Thursday, May 19, 2011

Megadeth - United Abominations (2007)

In the spirit of the "Big Four" phenomenon, as well as our review of Slayer's heavy hitting "God Hates Us All," it seems fitting to include the mad genius of Dave Mustaine. Despite the revolving door of band members, Mustaine has managed to stay relevant, churning out his last two politically charged albums to critical and commerical acclaim. On this 2007 opus, "United Abominations," Megadeth pull no punches and take no prisoners.

From the opening bass line in "Sleepwalker," you know that this is Megadeth on an entirely new level. You get everything you expect, from the pounding, bludgeoning drums to the pitch perfect guitar solos. Mustaine's vocals, often a point of contention, are top notch, delivered in his own raspy style. "Washington Is Next," the first major political statement of the album, features tangled guitars and bass, winding in and out of one another. Drumming is fast and furious, with well placed fills and rolls. There is simply no margin for error when playing behind one of the truly great guitarists of modern metal. A bold prediction of the fall of the American empire, under the watch of George W. Bush.

The aptly titled "Never Walk Alone (A Call To Arms)" follows, with a bridge and hook that will implant itself in your brain. Mustaine proclaims "I loved you when you still hated me." A whining, wailing guitar interlude leads to rewind of that hook, driving the track home. "United Abominations," the title track and masterpiece, begins with a spoken word piece, a scathing indictment of the world organization. Guitars, drums and bass come to a head, chugging ahead. There is no hiding Mustaine's opinions, as he steps onto his soapbox. A rare bit of vocal melody highlights the track, alongside the expected guitar mastery. A spoken word outro, only fitting for such a powerful track, is layered over a drum heavy breakdown.

A theme song for a video game, and yet so much more than that, "Gears Of War" chimes in. Chugging guitars and Mustaine's whispers bring your fist into the air, chanting along. Brilliant guitar work is only enjoyable when it fits into the form of a song, and Megadeth proves that time and again, using bass, drums and vocals as a launching pad for epic solos. "Blessed Are The Dead" and "Play For Blood" are traditional Megadeth tracks, giving you a taste of what the band has been doing for so long. The most talked about song on the album, the rehash of "A Tout le Monde," features Lacuna Coil's stunning Christina Scabbia. They have taken the original, given it some sparkling production values, sped things up a touch, and given Mustaine the beautiful vocals of Scabbia to balance his style. Like it or not, it is an anthem that is hard to forget.

Intentions are clear on "Amerikhastan," a track where we get speculation of a new American empire, starting with the takeover of the Middle East. "Hey, Jihad Joe, we're coming to get you," becomes the battlecry. Guitar work is at it's finest, despite being pushed to the background to deliver the message. The momentum of the album seems to fade slowly, with the angry "You're Dead" and "Burnt Ice" tacked on to the end of an otherwise stellar offering.

Far too often, people let their opinion of Dave Mustaine as a person affect their view of Megadeth, as a band. Like him or not, it is damn near impossible to deny his talent. Not only is he a great guitarist, but he is an excellent song writer and lyricist. This is not to say you have to agree with his platform. Just sit back and enjoy the ride. You are bound to find something to enjoy from Dave and his bandmates... whoever they may be at the time.


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