Megadeth. In all practicality, they are perhaps my favorite metal band. They are certainly one of the bands I review most frequently, if you've been following this blog, and with their newest release, Th1rt3en, they give me 13 more reasons to affirm that opinion. In fact, I've probably been playing this album more thoroughly than I've played any Megadeth album since Rust In Peace. If you've been reading my Megadeth posts since the inception of this blog, then you know that's saying a lot!
Th1rt3en is an album that maintains a balance of rhythmic and melodic elements like the band used to do back in the mid 90's. One reason for this familiar vibe is that a couple of the songs were actually written back in that era, but never were selected for an album until now. Die-hard Megadeth fans will recognize these songs since they have appeared as bonus tracks on the Megadeth remasters as 'previously unreleased demos'.
In spite of the fact that almost a fourth of this album's songs were refined from previous demos or B-sides, the way they're interspersed amongst the new material yields an impressive final product. Several of the new songs fit in well with Megadeth's recent work, as Dave Mustaine keeps his unyielding attitude and politically critical tongue focused on more current events. This time around, Dave seems to get this out of his system relatively quickly, as most of these politically-themed songs appear on the first half of the record. Other songs are based on more neutral themes you can bang your head to, even if you haven't been reading the headlines. In both cases, the songs are driven by powerful and intricate riffs; ranging from slow, methodical classic-metal to the ripping and shredding of traditional thrash.
Th1rt3en sees Megadeth literally fusing pieces of their past with the present. This fact is also relevant in the band's line-up, as former bassist David Ellefson returned to Megadeth prior to recording this album. Some of those songs that are reworked demos even list former band members Marty Friedman and Nick Menza as co-writers. However, I shouldn't take away any credit from the newer members: guitarist Chris Broderick, and drummer Shaun Drover, who both execute this collection of technical thrash metal with the utmost perfection that Megadeth have become known for.
Now comes the hard part: picking songs to recommend from Th1rt3en, and narrowing it down to the best of the best... I must reiterate: this is probably the best album Megadeth have done since Rust In Peace. It simply keeps growing on me each time I listen to it. It'll be hard not to recommend the whole album, but still, I will try. Be prepared for a long list...
-Sudden Death (OK, originally this song appeared in the Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock game. Dave said he wanted to write a song that "Challenged the limits of guitar-playing." Fast riffs and furious soloing ensues...)
-Public Enemy No. 1 (My first taste of this song was when Megadeth played it live at Mayhem Fest, before the album's release. It's been a favorite of mine ever since.)
-New World Order (This one was previously available as a demo/bonus track on the remastered version of Youthanasia. It has one of those unique riffs that Mustaine is known for. Great, heavy tune.)
-Fast Lane (You might guess, with the word 'Fast' being in the title, that this is one of the faster selections from this album. You would be correct! A true highlight.)
-Black Swan (Another song that had already been out there... as a 'pre-order' bonus track on United Abominations. Here it becomes available to everyone, and it deserves high marks. Catchy, killer riffs and lead guitars.)
-Millennium of the Blind (Again, a previous version of this song was on the remastered Youthanasia, but it was only half as long, and didn't contain most of the lyrics found here in this 'complete' version. Dave has truly polished this one into a fine gem of melodic heavy metal!)
-13 (Like he once did with the song 'Victory', back in '94, Dave again gives us an auto-biographic song. This one sets a new standard. More melodic in parts, but at the same time dark and heavy.)