Megadeth – The Sick, the Dying…and the Dead! Review

A new Megadeth album hits differently than others from the beloved bands of my youth. Rather than anticipation and excitement, I generally feel a gnawing sense of dread. Let’s be honest here. As great as those early albums were (and they were truly great), the run from the late 90s through the last two decades has been a rough one. 2016s Dystopia felt like a partial return to form and one of the only real winners since Youthanasia. Six years later, I had a sneaking suspicion we wouldn’t get another release in that same tier, but a long-suffering fan can always hope, right? So what does The Sick, the Dying…and the Dead! have to offer? A mixed bag of Dave’s nuts, that’s what. While it certainly isn’t up to the elevated standards of Dystopia, it’s not another Super Collider either, and there’s some entertaining fare to be found among the expected missteps and ego malfunctions.

Where to begin? Well, there’s a strong Countdown to Extinction/Youthanasia vibe running through much of the material. It’s that slickly commercialized trad/thrash hybrid Megadeth made work so well in the 90s, and the title track could have existed on either of their flagship 90s platters. A few other fun, easy-to-like cuts like “Sacrifice” and “Soldier On” serve to remind listeners of the good olde days without coming close to actually rivaling them. The best stuff comes last with “We’ll Be Back” which is one of the rare moments where Dave and company truly cut loose for a thrashing, bashing anthem reminiscent of Rust in Peace. It’s enough to give you hope the band’s fire could burn bright once more, but it’s the goddamn closer and preceded by plenty of reasons to doubt that fire still burns. Then there are the songs that are packed with moments good and bad that leave you confused. For example, “Dogs of Chernobyl” has a ton of slick guitar work and a dark, morose vibe that works, but it runs on past the selling point and the best parts arrive late in the game after interest has waned.

That Alice Cooper on speed aesthetic that frequently asserted its presence as the 90s wore on is still present on tracks like “Life in Hell” and “Killing Time” where an intrinsic likeability factor is offset by bad choices. In the former case it’s a nagging spoken word segment that hurts the song, and in the latter, bloat and repetition conspire to undo an enjoyable number full of wicked guitar work and some decent hooks. A song with real potential like “Night Stalkers” where the Megadeth of olde briefly asserts itself is ultimately short-circuited by an utterly pointless cameo by Ice-T and a 6:38 runtime when the song should clearly stop at 4:30. Likewise, “Mission to Mars” would be an enjoyable if unessential Mega-tune with nods to “Hanger 18” but it’s brought low by horrible voice-overs that just. Won’t. Stop. Also weighing the album down is a set of lyrics that frequently come across like an old guy bitching about the state of the world. I do enough of that myself and don’t need Dave’s help. At a zaftig 55 minutes, it’s a weird wonder that The Sick doesn’t end up feeling all that long. Small mercies I suppose.

As has always been the case, the sheer talent involved is off the charts. Guitar wunderkind Kiko Loureiro (ex-Angra) returns to fry fretboards and showcase enough technical mastery to make all your Ramen disappear. He and Dave load the material down with flashy playing and stunning solos, and it’s this aspect of Megadeth that provides the legitimate reason to tune in these days. The massively well-traveled Dirk Verbeuren (Ex-Soilwork, ex-The Devin Townsend Project, et al) handles drums like the grizzled, seasoned vet he is, and bass God Steve DiGiorgio (Testament, Death, et al) appears in an effort to make the album an absolute chophouse. Unfortunately, this massive firepower is focused on songs that often lack power and memorability. A track like “Junkie” is so simple and rudimentary, it will be forgotten within minutes. “Celebutante” while a tad better, is of the same ilk, and having these smokin’ aces playing on them is like using artillery to kill field mice. Making matters worse, DiGiorgio might as well have skipped out, as you can rarely even hear the bass (I know, it’s a thrash album, but still). That said, Dave’s vocals sound surprisingly strong and don’t often hurt the material.

Dave and the boys didn’t embarrass themselves here, and there are a few good moments to uncover. Since Megadeth now dwell in the Annihilator Zone, anything that isn’t a greasy dumpster fire is a happy surprise and a win overall. Long-time supporters will appreciate the way the album revisits various eras of the band, but make no mistake; this is a salvage operation for the faithful. The good can be harvested for playlists and the album can be safely set aside. I don’t hate The Sick The Dying…and the Dead!, but it’s tough to completely love. So close to good, has good, isn’t quite good. Maybe next time?

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: NA | Format Reviewed: Stream
Label: Universal Music Group
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: September 2nd, 2022

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