Despite Megadeth being one of my all-time favourite Heavy Metal bands, I have been disappointed with their output for the last several years. Some hailed their last record, Dystopia, as a return to form when it was released in 2016.
Despite earning the band their first Grammy Award, and featuring some truly great guitar work, to me, it still felt like a lot of the other Megadeth albums released since the early 2000s, which I can best describe as “Megadeth by numbers.”
While there are some highlights sprinkled throughout these releases, I felt the songwriting was largely generic, and the performances seemed to lack the same energy and emotion as their finest work.
Megadeth – The Sick, The Dying…And The Dead! (UMC)
Release Date: 2 September 2022
Words: Brandon Oberkrieser
I say all of this just so you understand how much I truly love their new album, The Sick, The Dying… The Dead!
This is the Megadeth album I have been waiting years for; a true return to form and easily one of the best Metal albums, if not the best, of 2022.
On The Sick, The Dying… The Dead!, Megadeth founder and mastermind Dave Mustaine leads the band in a musical direction that feels natural and somehow fresh from start to finish. From the opening title track to the closer and lead single, We’ll Be Back, the album feels like the perfect blend of their 1980s thrash roots and their more melodic 90s releases.
An album like Cryptic Writings, from 1997, featured great thrash songs and great melodic, more radio-friendly tracks, but on this new release, those sounds often mesh perfectly within a single song.
By the time track four, Dogs Of Chernobyl, ended upon my first listen, I realized that I had a “black tooth grin” that simply would not leave my face. Mustaine has not sounded this great and hungry on an album for at least over a decade.
His guitar playing, which has always been stellar, reaches the heights of their most classic work in terms of technicality and memorability. His vocals play to their strength with the classic snarling, growling, and barking that has highlighted their best work without ever feeling over the top or like he is trying too hard.
The rest of the band also sounds fantastic, with each instrument mixed beautifully together in a clear, united package that sounds incredibly tight.
This is made even more impressive, considering this is a brand-new version of Megadeth. This is only the second album featuring guitarist Kiko Loureiro, who I am ready to proclaim as their best guitarist since Marty Friedman.
Considering Loureiro’s co-writing credits on the album as well, he should be given a lot of praise for the overall excellence of this record.
Additionally, this is the album debut of drummer Dirk Verbeuren, and it features the late addition of Steve Di Giorgio on bass after the sudden departure of founding member and longtime bassist David Ellefson.
The bass tracks were completely re-recorded for the album after Ellefson exited the band, but to the credit of all involved, the bass tracks do not feel remotely out of place. The band overall sounds truly alive on what might arguably be their best-produced album ever.
The songwriting is so well done that the quality of the riffs and the catchiness of the choruses often lift up lyrics that could be seen as cliche. Songs like Sacrifice and Junkie cover familiar Metal themes, but the riffing and melodies elevate these tracks to greatness.
Besides, it is not the lyrics that draw a lot of us to Megadeth, but rather the superb musicality and the complexities of the musical compositions. A great example of this is Mission To Mars, which I consider the weakest song on the record. Featuring lyrics like “I wanna be an astronaut, I wanna, wanna” and its overuse of sound effects and voiceovers, this could have easily been a mediocre Megadeth song at best and one that I would be fine with skipping.
The music, however, helps elevate the lyrics and its overall cheesiness to what I would consider an above-average song that grew on me more and more with repeated listens.
In reality, any criticisms I give this album feel too nitpicky to really dwell on. The Sick, The Dying… The Dead! is an excellent album that far exceeded my expectations based on my disappointment in recent years.
With this release, Dave Mustaine, with the help of his new recruits, especially guitarist Kiko Loureiro, has re-established the name Megadeth as one of the finest bands in all of Metal.
Welcome back where you belong.