Megadeth – The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead! (Album Review)

megadeth - THE SICK, THE DYING AND THE DEAD!

Megadeth – The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead!
Released: September 2, 2022 

Line Up

Dave Mustaine – guitars, lead vocals
James LoMenzo – bass, backing vocals
Kiko Loureiro – guitars, backing vocals, flute
Dirk Verbeuren – drums

Online

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Website

New Megadeth! In some way, this is totally worth celebrating given the circumstances that surround its writing, recording and release. The most prolific of the Big 4 of Thrash has had a 6-year gap since 2016’s critically acclaimed and Grammy award-winning Dystopia, caused in no small part due to Dave Mustaine’s throat cancer treatment, while recruiting a new drummer (Dirk Verbeuren) and losing a bass player (Dave Ellefson) along the way. Anticipation has been high following the success of Dystopia, seen as a return to form following the lacklustre Th1rte3n and divisive Supercollider. What exactly would we get from Megadeth’s 16th album? Contemplative ballads? Hard rockers designed to get airplay? Paranoid ramblings? The thing with being a Megadeth fan is that you’re not always sure what Dave will bring to a new album, but fans can rest easy as The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead! is an album that leans into the brightest moments from their past while managing to stand as a new chapter in the band’s legacy. 

You were expecting it to start with a riff? Oh no, we kick off with Monty Python’s classic bit from their film The Holy Grail with cries to “bring out your dead” repeating until Dave and Kiko start with a melodic line that segues into a classic ‘Deth headbanger. ‘The Sick, The Dying… And the Dead’ is a dynamic opener, with the chug dropping out to go back to the melodic chords and Dave whispering the chorus. The solos are crisp and continue as the tempo picks up to close. While the title track has lots going on, making for a good but not great opener, it is ‘Life in Hell’ that erupts into the familiar thrash gallop that Mustaine has perfected over 16 albums. The track’s chorus is straightforward: “I’m a disease and I’m addicted to myself… I’m gonna live and die in hell”. Definitely one to watch once it gets into the setlists. It doesn’t just blast away since there is a groove-oriented bridge with Mustaine doing a spoken word that will ring in your ears afterwards. Nightstalkersis up next and again is classic aggressive thrash. It’s a car crash riff and the leads just add to the anarchy, with Kiko sounding particularly sharp. Ice T pops up to add a verse, repaying a favour after Mustaine guested on Body Count’s Bloodlust back in 2017. The verse is probably a little too hip hop orientated for the average ‘Deth fan so it is more a distraction from the fact the leads seriously shred. What really gets the track to stand out is the flute and bass solo that pops up at the 5 minute mark, reloading the song to go fast again before a great harmonic solo. It’s a song that could very well be a masterpiece with so many things happening across its run time but also feels messy, with T’s verse being quite random in the song structure. 

What is really clear is that Mustaine has embraced Kiko’s abilities this time out, such as the classical guitar intro to ‘Dogs of War’, and so strong solo duels on every track. ‘Dogs of War’ is another longer track but with more mid-tempo reminiscent of Youthansia and Cryptic Writings. It does, however, increase the tempo with Dave’s legendary rasp almost rapping along with it. It strikes me that it is actually tricky to compare much of this album to their back catalogue, certainly it isn’t focused on the more commercial ambitions of Risk, Th1rte3n or Supercollider but nor is it pedal to the metal like Rust in Peace or even Endgame or Dystopia. Riff-wise, ‘Sacrifice’ shares a fair bit in common with the classic ‘Hanger 18’ but there’s also other things going on, such as backing vocals. ‘Junkie’ uses vocal effects and a much more straightforward structure but is less memorable as a result. Some fans will dig it for sure, certainly not a bad album track but not essential either. ‘Psychopathy’ is a percussion fueled song that could have opened the album if they were so inclined and leads into ‘Killing Time’, a track that is fairly stock standard Megadeth with Verbeuren using staccato double kicks with the riff. As already noted when it was released, Soldier On!is a cool thrasher with a great hook about always battling on. It’s an immediate earworm well suited to life in the continuing pandemic and general shit storm that is life in 2020-2022. 

At the end of the day, this is still a Megadeth thrash album, even if some of it feels stock, it is still better than some of their poorly received earlier albums. ‘Célebutante’ is a barnstorming song that highlights each band member’s abilities with some particularly hard hitting drum fills. It’s also a timely reminder that the inclusion of Verbeuren and Loureiro have helped revitalise the band with their own musicianship and enthusiasm. ‘Mission to Mars’ features a prominent bass line and another chugging riff that gets some serious groove on. Dave casts himself as an astronaut, who wants to “headbang on the gang way”, which is a new one in terms of lyrical themes. Get past this absurdity and it’s a bunch of fun with again some killer double kick work. First single We’ll Be Backis the fastest thing on the record, a sick finish with Mustaine’s right wrist getting a serious workout on the riffage. In the context of the album, it makes sense this was out first, since it is both one of the catchiest and most recognisably “Megadeth” songs. How much it stands out among classics in a live set remains to be seen but it’s a ferocious tough guy anthem. 

Like Dystopia, The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead! might have benefited from trimming a couple of songs to make for a tighter collection. It’s not that it is too long, it’s still only 12 tracks, but it sags a little in the middle after the interesting opening tracks and before the blistering closers. I don’t need to sell it to Megadeth fans who will lap it up and need physio treatment for their neck by the time they reach the end. For those who are curious, this is a great introduction to Megadeth as it presents the band firing on all cylinders with some interesting song structures but without the sort of experimentation that has led to disappointment in the past. As far as later day Megadeth records go it is worth filing alongside their better offerings and is a great follow up to Dystopia. Hopefully we won’t have to wait 6 more years for another one. 

megadeth - THE SICK, THE DYING AND THE DEAD!

Megadeth – The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead! Tracklisting: 

  1. The Sick, the Dying… and the Dead!
  2. Life in Hell
  3. Night Stalkers (featuring Ice-T)
  4. Dogs of Chernobyl
  5. Sacrifice
  6. Junkie
  7. Psychopathy
  8. Killing Time
  9. Soldier On!
  10. Célebutante
  11. Mission to Mars
  12. We’ll Be Back

Rating: 8.5 / 10
The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead! is out September 2nd, 2022 via Universal Music. Pre-order here.
Review by KJ Draven (Twitter and Instagram

Megadeth. Photo: Travis Shinn

Chip in a buck or two for the WoS crew!

Want to help Wall of Sound grow and deliver more killer content? Support us by chipping in as little as a dollar to help!

A$2.00