It has been a tough last decade Megadeth. In addition to the usual membership turnover, the metallifers faced the leader Dave Mustaine‘s cancer scarefollowed a public dismissal of their bass player child care claims and the re-recording of parts of their 16th album, The sick, the dying … and the dead! On top of that, there was a global pandemic and political unrest everywhere. They all find their way to this new record one way or another.
The last time Megadeth made an album, with 2016’s Dystopiawas a conscious effort to return to the band’s heyday in the mid-’80s and early ’90s. The sick, the dying … and the dead! does not go far from this point of entry; it is close enough to milestone works such as Peace sells…but who buys? and Rest in peace to satisfy old fans. There are few concessions to today’s genre conventions as Mustaine and company progress while trying not to repeat themselves.
It’s a semi-successful update. There’s no shortage of lightning-fast riffs and chest-busting thrash on The sick, the dying … and the dead! The album’s bookends of the title track and “We’ll Be Back” are among the most vicious tracks Megadeth has released in years, but the nearly hour-long length and occasional monotony of the music can be tiresome at times. Plus, the political vagueness of the lyrics is frustrating for anyone looking for something deeper.
Otherwise, Mustaine and the band are pretty straightforward as they steam ahead with their timeless metal – sometimes cinematic, other times a little silly: Spoken-word sections in “Life in Hell” and “Psychopathy” aim for gravity but land closer to parody , and “Dogs of Chernobyl” takes a specific subject (the hundreds of stray dogs roaming the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster) and turns it into something more personal (“You left me like one of Chernobyl’s dogs / Where did you go?“).
When it connects – “The sick, the dying… and the dead!,” “Night Stalkers” (featuring the rapper and Body Count vet Ice-T), “Celebutante”, “We’ll Be Back” – The sick, the dying … and the dead! presents a revitalized Megadeth overcoming recent hardships with signature strength. Lyrically, it may be eye-rollingly obvious (guess what “Junkie” is about), but new drummer Dirk Verbeuren adds an extra kick to the established musical blitzkrieg. Nobody listens to Megadeth for nuance. Almost 40 years after their formation, they won’t change your mind.
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