by Carina Lawrence / Dark Art Conspiracy

Thrash metal legends Megadeth return with their sixteenth album, ‘The Sick, the Dying… and the Dead!’ which is the follow-up to 2016’s ‘Dystopia’. This album marks the longest gap between releases for the band and the first album to feature drummer Dirk Verbeuren and bassist Steve Di Giorgio from Testament following David Ellefson’s dismissal last year. Steve re-recorded Dave’s bass parts, but he is not their new bassist; he just featured on the album. The new permanent bass player is James LoMenzo, who was previously in the band between 2006-2010 and rejoined fully this year. For guitarist Kiko Loureiro it is his second album with the band.

The album faced many hardships, from line-up changes and the covid pandemic to Dave Mustaine facing a health scare in 2019 when he was diagnosed with throat cancer, but thankfully he got the all-clear in 2020, so there have been a lot of trials for Megadeth. You might think the album title is about his cancer or covid, but it is actually about the Black Death. With Dave contemplating that his cancer could end him and Megadeth, after coming out the other side of it, he vowed to sing and play the best he could on the new album. The result is a classic Megadeth sound with reinvigorated lively energy, which is also some of their most unique music to date.

The album opens with the grim title track and asserts the album theme of the Black Death plague with audio of ominous bells and someone shouting “Bring out your dead” before the guitar kicks in, and the track is brimming with vibrant and sharp riffs. Dave Mustaine sounds on point with his signature gravelly vocals. The lyrics again reflect on the plague citing the nursery rhyme, “The sweet smell of rosies, a pocketful of posies. You can’t mask the fragrance of death in their beds. There’s typhus in the air, and ashes everywhere. Amongst the sick, the dying, and the dead”. This opener is a striking and purposeful start that sets the bar high for what is to follow.

The urgent ‘Life In Hell’ is fast and fuelled with slick and furious guitar work from Mustaine and the skilful Kiko Loureiro. It feels like the band is in their element in this fiery track. The dynamic ‘Night Stalkers’ starts alarmingly with rapid instruments and fierce snarly vocals, and it captures the old classic sound but with renewed energy. The track is one of the longest and most creative, even featuring a brief collaboration from Ice T, which works very well and fits in with the track’s mood.

‘Dogs Of Chernobyl’ opens with a sorrowful melodic guitar to accompany an atmospheric audio clip scene setter. The track is powerful and displays a tense build-up of instruments that let loose and features some striking guitar duelling by Mustaine and Kiko. ‘Sacrifice’ offers a change of pace, while the crude ‘Junkie’ is catchy and blunt. ‘Killing Time’ features some of the finest guitar mastery, especially the mid-tempo breakdown, and has resonant, memorable riffs that will get you headbanging.

‘Soldier On!’ keeps momentum high whilst it deals with coming to terms with walking away from toxic relationships and highlights how you have to keep going and do what is best for you, which is delivered compellingly. The vigorous ‘Célebutante’ is spurred by cynicism, commanding, and charged with sonically striking guitars and a crafty stylish solo.

‘Mission To Mars’ has an ambient spacey presence to fit the context and more audio sound aids. It is fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it makes for a memorable gleaming track with a melodic hard-hitting chorus and acts as a great curveball to add more diversity.

The final song, “We’ll Be Back”, opens with a sense of urgency and doesn’t hold back with rampaging snarling vocals, solid riffs, and lead guitar work firing off constantly. It is an excellent soaring and conquering track to close on. It also offers hope for their bright future and highlights Mustaine’s unwavering determination in the face of adversity.

‘The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead!’ is exhilarating, dynamic and impressive. It embraces their classic signature sound whilst asserting a new revitalised and determined energy, which is some of their most diverse and playful. It sounds like Mustaine and the new line-up are having a blast, and all are bringing their best to this release, with new drummer Dirk displaying his intense and impressive drumming. The album initially grips you on the first listen but hits harder the more you play it.

‘The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead!’ is released via UMC on the 2nd September 2022.

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