Release DetailsLABEL Roadrunner
RELEASED ON 5/15/2007
posted on 5/2007 By:
By now, it’s pretty clear that most people know what they want and don’t want when it comes to Megadeth. Through vodka and heroin-enhanced brilliance, to groundbreaking technical wizardry, to introspective exercising of personal demons, and flirting with commercial disaster, over the years Megadeth have arguably released the most diverse collection of albums than any other (in)famous band without making major mistakes that pushed them completely past the irredeemable point of no return (got mighty close, though). I’ve always compared Dave Mustaine’s brainchild to a good cigarette; under ideal conditions it satisfies and enhances a mood like nothing else, and other times it tastes like a glass of freshly-squeezed ass and makes me want to retch. Even though United Abominations is far from being the most precious jewel in the crown of Megadeth, a tweaking of the engine has occurred, and the results are not entirely unpleasant.
In a way, United Abominations validates a suspicion I’ve held for a long time, and that is that each new album is a reflection of band morale rather than raw creativity or inspiration. Mustaine wears his heart on his sleeve, and shows it in his music. There is no inner turmoil bubbling under the surface at the moment, that is for certain, and as a result the material sounds more like a band effort where everyone is completely on the same page, and no personal agendas are being pushed. While this is one of the more nondescript lineups (Mustaine, drummer Shawn Drover, bassist James LoMenzo, lead/rhythm guitarist Glen Drover), U.A. sounds more cohesive than anything I’ve heard since Countdown To Extinction.
The music is aggressive enough, and it almost feels as though touring with heavier bands on Gigantour has rubbed off a bit on ‘Deth, since many of the tracks feature an easily digestible mix of progressive technicality with more straightforward accessibility more commonly found in bands like Nevermore, without being quite so intensely driven. Glen and Dave exchange leads as if they’ve been performing together for longer than they actually have, ripping out scalding solos that burn with flash and substance in a totally natural way, with neither guitarist trying to outdo the other. Shawn and James create an understatedly bold rhythm section with Drover supplying an admirable percussive backbone, contributing nuances and rock-solid embellishments adding flavor to just about every tune on the album in some shape or form.
Shawn’s dexterity is displayed during the riveting “Washington Is Next!” when both guitarists fly into a storm of leads, as Drover tosses in subtle but crucial extras to the riveting segue, and tasteful fills throughout the body of the song. The choruses on “Gears Of War” and “Sleepwalker” pack a catchy, commercialized wallop, and “Pay for Blood” is a little return to jazz with a really bouncy groove that just kind of sails in from nowhere to break up the mood, and would sound extremely out of place if it weren’t so well-conceived overall (the lead/rhythm section @ 2:41 or so is just tits). “You’re Dead” is my no-bullshit personal favorite, after the killer precision staccato syncopation opens the number, the band rolls effortlessly into a sly groove and stalking vocal presence, launching into chugging thrash during the galloping conclusion featuring some of the most voluminous leads on the album. The intelligent, nearly progressive hooks are intact during most of the CD, with vocal structures adhering to the rhythms like super-glue, and Mustaine is firmly situated in a mid-ranged (for him), less nasal tone of voice, sounding confident with melodies I’m sure he wouldn’t have attempted 10 years ago, which is a plus.
There are thorns on these roses, however. “Amerikhastan” is a major sore thumb with me, and it has nothing to do with the lyrics or wordplay. The tune just sounds clumsily arranged and disjointed, never mind the most unintentionally funny vocal delivery sandwiched between uneventful leads. “Burnt Ice” closes the disc with a happy, energetic musical feel being used to deliver a somber message, which never really sounds quite right no matter what band is doing it. A couple songs could have been dropped or used as bonus tracks (“Never Walk Alone...A Call To Arms”, “Blessed Be The Dead”), and the reworked inclusion of “A Tout Le Monde” strips almost all the bare emotion from the original, glossing it over with a sharper, more calculated vibe that I daresay sounds entirely too overworked in every way. Even the production sounds frothy and sugary as opposed to the gritty cleanliness of the rest of the disc. I’ll stick to the original if given a choice.
