Megadeth – Th1rt3en

Megadeth

Th1rt3en

01. Sudden Death
02. Public Enemy No. 1
03. Whose Life (Is It Anyways?)
04. We The People
05. Guns, Drugs & Money
06. Never Dead
07. New World Order
08. Fast Lane
09. Black Swan
10. Wrecker
11. Millennium Of The Blind
12. Deadly Nightshade
13. 13

[11/01/11]
[Roadrunner]

Megadeth are arguably the most consistent band in the ‘Big Four’ of thrash metal. While always falling short in terms of recognition and record sales of their mega competitors and career long rivals Metallica, Megadeth have always trumped the aforementioned trainwreck in terms of sheer skill and unwavering faith to their fans and their genre. With really only one blip on their radar to cast a doubtful eye at — the pop ‘sensation’ Risk — Megadeth have crafted a solid lineage for themselves in the metalverse, and since their revival in the early 2000’s have consistently improved and honed their sound and maintained a unique style and presence that outshines all of their Big Four contemporaries.

While I am the resident Droogie (the technical term for a fan of Megadeth) I’ve learned from the past that when a musician describes their music as “unlike anything we’ve ever done before”, that nine times out of ten they’re lying – and that’s kind of the case with Th1rt3en. Sure they’ve never had an entire album that sounds like this before, but most of it is just different pieces from other albums thrown together to make something new. You got pieces of Rust in Peace, Countdown to Extinction, Endgame, and Risk all amalgamated to forge this record. I really do like this album, but claiming that it’s something fresh or new is a bit outrageous – I’d say the only thing truly new or inspiring is the fact that you can actually hear the bass on this release; something you couldn’t really do on the past few efforts. In fact the basslines are one of my favorite aspects of this record; they’re heavy and really reminescent of Countdown era Megadeth, something that Dave Ellefson promised the fans a few months back. This may not be the most original idea, and many people will fault them for it, but I’m glad that Mustaine and Ellefson were able to get together and agree on what’s best for the band.

This may not be that much of a surprise to most of you, but with Th1rt3en Megadeth have opted for a much more commercial sound to their music. Dare I say that it actually sounds poppy? While Endgame featured crazy fits of shreddage on every track and in many cases eschewed typical song structures to highlight the intense guitar passages of Chris Broderick and Dave Mustaine, Th1rt3en doesn’t really do that. Sure there are really tasteful and energetic solos on every track, but the main focus is on catchy guitar melodies with plenty of groove. It’s accessible, catchy, and the groovy choruses  beg to be sung along to, even if they’re a bit silly at times. You know what? As a whole, silly is a really great way to describe Th1rt3en. It does have the usual Mustaine overtones of paranoia, mistrust, and down right hatred towards the government and society, but  it’s presented in such a fun package that it’s hard to see it as something serious. To be honest, the issues and positions taken on this disc usually sound satirical. I know that’s probably not the case, but after several listens satirical is the way my brain has unanimously interpreted it. If I had to make a comparison, I would say that the way the album is presented and executed kind of makes it feel like a heavier Alice Cooper record.  Didn’t think I would ever say that. Huh.

Like I said above, the songs on Th1rt3en aren’t as intense or gritty as the ones featured on Endgame, but they’re not bad. There are plenty of great riffs and ideas flying through this record, and you’ll be hard pressed not to find a song that you instantly love. For me that was “Deadly Nightshade“. It’s odd, quirky, the lyrics are simple – somehow escaping the usual cringe inducing side effects of Mustaine’s writing – and the layered vocals are really quite nice. To top it all off the subject matter fits the coming Halloween season perfectly. Also, let me say that I find the whole “13 everywhere” thing a little cheesy, and kind of annoying, but despite all that the title track is really great. It’s simple, somber, and it creates a really eerie tone for the end of the album. It’s a great closer for sure.

Something that really surprised me was the fact that for the first time (at least to my knowledge) Mustaine touched on his personal beliefs in the song “Millennium of the Blind”. The song itself isn’t anything new for Mustaine in terms of content — corrupt leaders and ‘the blind leading the blind’ — but towards the end he intertwines his views about Christ and the Anti-Christ into the lyrics. It’s only for a second, but it’s there. I may not be a Christian, or religious in any way, but I really do love it when a musician incorporates more personal aspects into their music, it makes the whole thing feel more alive, even if I don’t necessarily agree with the position taken.

While I really dig this album, there are a few things that bug me. First of all, I’m not all that happy that almost a quarter of the album is just previously released songs that have been re-worked to fit in the context of the record: “Sudden Death”, “Never Dead”, “New World Order” and “Black Swan”. I understand that Mustaine and crew were going for the whole ’13 everywhere’ thing, but the fact that they spent time reworking these songs means there was less time for each of the other songs, detracting from the final product as a whole. I would have been perfectly fine with having 10 really great songs instead of 13 okay songs. I know that reworking of these songs wouldn’t have changed some of the bad writing in the other tracks, but like I said the more time spent reworking those songs means that there was less time to perfect the newer material – although I did prefer the new version of “Black Swan” to that of the United Abominations version.

Another really annoying aspect of this album is the god awful lyrics. I know Dave has always had a campy sort of style, but on several of the songs he just sounds like he wasn’t even trying. Songs like “Public Enemy No. 1”  and “Wrecker” are just terribly written, and while Mustaine has made up for that in the past with some cool vocal execution or inflection, he just falls a little flat here. It’s a sad realization, but it’s clear that old age is catching up with the man.

I’ll be honest, Th1rt3en is a difficult album to peg, as I think all of Megadeth’s albums are to an extent. While the band have some really stellar and out standing pieces of music– Th1rt3en being no exception – I feel like they’re a very formulaic band. With consistently great albums, Megadeth are definitely one of my favorite metal bands – possibly one of my most important – but they know what they’ve done in the past and they know not to stray too far from that recipe of success. I absolutely love Th1rt3en, but I’m not amazed by it. It’s fun, heavy, and easy to listen to with some really stand out songs that would be welcome on any playlist or road trip, but it doesn’t feature anything that will be considered a classic. In fact, despite the fact that this record is good I have a feeling that in the years to come it will always be over shadowed by it’s progenitor; Endgame.

Megadeth – Th1rt3en gets…

3.5/5

– EC

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