In just the first week that metal music godfather Dave Mustaine and his band Megadeth released their 13-track, 13th studio album – appropriately titled “TH1RT3EN” (iTunes)– it sold 42,000 copies in the United States to land at #1 on The Billboard Hard Rock Albums chart. Other Billboard chart positions include #11 on the Billboard 200, #3 Rock Albums, #13 Digital Albums, #8 Canadian Albums, and #5 Tastemaker Albums. This is pretty amazing, given that Megadeth has been around for going on 30 years.
Mustaine has always been the band’s vocal frontman, lead and rhythm guitarist and songwriter. Megadeth has seen members come and go over the years. However, “TH1RT3EN” marks an awesome reunion with a founding member, as it is the first Megadeth studio album since “The World Needs A Hero” in 2001 on which bass player Dave Ellefson performs. His contribution helped create an overall excellence for “TH1RT3EN,” an album that harkens back to Mustaine’s and Ellefson’s glory days of metal but with one foot firmly planted in today’s modern world. Add drummer Shawn Drover and guitarist Chris Broderick to the mix and you have all the makings of a headbanger’s delight.
Mustaine has a knack in his songwriting for balancing out everything just right musically. One instrument never overpowers the others or comes across as too much. Rather, the songs reflect more of a classical music level of arrangement. It is no secret that lots of metalheads enjoy, respect and learn from classical music for its depth musically, its bombast and its symphonic structure, among other reasons.
“TH1RT3EN” opens with that signature Megadeth sound – ripping guitars in trade-off solos combined with a grinding rhythm. Fingers fly on fretboards as Mustaine and Broderick tear it up on every track, backed by Ellefson’s thundering bass. Technical proficiency is the Megadeth hallmark, and on “TH1RT3EN” this shines through.
Mustaine has never been shy about making his political beliefs known, and he is a very smart guy when it comes to what is going on in our tilting world and country. The song “We The People” is the Mustaine his legions of fans know and love – the musician who creates bare-knuckled songs of our life and times. “Our founding fathers are rolling in their graves/ the land of liberty needs a regime change.”
“New World Order” takes aim at those who use God and the Bible for their own gain. “A book written by man/ used to control and command.”
“Guns, Drugs & Money” is about crime in Mexico, and how poverty is what leads many into that doomed life. “Whose Life (Is It Anyways)” is about claiming one’s independence. The music is speedy, sonic power. Drover pounds the skins hard and fast.
It is cool too when Mustaine travels into classic heavy-metal themes of science fiction, fantasy and horror. “Never Dead” is about zombies – just like zombies decorate the CD booklet. This also ties in to Mustaine’s social/political commentary – that we the people feel too powerless and dead inside to bring serious change to pass. Instead, we follow the same system and politicians like the walking dead. This breeds anger and creates outlaw heroes, as in “Public Enemy No. 1” – about a prisoner breaking out with a smoking gun, afraid of no one and hell bent to rage against the machine. “Millennium Of The Blind” tells of the blind leading the blind into corrupt wars and fundamentalist religions.
“TH1RT3EN” hits on less heavy themes as well, like a woman who did her man wrong (“Wrecker”) and fast cars (“Fast Lane”). These work to interject some good ol’ rock ‘n roll into Megadeth’s more serious material.
“TH1RT3EN” has received largely favorable reviews across the board, so if you have a metalhead in your life it would make the perfect stocking stuffer. Concert tickets would as well – Megadeth plays Showare Center in Kent on Feb. 21.
Reviewed by Matt Nagle