When it’s all said and done, United Abominations comes across as something Dave and his cohorts really put their hearts and souls into. I’d have to say it doesn’t touch the band's prior high watermarks from many years past, but this is the best Megadeth album I’ve had the pleasure of hearing in a long time. With no real highlight tracks, but also no crippling points of contention, unless you’re hellbent on sticking to everything before Countdown… with no hope of changing your mind, you’ll be able to recognize this for the potential triumph it is. A critically important moment for the band, United Abominations is an album Mustaine and his partners should be proud of. Solid, with many hints of past brilliance, I enjoyed this a lot more than anticipated, but was merely satisfied and not wowed by anything when it was over. Time to fire up.
posted on 5/2007 By:
These days, of the legendary Big Four, a new album from Megadeth provides the most intrigue. After Metallica became...well, it’s well-documented what they became, Anthrax’s recent Kiss-like disposable band member cash-grab collapse, and the realization that Slayer will continue to pump out solid but duplicative and largely thrill-less efforts, new work from Mustaine always raises curiosities. Not because they’re the most consistent of the bunch (that would be Slayer), but because since Youthanasia (or Rust in Peace if you adopt a less forgiving stance), Megadeth’s work has had more ups and downs than a Jenna Jameson flick. There have been some truly forgettable moments for sure, but Mustaine has managed to provide enough glimpses of the old magic amongst life post-thrash, that you just have to wonder what he’s gonna do next. And he’s on the up-swing. After Risk, the band rightly upped the intensity quotient but came up empty on The World Needs a Hero. Follow-up The System Has Failed became the high-point of the modern Megadeth catalog, in large part thanks to the tornadic "Kick the Chair" and "Blackmail the Universe". But generally speaking, although System benefited from better-written songs than its recent predecessors, its melodic style left some fans cold. Mustaine rights that with United Abominations, Megadeth’s heaviest and most consistent album in years.
Dave sure has worked hard at talking up his new band members, bassman James LoMenzo, and Shawn (drums) and Glen (guitar) Drover, and as promised, United Abominations does sound more like a band effort. At the very least, Megadeth are in excellent form, with Drover serving as a more than capable foil for Mustaine, as the two deal out strings and strings of fluid, white-hot leads and creative riffwork, while the Drover/LoMenzo partnership lays down unassuming but impressive and completely on the money rhythms. Little of the music on United Abominations is thrashy, or even always aggressive, but there’s a pronounced fieriness to the album that’s been missing for years, which seems likely the result of not only creative intent, but also strong chemistry.
United Abominations starts and finishes with its strongest offerings, and it's obvious why openers "Sleepwalker" and the galloping "Washington is Next!" have already cemented themselves into the pre-album release live setlist. Likewise, closers "You’re Dead" and "Burnt Ice" deliver a raging intensity; the former boasting a verse of sneering, smoldering vocals that sound straight off of So Far,So Good...So What!, and the latter existing not so much as a song as an exhibition of scorching lead trading. The middle two-thirds of the album are slightly less impressive, but overall of above-average quality for modern Megadeth. More political than a Tim Robbins acceptance speech, this collection of war-focused songs rages against the United Nations and the politics of war (Mustaine also touches on another un-win-able war–the drug war–with "Burnt Ice", a cautionary tale about the crystal meth epidemic.). This makes for fertile ground, content and aggression-wise, but on the other hand, feeds Mustaine’s frustrating insistence on horrendous dialogue voice overs ("United Abominations") and spoken word rants ("Amerikhastan").
The middle of the album, beginning with the Christian overtones of "Never Walk Alone...A Call to Arms", flows well and, while lacking stand-out tracks, each song packs at least some thrills, making none skip-worthy, although it’s a close call toward the end, when the album hits a bit of a lull with the nondescript "Blessed Be the Dead" and a thoroughly needless retread of "A Tout Le Monde", this time as a duet with Lacuna Coil’s Christina Scabbia. Unless you proudly refer to yourself as a "Droogie", United Abominations probably isn’t going to absolutely make your year. But for long-time fans who recognize new Megadeth albums as a glass half full or half empty reality, there’s easily enough in the plus column to consider this a satisfying effort. Mustaine has said he’s nearing the end of his career. If this is the last Megadeth album he will have gone out on a highpoint the band hasn’t seen for quite some time. On the other hand, based on the gains made on the last two efforts, who knows what Megadeth might be able to accomplish with another couple albums.
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