Megadeth, ‘Super Collider’ (Tradecraft/UME)
Release Date: June 5, 2013
Dave Mustaine has always come with baggage attached, and as the Guy Who Got Booted From Metallica, that baggage has undoubtedly helped. It’s hard to imagine Megadeth would’ve been picked over, say, Voivod or Celtic Frost as one of thrash metal’s supposed “Big Four” otherwise. (Still not sure how to explain Anthrax’s inclusion — the surfer shorts, maybe?) Now, as the foursome’s constantly shifting lineup releases its 14th album in twice as many years, Mustaine has morphed into the Born-Again Post-Bircher Birther-Conspiracy Nut Who Endorsed Santorum for President and Believes Obama Staged Last Summer’s Wisconsin Sikh Temple and Colorado Movie Theater Shootings So He Could Take Away Everybody’s Guns.
But hey, critics gotta be objective, right? And admittedly, the couple of times on Super Collider where Mustaine gets sort of protest-y (as he always sort of has, at least on paper), it’s not like you can clearly pinpoint where he stand on the quasi-anarchotarian spectrum if you didn’t already know. For instance, “Dance in the Rain” — halfway bearable because it’s mostly talked rather than sung — opens by poetry-slamming about a struggler who works two jobs to get by (a “cubicle hell” nine-to-five followed by midnight-shift gas-pump action) while Big Brother surveys his every move. Eventually, we learn that “bankers own all the politicians” (just ask Elizabeth Warren!). Then he throws in some millenarian hogwash about the “devil messiah” (Google that and Mustaine’s crackpot-in-arms Alex Jones comes up) and a desire to “replace the dictators Washington appointed,” but even those are basically head-scratchers. Next comes “Beginning of Sorrow,” which also kicks off with borderline-Eastern psych scales then slips into depressive dolor, and which early on probably hints at an anti-choice angle (doctor says either mom or her fetus has to die), but from there another(?) kid is born in an alley and gets bumped through foster homes and it’s just one more Lifetime Channel “think of the poor children” soap sud on an album that started with two. (Most amusing line: “His first name is Ward / His last name is Of The State.”)
Truth is, there was probably more irritating Illuminati/New World Order crap on 2011’s Thirteen, played by the same Megadeth roster (guitarist Chris Broderick, bassist Dave Ellefson, drummer Shawn Drover), but padded with old bonus cuts and video-game soundtrack leftovers. Plus, this is metal: The words are supposed to be stupid. Mustaine has been bumblingly turning into a post-sell-by-date (i.e., post-1980) Alice Cooper for years now, which in his case is not necessarily a downturn. But one possible surprise is how little of Super Collider actually thrashes — whippersnappers like Cauldron and Holy Grail burn rubber way better these days, and Mustaine and his current hired hands (born between 1961 and 1970) seem more interested in music they grew up on. The title track and “Don’t Turn Your Back…” start with lush, blues-ish, almost lyrical classic-rock guitars; “Burn!” indulges in Van Halen-ish dive-bombs, while “The Blackest Crow” is a rustic country-folk funeral hoedown with banjo and slide. The band gets heavier from there, which never really helps. But that’s their job, after all.
The final cut, “Cold Sweat,” is the shortest, and not coincidentally, also the tightest and chunkiest thing on the album, closer to Judas Priest than Thin Lizzy (who did it first, in 1983), but with some pleasant fluttering wank in the middle. More strapped-middle-class lyrics too, so it’s not inconceivable that Mustaine’s starting to empathize with his audience. And something like “Off the Edge” is almost primal enough to get by: “We’re going crazy, the world’s gone crazy!” and not much else. But seriously — “crazy,” Dave? Speak for yourself.