Megadeth – The Sick, The Dying… And the Dead! (Album Review)

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You just can’t keep a good Vic down.

Few things are as satisfying as an underdog defying the odds and coming home with the gold, though in the particular case of guitarist and front man Dave Mustaine, it’s become par for the course. The Megadeth brand itself is an exercise in turning catastrophe into victory going all the way back to when the aforementioned Mustaine emerged from being unceremoniously dropped from Metallica and proceeded to pick up the proverbial pieces. Fast-forward to the recent aftermath of the stellar 2016 smash album Dystopia, the extended period of studio silence that followed and the exodus of co-founder and long-time bassist Dave Ellefson from the fold under controversial circumstances, to speak nothing for the pandemic lockdowns and a nasty bout with cancer, many might have speculated that the previously noted 15 album would have been Dave’s swansong. But just like its skeleton mascot Vic, Megadeth is a name that refuses to die before its time, and with the release of 2022’s “The Sick, The Dying…And The Dead,” the flame has most definitely been lit anew.

Per usual, Dave has amassed the support of a formidable fold of musicians to assist in realizing his vision, and a few unforeseen shifts in the band’s permanent lineup has done very little to alter the existing formula. The services of shred technician and former Angra guitarist Kiko Loureiro have been retained for a second go around, and though he has been more than fit for the task of filling the shoes originally worn by the likes of Marty Friedman, Glen Drover and Chris Broderick, his game has definitely been upped since “Dystopia” and rivals the feats Friedman originally brought to “Rust In Peace.” Insofar as the indispensable rhythm section goes, virtuoso bassist and studio mercenary Steve DiGiorgio has been tapped to fill the role of Ellefson, and while there has been a slightly increased level of force to the presence of the bass in comparison to the past few albums, Steve avoids any excessive showboating in favor of filling out the arrangement, ditto relative newcomer to the fold and former Soilwork drummer Dirk Verbeuren, who makes a respectable ruckus on the kit in rapid succession but definitely plays towards keeping things tight and together.

Setting the tone with an eye for the dark and ominous, Dave and company opt for a rather fresh and engaging blend of atmospheric tension, neck-ruining riff frenzies and technical wizardry to usher in this 14 chapter studio excursion. In essence, the riveting opener and title anthem “The Sick, The Dying…And The Dead” sets the bar for the rest of the album, dredging up some highly welcome parallels to the epic and quasi-progressive structural approach of “Rust In Peace” and the chilling blend of melodic contour and somber acoustic balladry heard on “So Far, So Good…So What,” and particularly that of beloved Megadeth cut “In My Darkest Hour” as it recounts the scourge of the black plague. Though this excellent beginning entry does detract a bit from the rest of the listen because of how astoundingly awesome it proves to be, the kicked up tempo that follows on hard-hitting speed thrashers like “Life In Hell”, “Junkie” and the bone-crushing slayer “Night Stalkers” (which also features an auspicious guest slot by Body Count front man and rap icon Ice-T) keeps things plenty interesting. Likewise, other highly atmospheric and dark melodic numbers like the almost power metal-tinged epic number and poignant nod to the tragic nuclear accident of its namesake “Dogs Of Chernobyl” and the rock-infused curveball that sort of recounts the better moments of “Countdown To Extinction” and ode to space travel gone awry “Mission To Mars” are no slouches.

“The Sick, The Dying and The Dead!” Album Artwork

Not one to be tied down to a singular theme of morose and somber subjects, the tone does get a bit lighter here and there, but the pedal it definitely kept to the proverbial mettle. Case and point, the shuffling march with a massive metallic bottom end “Soldier On!” which comes chock full of fun guitar high-jinks out of Dave and Kiko while the former rallies the troops in one of the more inspirational philosophical odes in his lyrical arsenal, topping things off with a rather humorous ending featuring Mustaine playing drill sergeant and leading a call and response number like an outtake from Full Metal Jacket as the track fades. Likewise, the quick-paced thrasher “Celebutante” takes some sarcastic swipes at the modeling and entertainment industry while delivering a fierce riff display, while the profanity-laced groove machine and slightly bluesy “Police Truck” sees Mustaine going a bit lower in his vocal range than usual and bringing an old school punk attitude into the mix. But the moment that seals the deal in the eclecticism department is the almost rock radio-tinged anthem “This Planet’s On Fire (Burn In Hell)”, featuring none other than Sammy Hagar himself on vocals alongside Dave to bring a lighter mood to a mostly dark studio affair.

In the grand scheme of Megadeth’s near 40 year history, “The Sick, The Dying…And The Dead!” ranks pretty high among its predecessors, which is no small accomplishment considering the many new classics that this band has managed to churn out in “United Abominations,” “Endgame,” and “Dystopia” respectively, to speak nothing for the impeccable legacy this outfit solidified even before their 1992 commercial breakthrough. It doesn’t quite outdo the timeless classics in “Peace Sells” and “Rust In Peace”, but it draws from both to a fair degree and is sure to bring plenty of nostalgic ears into its presence alongside the legions of younger fans that have been swept into its ranks since they reforged their old style during the 2000s. The years may have been grinding on Mustaine’s aging vocal chords, and with it has come a more limited range compared to his youthful snarl during the golden era of thrash, but he holds his own and delivers up a respectable performance that measured up to the grand musical display that comes along with it. Whether you thrash old or new, it would behoove all whom thrash to do so with this album as soon as the streaming site loads or the CD hits their mailboxes.

Released By: UMe
Release Date: September 2nd, 2022
Genre: Thrash Metal

Order “The Sick, The Dying… And the Dead!” here.

“The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead!” track listing:

 1. The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead!
 2. Life In Hell
 3. Night Stalkers (Featuring Ice T)
 4. Dogs Of Chernobyl
 5. Sacrifice
 6. Junkie
 7. Psychopathy
 8. Killing Time
 9. Soldier On!
10. Célebutante
11. Mission To Mars
12. We’ll Be Back
13. Police Truck (DEAD KENNEDYS cover)
14. This Planet’s On Fire (Burn In Hell) (Featuring Sammy Hagar)

Musicians:

  • Dave Mustain / Lead vocals, guitars
  • Kiko Loureiro / Guitars, background vocals
  •  Steve DiGiorgio / Bass
  • Dirk Verbeuren / Drums, percussion

9.1 Excellent

Following a harrowing six years of studio silence, a nasty bout of cancer and the subsequent loss of co-founder and bassist Dave Ellefson, thrash pioneer and riff titan Dave Mustaine rises from near death and delivers one of the most aggressive and action-packed metallic extravaganzas since the early 90s

  • Songwriting 9.5
  • Musicianship 9.5
  • Originality 8.5
  • Production 9
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