Here are seven things we love about it The sick, the dying… and the dead!the 16th studio album by the thrash legends Megadeth.
The sequel to the 2016s Dystopia, which earned the group their first-ever Grammy for the title track, has been in the works for quite some time, with April 2019 once predicted as what would become one of many targeted release dates. Months later, that mark was missing, leader Dave Mustaine revealed that he had been diagnosed with throat cancer, putting all immediate plans on hold, although he continued to show up for writing sessions while undergoing treatment.
A triumph over cancer that survived the coronavirus pandemic that shut down the world in 2020 and new blood in the form of a drummer Dirk Verbeuren‘s first studio appearance and the last-minute addition of Steve DiGiorgio to replay the album’s bass tracks (James Lomenzo has since occupied the live role on a permanent basis), The sick, the dying… and the dead! is more than just another Megadeth album – this is further irrefutable proof of Mustaine’s unbreakable determination and iron will.
As one of metal’s all-time hook writers, the Megadeth cornerstone offers plenty of instant gratification over the course of these 12 new tracks, but as always, there are killer arrangements to unpack, double-edged lyrical meanings and so much more that will hold you lured after dozens of listens.
So after six long years, let’s finally dive into a new Megadeth record!
The solos on “We’ll Be Back” and our first proper taste of Dirk Verbeuren… Umm, and that breakdown at the end!
The world’s first glimpse at The sick, the dying … and the dead! brought in some G-forces and stuck the listener in their seat for four and a half minutes.
It’s an absolutely ridiculous payoff for fans who waited so many years for the sequel Dystopia, an album that earned Megadeth their first ever Grammy win for the title track. The title alone is so lovably cocky. Are you coming back? What? You just got here, we’ve been waiting forever! And wow, there it is more where did this come from? Holy shit, buckle up everyone!
Throw in the fact that it’s the album closer and it’s harder to make a better first impression. Speaking of which, we finally get to hear drummer Dirk Verbeuren’s first contribution to a new Megadeth track, and the guy just crushes it, raising the intensity level to places this band has rarely, if ever, been before.
Those solos are absolutely pyrotechnic – a proper shredfest like Dave and Kiko Loureiro do battle. So the breakdown at the end? First they melt your face, then they beat your skull until there are no teeth left, as Mustaine promises in some of his most vengeful, ultra-fucking-metal lyrics ever.
I could probably do a couple of hour-long podcasts about why “We’ll Be Back” rips so hard, but it’s time to soldier on…
Megadeth, “We’ll Be Back”
“Soldier on!” Shows Mustaine is still scrappy, even in his 60s
After this song’s release, Mustaine commented that it is about “coming to the realization that you have to walk away from a relationship that is very toxic.” He noted that taking those steps to make that change is a challenge, but ultimately you have to do what’s right for you first and foremost.
You can read as much or as little into it as you want – we’ll take the broad approach in assessing “Soldier On!”, the second single from this record and ninth overall on the chart.
It has a nice shuffle beat that goes a little bananas over the chorus, which is one of the best refrains among the dozen tracks here, if not the absolute best. Thematically, it shows that even four decades later with millions of albums sold, thousands of shows played, a Grammy and slaying the cancer dragon in the middle of writing sessions, Dave Mustaine still has that familiar chip on his shoulder.
That chip has fueled brilliance in ways that might not otherwise be possible, and it’s the fighting spirit and unwavering determination that has largely defined Mustaine’s makeup—and it’s not going anywhere, yielding rich musical rewards for all of us Rattleheads .
Megadeth, “Soldier On!”
“Dogs of Chernobyl” isn’t quite what you think it’s about
Make it is what you think it’s about until suddenly it’s not. But that’s pretty typical of Megadeth, right? It is a calling card of Mustaine’s lyrics to use such extreme imagery to connect on another emotional touch point.
In the case of “Dogs of Chernobyl”, the chorus shifts from a realistic examination of the damage that has been done, and in the chorus there is a physical and mental human toll that begins to unfold, turning into a heartbreaking love story:I see your face wherever I turn / There’s blood on my lips as my eyes start to burn / You disappeared and left me like / One of Chernobyl’s dogs, where did you go?“
It’s also a dirty mid-tempo track, and I think it’s safe to say that quite a few of us imagined a lightning-fast song about radioactive dogs on the hunt or something. Under different circumstances, we get the benefit of the back half, which mimics the frantic search for safety amid the devastating effects of so close to a nuclear disaster:Spit gurgling, I vomit until I overwhelm the bowl / I ask God in repentance, ‘Do you still want my soul?’”
“Come and listen to a tale of a tragic victim / of a sorcerer king of satanic descent“
Ummm, okay! Hey, wait a minute…
“Sacrifice” is a bit of an inversion of “The Conjuring”, at least in the overall intent behind actions taken in devotion to/resistance to black magic. In the end, it’s about “the most evil wizards” who “trade the souls of the lost for the damned” when it comes to life’s more sinister temptations and those who give in and take a walk on the dark side.
Mustaine speaks from experience as a former black magic practitioner who has since seen the light and instead of delivering a set of instructions for black magic as he did in that classic Fred sells track, the Megadeth frontman offers a way out via another immortally catchy chorus.
Ice-T’s Cameo on “Night Stalkers” is PERFECT
Ice-T returns after Mustaine guested on Body Count song “Civil War” from their 2017 album Blood thirst and do it in dramatic fashion.
At 190 BPM, “Night Stalkers” is a total ripper and would have remained so even without Ice-T’s spoken word contribution. Dedicated to the US military’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, this lyric tackles the heroics of this highly specialized unit, and the Body Count frontman offers a commanding presence that brings an added sense of realism to an already dangerously real track. “Locked and loaded, game over, bitches!“
Megadeth, “Night Stalkers”
“Celebutante” is a classic Heavy Metal song filled with cynicism
Fame-obsessed people make for easy targets, but in so many ways, they’re still pretty worthy targets. Let’s be real – no one likes fake, fake, snobbish, dishonest, lying, sleazy people who will do anything just to become famous for any reason at all, right?
Dave certainly doesn’t, at least with “Celebutante” as Exhibit A. It’s a grand piss off, and that’s not even the best part! We all know how much NWOBHM and the rest of the world’s classic heavy metal style influenced Megadeth, and this high-energy song makes no attempt to hide it in a fun nod to that exciting period.
Rust in Peace gets name-checked on the super fun “Mission to Mars”
3:25 — “Why don’t we just return to Earth and let it rest in peace out here?“
Dave has a knack for self-reference and it shows up again here. Remember “Victory” off Euthanasia? A master class in autobiographical texts!
On “Mission to Mars,” it’s not quite that level of genius, but has no intention of trying to be. This is a big dreamy track with a hugely playful arrangement, anthemic pop melody (another of Dave’s skills) and cinematic sequences. At one point, Astronaut Dave’s boss makes a fun nod to Megadeth’s 1991 tech-thrash triumph – “Why don’t we just go back to Earth and let it rest in peace out here?”
Dave makes an emergency plea to return to Earth, but that part of the song isn’t turned into a spoiler here.
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