All images courtesy of 5Bam Management
By Andrew Daly
For those who continue to count Megadeth as down and out… think again.
Be it cancer or David Ellefson‘s personal life, nothing seems to be able to phase Megadeth. And considering that the veteran Bay Area outfit’s latest studio assault, The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead! is something of an out-of-control supernova; you could say that things are looking up for Megadeth.
It would be all too easy to assume that the album’s title is a metaphor for our times. But in truth, Mustaine had visions of death via pandemic far before the COVID-19 virus began to ring our collective necks. I supposed that makes him a modern-day metal Nostradamus.
As Mustaine stared cancer directly in its stony face, the surly six-stringer kicked back and “kicked cancer’s ass,” only to have longtime bandmate and on-and-off friend David Ellefson fall prey to a sexting scandal, ultimately leading to the bassist’s ill-timed expulsion from Megadeth.
What’s a metalhead to do when his body fails, and his friends leave him?
In Mustaine’s case, it’s writing the nastiest record one could conjure. But Mustaine didn’t stop there; no, The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead isn’t just nasty; it’s a straight from the ’80s, balls-to-the-wall overload of super-charged, thrash metal glory.
Dystopia (2016) was a fierce record, to be sure, but its leanings were steeped in Megadeth’s early to mid-90s “commercial phase,” While that was wonderful, some fans were left wanting more.
Since that time, holdovers Dave Mustaine and Kiko Loureiro remain on guitar, with drummer Dirk Verbeuren being cherry-picked from Soilwork, assuming a drum throne one occupied by the likes of Gar Samuelson and Nick Menza. And as previously mentioned, Ellefson was jettisoned, with former White Lion alum James LoMenzo beginning his second tour of duty with the band.
But what about the record?
Well, The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead! indeed appears to be the product of six hard-fought years, and it shows in all the best ways possible. Through twelve tracks, the trio of Mustaine, Loureiro, and Verbeuren maintain a torrid pace, supplemented by Testament’s Steve Di Giorgio on bass, who came in to re-record Ellefson’s bass tracks in the 11th hour.
This record is for you if you’re the type that longs for the Megadeth of the ’80s. Steeped in edgy glory and early thrash flourishes, cuts such as “We’ll Be Back,” “Night Stalkers,” and “Soldier On!” find Mustaine climbing back into a long-vacant saddle. For fans who came of age during Megadeth ’90s era, fear not; there’s plenty here for you too. Indignant cuts such as “Sacrifice,” “Junkie,” and “Dogs of Chernobyl” remind us of the magic of Megadeth’s supposed commercial height.
Most meaningful of all, though, is that The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead! exists at all. Megadeth’s future was far from certain in the wake of Mustaine’s cancer diagnosis, but true to form, Mustaine and Megadeth came out on top, albeit with a few more scars via bullet wound.
With LoMenzo now in the fold, the current lineup of Megadeth is as fierce as any the band has featured in its history. And while it’s sad that Ellefson is no longer a part of it, at the end of the day, LoMenzo fits perfectly, and perhaps the band is better for it musically and interpersonally.
With Mustaine embracing the beating his voice has taken and the band itself evolving and coming together in ways thought unimaginable just a few short years ago, Megadeth has flipped the script from infamy to greatness.
In a torrential swoon of heavy metal glory, The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead! is screaming up the charts at a furious pace. Seemingly, against all odds, Megadeth, quite literally, is bulletproof.