Dave Mustaine. Yep, it is still a name that conjures up mixed emotions in the metal world. Through all the years of triumphs and failures, MegaDave is still here whether you want him to be or not, and he probably doesn't care what you think anyway. Hate him or love him, in the last twenty years at least, he has been putting consistently better music than that other band he was unceremoniously booted from back in the 1980s. Aside from the aptly named "Risk" album and a constantly revolving cast of band members (Dave Ellefson is back in the band after a decade on the sidelines), Megadeth's sound hasn't changed drastically through all of that time.
However, this dogged "maintain the status quo" posture has proven to be a mixed bag when discussing Megadeth's thirteenth album, which is titled...uhhh...Th1RT3EN. This reviewer would have called it "The Number That Comes After Twelve," this would be more metal and ominous, and probably even more asinine, but alas, you can't always get what you want. Now, onward to the actual review.
The artwork for this record is very generic and Vic Rattlehead just isn't doing much on the cover this time around, so don't look for the visual satisfaction you would get from cover art that graces classics like "Peace Sells." The most immediate impact this record makes on a set of ears is the sound. Recorded at Dave Mustaine's home studio with mainstream producer Johnny K, the record has a very modern rock radio sound that seems slightly odd for a Megadeth recording. The vocals are louder than needed, and the most glaring audio warts are the lead guitar parts, which are buried in the mix and sound very distant. This is detrimental to the listening experience, as Dave Mustaine and his second guitarist, Chris Broderick, are very accomplished lead players.
This all is apparent within a minute of the very first track, Sudden Death. Not the best start to an album listening session. The next two tracks, Public Enemy No.1 and Whose Life (Is It Anyways?) bring a further surprise, as they sound more like hard rock songs from the '80s with their conventional verse and chorus arrangements, and less like the hard driving material found on the last few records. However, tracks such as We The People (check out the awesome rhythm guitar at 2:55 in the song), Never Dead, and Deadly Nightshade are solid, thrashy tunes you expect Megadeth to deliver.
It is quite difficult to really say much about the rest of the album. Something is missing, and that something has to be a measure of inspiration. Dave's vocals sound tired and the songs have no truly memorable parts. Running almost fifty-eight minutes in length, it also feels ten minutes too long. I suppose your thirteenth album HAS to have thirteen songs, no? Having listened to the album numerous times, this reviewer keeps getting drawn to listen to the band's previous effort, "Endgame." That album was a far more compact and complete piece of music, full of lightning riffs and memorable songs. "Th1rt3en" simply sounds like the band keeping the machine running on idle, and not much else.
Unfortunately, bands like Megadeth sometimes have to live in the shadows of the their past creations, and in some ways can never really escape them. People are people, they get old, become more settled, and the immediacy of life being lived on the edge dulls considerably. Megadeth has been around a long time and has already obtained a coveted place within the metal pantheon. This listener, for one, is content to accept okay records from them in their later years, as long as they don't collaborate with Lou Reed and really start pissing on the legacy.
Final Score: 6/10