022
Label: Tradecraft Records/Universal Music
Dave Mustaine - Vocals & guitars / Kiko Loureiro - Lead guitars / James Lomenzo - Bass / Dirk Verbeuren - Drums
After all of the good, the bad and the ugly, Megadeth are finally ready to unleash their long-awaited sixteenth album The Sick, The Dying...& The Dead. I think it's worth noting that this is the first album since So Far, So Good...So What? that uses the "dot-dot-dot" element in the title. With everything that happened in the last 6 years within the camp, I would say we can refer to the new album as a comeback album to some degree, even though the band never officially went away. Regardless of however you want to look at the album, the point is that after waiting for what felt like an eternity, new Megadeth music is finally here. All I can say is that after listening to the album, it's safe to say that the last six years have breathed new life into Megadeth and there's still seems to be plenty of fuel in the tank. Obviously certain songs are better than others, so let's dive right in.
First off, the title track opens the record, but it certainly seems like an odd choice for an opening track. It feels more laid back than tracks like "The Threat Is Real", "Holy Wars" and even the one-two punch of "Dialectic Chaos/This Day We Fight". The track opens with the sound of a bell tolling in accompaniment with the iconic Monty Python line "Bring out your dead", giving the track a bit of quirkiness before slightly distorted clean guitar notes come creeping in, and then heading into an upbeat and melodic verse. That being said, this track feels like it belongs somewhere in the middle of the record. However, it's in the next track "Life In Hell" where things start to get aggressive. Lightning fast riffs come charging out of the gate, smacking you upside the head with Megadeth's classic thrash sound within seconds. The song may slow down in the middle with the heavy breakdown, but this is still one of the heaviest songs on the record. Make no mistake. Dirk seems to be channeling his inner Gar Samuelson on this one. This song feels like it should've opened the record instead of the title track.
With his impeccable guitar skills, it's no surprise as to why Mustaine keeps hyping up Kiko Loureiro as the best lead guitarist he has ever played with since Marty Friedman. Kiko has songwriting credits for two thirds of the record. Despite songs like "Night Stalkers" (which also features a guest appearance by Ice-T) and "Dogs Of Chernobyl", being two of the album's heaviest cuts, his acoustic passages on these tracks in particular give them a different flavour and dynamic. It's also no secret that Mustaine loves to tip his hat off to the past, sometimes very subtly, other times a bit too obviously, whether it's through riffs, song structures or even lyrical references. Case in point, "Junkie" contains quite a few riff nods to "Holy Wars", all while joining the club dedicated to the Megadeth songs about drugs with "Poison Was The Cure" and "Use The Man".
When I was listening to the album the first time around, almost two thirds of the album felt more laid back and not as intense as the band had claimed it would be. Maybe it was the headspace I was in at the time. However, after a few more listens, I started picking up on the intensity that my brain missed the first time around. There are however a few tracks that are more laid back and focus more on groove and feel like they would've been right at home on TH1RT3EN, like "Sacrifice", "Killing Time" and "Mission To Mars" (although this song gets rather heavy towards the end with a lot of machine-gun double-bass). "We'll Be Back" is aptly placed at the end of the record because after quite a few groove-laden tracks, the record closes with one final round of classic Megadeth thrash brutality. The title also seems to subliminally send the message that there's more records to come after this.
Now Megadeth always seemed to be at their fiercest when Mustaine had something to prove. His vow to out-muscle the rest of the Big Four, particularly Metallica, led to the classics we all love like Killing Is My Business, Peace Sells and Rust In Peace. Even with the change in direction on Countdown To Extinction, Youthanasia and even Cryptic Writings, they proved to be just as much of a force to be reckoned with. When cancer made its presence known inside Mustaine in 2019, it must've been oblivious to the fact that if he had conquered alcoholism and managed to come back to life after a drug overdose in the 90s, it stood no fucking chance. Cancer got its ass handed to it, and Mustaine is looking, playing and sounding like nothing had even happened to him. Simply put, The Sick, The Dying...& The Dead is a superb slab of metal from one of the bands that pioneered thrash metal, and one that along with Dystopia, continues Megadeth's furious return to form, and celebrates their victory after a tumultuous half-decade.
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