Album Review: Megadeth - Super Collider
In the annuls of heavy metal, I don't know if there has been anyone more frustrating to be a fan of than Dave Mustaine. Megadeth's run of early albums established him as one of the mainstays of American metal, but the last twenty years have been a see-saw of highs and lows, continually baffling anyone who tries to get a handle on what Megadeth is, and what they're about to be. Mustaine's injury that led to the disbanding of Megadeth came at a perfect time, as the band had hit rock bottom. The well had run dry, and the fans were ready to give up on the melodic rock Megadeth had become.
The resurrection of Megadeth ushered in a new, and bizarre, era for the band. “The System Has Failed” stormed out of the gates, a classic Megadeth record in every way. That was followed by the disappointing “United Abominations”, the closest thing to thrash in ages “Endgame”, and the embarrassing “Th1rt3en”. Ridiculous spelling aside, there was an album that was made to get out of a contract, showing how much Mustaine cared at the moment for maintaining any sort of legacy for his band.
All of which brings us to “Super Collider”, the first Megadeth album on their own imprint, and one Mustaine has been rapturous in singing the praises of. He may need the rapture, because “Super Collider” is an album revealing the withered husk Megadeth has become.
Much like the first life of the band, resurrected Megadeth has mostly been following a path of streamlining and melody with each passing album. Whereas they started out as a thrash band, and were resurrected as a full-on heavy metal band, Megadeth is once again a hard rock band wearing the guise of metal. That in and of itself isn't a band thing, but it's a curious decision for Mustaine to make, considering the thirst for modern thrash, and his own limitations as a musician and band leader.
The one thing even the most ardent Megadeth fans will agree on is Mustaine's capacity as a vocalist, which was at one point a charming bit of do-it-yourself gusto. These days, when trying to make music filled with big melodic choruses, Mustaine's vocals are pushed to the forefront, when they are the last thing Megadeth should be focused on. Unless he's snarling sarcastic one liners over up-tempo assaults, Mustaine's voice is an unpleasant sound straining to find the right notes.
“Kingmaker” gets things off to a good start, a song that could have fit on “Countdown To Extinction”. There's enough meat to the riffing, the song moves along briskly, and the chorus is one of the better ones Mustaine has penned on the last couple records. All of that is turned on its head by the title track, which eschews metal altogether, instead opting to be a major key hard rock song. There's no riff to speak of, which puts all the emphasis on the pop chorus, which isn't horrible, but doesn't feel in the slightest like Megadeth.
“Burn!” offends me with the exclamation point in the title, and then again with the hackneyed chant of “burn, baby, burn” for a chorus. It may have worked if I thought for a moment it was tongue-in-cheek, but Mustaine is deadly serious, which sounds like comedy coming from a fifty year old man. So too do his 'screams' leading off “Built For War”, which are the sort of thing someone should have vetoed before the album was declared finished.
“Dance In The Rain” could have been a really good song, if given to a singer with the voice to bring the chorus to life. Mustaine simply can't muster the vocal power to sell it, damaging what was until that point the best track on the album. The oddest number is without question “The Blackest Crow”, which tries to mash up metal with bluegrass slide guitar. It's not a bad song, per se, but the country elements are not the least bit integral to the composition, which makes them a weird choice to window-dress the song.
“Super Collider” is a frustrating album to listen to, because the entire thing is an example of a musician who doesn't understand how to work with the talent they've been given. Megadeth has shown in the past that they can play melodic music, but very little of the music this time around stays in the comfort zone the band can make the most of. Mustaine writes songs that don't sound like Megadeth, that he physically can't sing the way they should be sung. He shoots the album in the foot before it's ever able to leave the blocks. Maybe “Super Collider” had potential in different hands, but as a Megadeth album, it's not worth listening to.