Whether you want it to or not, once a nickname is acquired, it sticks. Sometimes for life. For almost as long as the band has existed itself, Californian speed metal legends Megadeth have been known by fans as Megadave. A purely affectionate nickname for sure, but one which grew out of frontman Dave Mustaine‘s often brutal and cold-blooded approach to personnel management. The singular constant in a revolving door of band members, make no mistake. Mustaine is Megadeth. Always was, always will be.
For a while during the nineties, Megadeth actually operated as a fully functioning band. Four musicians of the highest calibre working off each other brilliantly, sparking ideas and creating some of the band’s finest work. Those days of parity might be long gone but the fire which drove the band still remains in the shape of its flame-haired founder. A fire still clearly evident during the making of sixteenth studio album, The Sick, The Dying… and the Dead (Tradecraft/Universal) when after revealing a little too much of himself on Twitter, Megadeth bassist Dave Ellefson was the recipient of yet another firm and decisive swing of the Dave-hammer and quickly became former Megadeth bassist Dave Ellefson.
So, with bass duties passed temporarily to Testament‘s Steve DiGiorgio (former member James Lomenzo having already rejoined), Mustaine is joined this time by former Soilwork drummer Dirk Verbeuren and guitarist Kiko Loureiro, the Brazilian six stringer returning for his second album, his seven years of service making him Mustaine’s current longest serving member.
After the almost Monty Python style “bring out your dead” prelude and an intro similar to AC/DC‘s ‘Hells Bells’, the multifaceted title track eventually takes off but lacks the devastating punch of a classic Megadeth opener. Things change quickly though, and that punch appears on instant cobweb-remover ‘Life in Hell’ and the fast, aggressive stab of Ice-T (Body Count) assisted ‘Night Stalkers’.
The Black Sabbath style apocalyptic warning of ‘Dogs of Chernobyl’ stands as one of the strongest songs on the record but things stall a little with the wobbly vocals of ‘Sacrifice’ and the appropriately toothless ‘Junkie’. Partly spoken interlude ‘Psychopathy’ leads into the lyrically acidic ‘Killing Time’ while the militaristic ‘Soldier On!’ and biting ‘Célebutante’ are two more genuine highlights. ‘Mission to Mars’ features a heavy Saxon vibe and a ‘Rust in Peace’ dad joke before the album climaxes with the ‘Black Friday’-isms of the fantastic ‘We’ll Be Back’.
Although there’s no question that The Sick, The Dying… and The Dead! often packs a serious punch, it’s also quite an uneven record. While some songs attack with refreshing savagery, others are delivered with seemingly little conviction. The melodies are strong, the riffs are satisfyingly solid and the solos are enough to strip the enamel from your teeth but the lyrics often fall painfully short and while Mustaine’s trademark sneer is still present, it’s delivered with little of his usually dependable bitter sarcasm.
7 / 10