As recently as 2009’s Endgame, Megadeth was a very good band. Perhaps not a great one, but it appeared as if fans were primed to enjoy a late career surge from Dave Mustaine that included a good heap of rippin’ new thrash. Unfortunately, this hope was dashed by 2011’s Th1rt3en (it still kills brain cells to type that), which offered a mix of Youthanasia-esque accessibility and other far worse blandness, while showing that Dave had no intention of even remotely listening to his fans. Hopes for Super Collider were thusly quite low, most listeners having accepted that Megadeth was once again an act obsessed with attaining a huge radio following that they never even got close to in their prime. Expectations were low, and expectations were met.
(Let’s not even get into the irony of the conspiracy theorist, false flag waving, super-duper Christian Dave Mustaine naming an album after one of the greatest scientific achievements in the history of our society. He probably thinks the LHC is a plot to engulf the world so the Illuminati can all rule from their hidden base on Mars.)
Look, there is nothing wrong with aging and changing one’s style. This music belongs to Dave Mustaine and Dave Mustaine alone. He is allowed to write, record, and perform whatever unpleasant nonsense he so chooses. But fans are likewise allowed to save money, spare their ears, and avoid bad setlists. Really, the problem with the last couple of Megadeth albums (along with shit like Risk and most of The World Needs a Hero) isn’t necessarily that Mustaine is getting older and changing his style, it’s that he’s really lousing up the process. Take these things into account:
• Mustaine is simply not that good at writing accessible radio rock.
• He’s not particularly adept at actual singingi.
• This lineup was built for thrash metal, and having them play this material only ups the cock rock vibe by a factor of about 11.
Beginning with that first point, Mustaine can barely write his patented thrash riffs these days, let alone the heavy AOR heard here. While that bright and shiny title track might be the bright and shiniest, the vast majority of Super Collider is completely and utterly inoffensive. Either it sounds like something a house hard rock band would squeeze in between covers (the derpish “Burn!”) or it is some attempt at being heartfelt (“Don’t Turn Your Back…” and the horrid “Off the Edge”). Even the attempts at thrash (opener “Kingmaker” and the multi-sectioned “Dance in the Rain”) are hampered by a lack of intensity or an overabundance of vocal layering and studio sheen. But hell, even on Countdown to Extinction the biggest hit was among the album’s worst tracks, so precedence for Dave-writes-crappy-catchy-stuff already existed.
Even with all of the bland stylistic choices and tendencies to over-produce (really feeling those strummed wah riffs guys…), the worst part of this album is the lyrics, which are almost entirely fucking horrible. To examine further, we join Mustaine as the guest of one of the all-time great inquirers:
Lyrics aside, it’s also telling that by far the most listenable song of the bunch is the closing Thin Lizzy cover, “Cold Sweat.” While it lacks the character of the original (naturally), it does rock pretty darn hard, and Dave just snarls, not attempting to sing like the incomparable Phil Lynott. That leads us to…
…Dave’s singing voice. Mustaine is not a good singer. This isn’t intended to imply that he is not a good vocalist – he used to deliver his sarcastic and pissed-off-but-too-lazy-to-do-shit-about-it lines with glee, giving classic Megadeth a personality all its own – but a singer he is not. For much of Super Collider he attempts to sing, and croon, and harmonize, and sound sensitive and friendly, and generally act like he cares. It would be hard to tolerate even Ronnie James delivering these lyrics, let alone Mustaine’s limited pipes.
Finally, and most importantly, this current lineup of Megadeth is ill-suited to perform the material that is being written for them. Much like with Anthrax attempting to cover loose rock songs, Megadeth playing this kind of material feels rigid, lifeless, and forced. Chris Broderick – easily the best post-Marty lead axe man the band has seen – seems out of his element here, tossing would-be guitar hero licks all over the place but lacking the kind of brashness a Vai or EVH would bring to such flairs. The drums have been dumbed down to the point that it could be anyone, and you can almost picture Shawn Drover twirling his sticks between rolls. David Ellefson likewise offers little excitement. (Not a lot to say about David Ellefson; is there ever?) So it really isn’t that this album is some sort of betrayal to Megadeth’s legions of fans, rather that they are literally the wrong band to play it.
Listen, it isn’t all horrible (but most of the lyrics are), but even the few decent songs are about 1/3 of the quality of even the worst stuff from Endgame, to say nothing of how they relate to the glory days. As was pointed out on this site recently, Mustaine has the freedom to write the music he desires as his career fades into retirement age. He is probably quite proud of Super Collider, and likely gives exactly 1/100th of a damn what we, the metal underground, think. But there is still a huge question to ask: if it isn’t for us, who is it for? Who in the cross-mocking unholy fuck actually likes this shit? I have seen Megadeth live in the last few years, and even good newer tracks like “Headcrusher” were mostly met with lulls after the band ripped through classics such as “Lucretia” and “In My Darkest Hour.”
People who like Megadeth want thrash because that is what the band is (was) good at. People who like fluffy hard rock want to hear bands suited for it. No one wants what Super Collider has to offer.