Back when I was a kid, the older boys would go to this toolshed near the woods and listen to heavy metal. Now, they were probably smoking pot and jerking off to porno in there, but me and my friends were too young to know what that was. So, we'd go in there with my ghetto blaster and play cassette tapes we stole from the older boys.
One day, my buddy brings over a cassette tape that says, "Megadeth" on the front cover and has a skull with robot eyes on it. Being nine years old, this was the most awesome thing ever! We rocked out to sick guitar licks and considered ourselves the most evil, badass nine year-olds in town. We knew immediately that the evil guitar riffs we were hearing were so extremely demonic, the only way to listen to them was far away from the judging world, in a semen-soaked toolshed on the edge of the woods.
Fast-forward ten years and I'm learning about how hard it is to pay bills and deal with society's institutions. In this "Countdown To Extinction" era, Megadeth's ability to take the frustration of corporate feudalism to the mystical extreme of fascist robot zombies made a lot more sense, especially since I had finally worked out that those boys were jerking off in that old toolshed. Together.
Anyhow, releasing today is "Dystopia," the fifteenth studio album from Megadeth. Listening to this record is like watching Dave Mustaine crawl out of a time machine from the 80's and scream, "See? I told you so, fuckers!" while melting your face off with insane guitar riffs.
The album opens up with, "The Threat Is Real," a thrash-metal call-to-arms that paints a brutal picture of an apathetic society crushed by psychic violence. Mustaine and company rip through charging guitar gallops while singing about a landscape torn asunder by some evil tormentor that has long since won the war that could have been averted, if only we listened to Megadeth in the 80's and changed our ways!
Next up is the album-titled track, "Dystopia," a duo of screaming guitar ballads sporting a growling warning against postmodern apathy that has allowed the worst of humanity to usurp the ruling class and post whatever they want on poorly-constructed websites. These hidden psychic monsters from the 80's now play out in the open, promoting themselves as brands in plain sight, but Megadeth chants on against all odds, challenging us to resist by not sharing their Facebook pages!
The third track, "Fatal Illusion," opens as a full-blown sludge-metal angst party, only to segue into an ultra-precise onslaught of insane guitar gallops as Dave hisses a tale of captivity and the threat of extinction, with the only escape coming from resurrection. We rock out to a tale of nonconformist artists being tortured and held captive in a ramshackle apartment in what looks to be a predominantly Mexican neighborhood in Pittsburgh, maybe a mile or two south of the downtown.
The next song, "Death From Within," rocks onward in an ode to the enemy inside of us, that inner demon that allows psychic violence to take hold and corrupt us. The chorus paints a grim picture of no escape as the guitar solo hits the highest thrash pinnacle of the record as we meditate on the horror of a tormentor that can attack us independently of distance, through the warp-fields of our own psyche.
"Bullet To The Brain" captures the band's range, opening with a thoughtful, warlike interlude that quickly mutates into a twisted guitar dance. Classic Megadeth, the lyrics twist romance into a predatory, spider-like kaiju monster, leading to an epic battle of insane guitar licks. Seasoned Megadeth listeners, however, know that the female imagery is only a smokescreen metaphor for the evils of buying into Faustian bargains from powerful karate champions who offer safety, comfort and whiskey.
"Post American World," my favorite song, is the thickest, heaviest track on the record. We return to the blasted landscape of a wrecked society as Dave warns us things will only get worse as Dracula-esque overlords continue to ravage our ability to live and breathe in freedom while they appropriate all you say and do for their own Twitter tweets. We consider this horror as dueling guitar solos rip apart the room.
"Poisonous Shadows" points the gun inward again, challenging the listener to question his own identity in the face of his tormentor, who usually wears a mask to hide eyes that scream out to us in Courier font. The guitar riffs get almost industrial as the dramatic unmasking of this identity nightmare, making the narrator the enemy, revealing to the listener that the perpetrator of this hideous psychic evil has now become a part of your own inner experience now that you clicked on his website.
"Conquer or Die" brings us back to a "Countdown to Extinction" style of hugeness in thrash melody and screeching guitar jams that have to be heard to be believed, staying entirely instrumental as the world-weary listener seeks a means to fight back against assholes.
"Lying In State" assaults us immediately with a guitar barrage set against the backdrop of a broken image of our society's legacy, having been torn asunder by psychotic self-promoters who post articles about psychic karate moves unchecked by any moral force in the universe.
"The Emperor," another personal favorite, is an accusatory 80's thrash overture of hate toward a monster who thinks their image is infallible. Mustaine screams, "You look so perfect... but everybody knows... they're petrified to say the emperor has no clothes!" This outstanding, razor-sharp metal attack focuses pure hatred against a brutal bully that poisons society with his own shameless self-promotion.
This kickass album ends with, "Foreign Policy," something akin to a sister-song to, "Peace Sells, but Who's Buying?" With a message of a loathsome agenda for spiritual violence going global, the listener is shamed with the brutal truth that the wrecked society we're trying to survive has inflicted itself on the entire planet.
With a 30-year track record of consistent metal excellence, it should come as no surprise to listeners that "Dystopia" delivers the goods. To me, the content delivered in this epic album brings me right back to that skunky toolshed, wishing I could crawl back inside that time capsule and prevent the grim revelations of the present so clearly thrashed about on that old cassette tape. Because smoking shitty pot and jerking off to old Madonna photos beats the hell out of anything we have going on now, bro.