By Ellen Eldridge
Things are falling perfectly into place for Megadeth. The release of the 13th studio album, aptly titled Th1rt3en, falls on the eerie date of 11-01-11, the day after Halloween. One of my “go to” bands, Megadeth never fails to disappoint me, but all fans of thrash metal should appreciate this release because of its technical ability and storytelling. The fact that the lyrics more often tell a story from a different perspective than betray insight into the personal life of the songwriter maintains the metal theme consistent in songs about war, politics, and the feeling we all get as teens as well as adults struggling with bosses, spouses, and anyone who tries to run your life. One listen to “Whose Life (Is It Anyways)” gives a sense of timing in that long-time fans recognize the influences of these ideas in adulthood, but even for the frontman of Megadeth some things never change. He describes those sentiments that hold true for kids as well as blue collar workers, and “rock stars.”
Never wanting to take anything away from the tragic, introspective songs, Dave Mustaine nearly drowns his audience in insight to his soul. Songs like “In My Darkest Hour” and “A Tout Le Monde,” as well as most of the songs on The System Has Failed, key in on the experiences and wisdom Mustaine has gleaned from living his life. But, Endgame and Th1rt3en play out as less personal, which won’t even matter for many fans because the technical prowess of the current line-up outshines the song meaning anyway. Megadeth keeps all its fans in mind with songs from a variety of perspectives and on a multitude of themes.
Though I admitted Megadeth never disappoints me, I go through a process with each new album. At first, I hear the skeleton of each song and key in on the lyrics. I usually don’t like it at first, but then the melodies sink in and I put myself in the story. Th1rt3en starts off with a shred spectacular in “Sudden Death.” Guitarists Mustaine and Chris Broderick rip through solos, but for some reason the melodies and perfect placement of lyrical phrases doesn’t hit the spot until after the album spins a few times. That said, after a few listens the album amazes with its pure skill and methodological cataloguing of not only introspective and cathartic lyrics but also inspired tales of criminals on the run, those addicted to driving fast (“Fast Lane”), and the regular occurrence of politic songs like “We the People.” Again, the first listen may sound like a rehashing of themes like those in “Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying,” but one look at the news will show any listener these ideas evolve, get better in some ways, and worsen in others. Lines like “Violate your rights, no more equality; surrender freedom, your se-se-security” lends a play on pronunciation that almost sounds like an attack on present social security funds issues. “We the people face unconstitutional lies; in greed we trust, in revolution we die,” could come across as trite, but Mustaine has a true knack for presenting complicated political ideas in a simple and metal way.
In the closing track, “Thirteen,” Mustaine hones in on the resume of his career in his 13 releases. His opening line compares each release to a brick laid in the foundation. A tear-jerking acoustic melody punctuates the lines, “Because I’ve lived how many times do I have to die? – 13 times and it’s been lucky for me… 13 ways to see the Devil in my eyes because I’ve stood here 13 times and I’m still alive.” Later in the song the heavier riffs and faster solos accompany the darker lines about questioning whether or not the narrator can “go on” or if it’s “too much to face.”
Megadeth never fails to impress me; it may take a few revolutions to fully understand the depth of the band’s sound so make sure you buy a copy of Th1rt3en and play it often.