MEGADETH – “The Sick, The Dying…And The Dead”
By Colonel Angus
MEGADETH are back with another studio release and after six years, the question on everybody’s mind is “was it worth the wait?” Covid, cancer, and a line-up change made the writing and recording difficult but in the end, I think Dave Mustaine can be proud of this effort. Is it my favorite MEGADETH record? No and to be fair, it probably was never going to be no matter the end results. I’m at a different place in my life so unfortunately that changes my perception of music.
All that being said, I have to say that I enjoy “The Sick, The Dying…And The Dead” more than I thought I would. I like this just as much as “Dystopia” and compared to “Super Collider”, this is A great improvement. I’m not going to compare it something like “Peace Sells... but Who's Buying?” or “Rust In Peace” because, quite frankly, that was a different time and a different band. I feel that since “The System Has Failed”, Mustaine has taken full control making him and MEGADETH one and the same.
This disk has a lot to offer both old and new fans alike. The album starts off with the title track and while it starts off a little slow with a cool build-up, it does jump into something similar to the “Countdown To Extinction/ Youthanasia” era. Right off the bat, you are hit with precision production making every instrument coming through clearly. If you want speed riffing and frantic drumming, then the next two tracks fit the bill perfectly. “Life In Hell” and “Night Stalkers” show that MEGADETH can still thrash with the best of ‘em. Even though these tracks are fast, they incorporate sections with some great riffing that make them stand out from your standard thrash fare. My only quibble on the latter track would be the inclusion of ICE-T in the middle section. It certainly didn’t ruin the track but his additional “vocals” were unnecessary.
"Dogs of Chernobyl" is a brooding metal track that is one of the stand-outs on this release. One of the things that I like about MEGADETH is that they have the ability to write straight up thrash tunes but they always make them interesting by putting different tempos and sections that take the listener for a ride. I hope this track makes it into their live set for years to come. Following on the heels of that monster track, “Sacrifice” harkens back to that “Countdown To Extinction/ Youthanasia” sound. Again, there is some great riffing that elevates this tune and Dirk Verbeuren adds some great drumming (as he does on the whole disk). I don’t know if “Junkie” is autobiographical but Mustaine spits out the lyrics with such conviction that he could be giving us a glimpse into what junkie life is all about. "Psychopathy" starts off with some tribal drumming and some tortured guitar tone with a little spoken word thrown in. It is mainly an intro for “Killing Time” which has that mid-era vibe as it is not very frantic but still retains the heaviness. The next two songs “Soldier On!” and "Célebutante" pick up the pace a little with the former having a militant rhythm (thus the title) while the latter speeds up giving way to some stellar soloing courtesy of Kiko Loureiro. I like “Mission To Mars” except the lyrics ruin it for me a little bit with the “I wanna, I wanna” parts. Mustaine is better than that and I feel the track would have benefitted with better lyrics. The finish off the record with one of the best tracks with the aptly titled “We’ll Be Back”. Based on the material here, I certainly hope so.
Well, there you have it. Is it MEGADETH’s finest hour? Heritage bands are always faced with that problem of pleasing old fans while trying to gather some new ones. I think Mustaine and company have been able to capture both groups with an album that is more than solid and sits proudly among the rest of the catalogue. I was rooting for Mustaine (especially after his cancer battle) and he didn’t disappoint with “The Sick, The Dying…And The Dead”. This record proves he still has more to offer and I can’t wait to hear what he has in store for us next time.