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Review: Megadeth, Super Collider

Review: Megadeth, Super Collider


Megadeth’s 21st Century run has been something of a phenomenon. For a metal band to be putting out albums with their kind of regularity is almost unheard of, especially for a group of their vintage. That the albums in question include some of the best work of their decades-long career (lineup changes notwithstanding) is also a turn up for the books. Which means Super Collider has to do something pretty special to live up to the kind of form that precedes it. While it tries gamely enough, frankly it doesn’t produce.

NOTE: This article reviews the Special Edition release CD with two extra bonus tracks.

That’s not to say it’s a failure – any album that contains a song as battering-ram insistent and irresistibly groovy as the thrash-tastic opening gambit of Kingmaker could never be considered a wasted effort – but something seems missing. It would be easy to blame the simple hard rock tactics applied to the title track, which has come under the kind of flak usually reserved for violent criminals from the more po-faced members of the metal set, but Super Collider the song, while uninspiring as a standalone track, is shrewdly placed in the wake of Kingmaker’s cannoning salvo and provides a musical contrast that is both unexpected and surprisingly welcome.

The same could be said about this whole album for the most part. Under the guidance of returning producer Johnny K – this century’s answer to Mutt Lange – the band seem to have taken to his short, simple arrangement style and “five minutes or less” ethic, and it pays some seriously enjoyable dividends.

Firstly, there are no ballads. There’s the relentless, pummelling Burn!, the unexpected left-turn awesomeness of Don’t Turn Your Back…, and the splendid, horn-driven A House Divided, but there are no acoustic songs, and no attempts to recapture the lightning in a bottle of A Tout Le Monde. The closest they come to letting up on the pounding pace are Forget To Remember’s oddly sunny-sounding treatise on Ahlzeimer’s disease and The Blackest Crow, which comes across like Foreclosure Of A Dream’s Kentucky-fried cousin, with its bluegrass underpinnings and she-done-gone-and-left-me lyrics. This isn’t a full-on thrash album, but from start to finish, the dials on this particular Super Collider are set to ROCK.

The production is another revelation. It’s been a long time since any metal band released a record that needed to be turned up rather than down to make it sound good, but here it is, gloriously nostalgic and so full of ear candy it ought to carry a diabetes warning. The blistering cover of Thin Lizzy’s Cold Sweat plays like it was recorded in 1992, and is easily the best cover song Megadeth have ever done.

Above all, and perhaps most promising for the future, this album sounds like a real team effort that, unlike Risk’s attempt to please everyone, makes the songs better. Shawn Drover and Dave Ellefson both push things to a higher level with their playing – check out the kick-ass bass solo on Beginning Of Sorrow – while Chris Broderick and Mustaine put solos in places they shouldn’t belong but somehow do. Even David Draiman’s guest spot on the unlikely-titled Dance In The Rain manages to confound the naysayers and work to the benefit of song and album both.

It’s more a collection of little things (and one big thing) that take the shine off Super Collider than anything else. Of late, Mustaine’s distinct brand of social commentary has changed noticeably – he still writes like a one-man Infowars, only one who’s listened to Alice Cooper’s Brutal Planet album a lot – but remained largely listenable. He jumps the shark a few times here, though, as exemplified by Off The Edge’s by-the-numbers, forgettable lyrics. His vocals, too, are spirited, but the mangling of the opening of the otherwise sterling Built For War shows how far a little restraint could have gone. Also, solo sections no longer seem to be hiding places for the band’s best riffs and rhythms, which is one thing ‘Deth has consistently done throughout its career, and is conspicuous by its absence.

Things like this pop up throughout, with the result that the majority of cuts on here come with at least one moment that’s ever so slightly disappointing. But all of it pales in comparison to the moment when irritating “love rocker” All I Want belches out of the speakers and threatens to derail the whole enterprise. Propelled by the worst kind of hair metal blandness from the opening riff to the failed attempt at predictable, sugary vocals, it vaults over all but maybe Crush ‘Em as one of their worst songs. If fans are going to pour scorn on any track on this record, this is it.

Super Collider isn’t likely to sit well with people who take their metal too seriously. Nor will it convert any new or non-metal fans to the fold. It’s energetic and inventive in place, but its throwaway framework and accumulating letdowns make this release more of a guilty pleasure than a stone cold classic.