I loved Megadeth’s previous album, Endgame. Freaking loved it. It was extremely aggressive, angry, passionate, smartass, dark, brooding and bloody – y’know, a really good thrash album. But these same qualities made it a pretty intense listen, and I find I don’t return to it as often as I do other albums of similar impact. It just bums me out too much. Megadeth running on pure dark energy is a splendid beast to behold, but I’m firmly of the belief that you need a little light to go with the shade. Endgame is so dark that I need a bit of a break in between listens otherwise it starts to get kinda overwhelming.
Which is why I find it really interesting that with Th1rt3en Megadeth have done what they did back in 1992 when they followed up the thrash classic Rust In Peace with the more direct Countdown To Extinction. Countdown is still a heavy album, but it’s snappier, with more traditional song structures, more melody and more of a heavy metal, as opposed to thrash, flavour. Th1rt3en is very much like that. There are moments of brutal heaviness but they’re tempered with moments of old-fashioned headbanging metal. There’s more melody here than Megadeth have employed since 1994’s Youthanasia – witness “Public Enemy No. 1” or “Whose Life (Is It Anyways)?” or the chorus of “We The People.” Then there are moments that link back to the punk-influenced strains of early thrash (“Guns, Drugs And Money” and the rhythm guitar of “Whose Life” for example). What it seems to boil down to is this: Th1rt3en is Megadeth’s first Car Album – the kind of CD you chuck on before hitting the highway. The tempos, the rhythms, the mix, the tones, the melodies all work great in this context.
Something I find particularly interesting about Th1rt3en is that it contains no less than five songs that have been previously released in some form or another: video game tracks “Sudden Death” and “Never Dead,” United Abominations bonus track “Black Swan,” early 90s demos “New World Order” and “Millennium Of The Blind.” But in each case the song is re-recorded with the current line-up of Dave Mustaine, Chris Broderick, David Ellefson and Shawn Drover, and in each case the results sit quite comfortably among the rest of the material. And in the case of “New World Order” in particular, they link the material back again to the Countdown To Extinction era. This is a good thing. Megadeth has spent a lot of time alternatingly flirting with and consciously avoiding a repeat of Rust In Peace’s energy and attitude, but Countdown has been left out in the cold. Th1rt3en is by no means a Countdown retread but it certainly brings back some of that vibe, albeit with a rawer mix and more freewheeling energy compared to the tight reins held on Countdown.
Chris Broderick is in incredible form throughout Th1rt3en, throwing out impossibly fast licks one second and big, reaching melodies the next. And Shawn Drover’s drum sound is bursting with attack and energy. It’s great to hear David Ellefson back in Megadeth. His palm-muted, picked eighth notes and shifting root notes have long been missed. And of course Mustaine is Mustaine. His rhythm guitar work is unparalleled while his soloing embodies the kind of street style that keeps Megadeth from ever sounding too pretty under the weight of its legion of multifaceted guitar gods.
Mustaine has hinted at Th1rt3en possibly being Megadeth’s final album. If that’s how the story ends, it does so on a surprising but ultimately satisfying note.
Th1rt3en is out now on Roadrunner Records.