Well let’s start out with the positives; it’s not a complete disaster like I thought it would be. Anytime an old school band tries to revive its sound through a concept album, normally things start to go arye pretty quickly. In fact, for much of the album, Dystopia is actually quite good. Really good in fact. The main riff from the title track is one of my favorites I’ve heard in this young year. The lyrics are shit, sure, but nobody would expect anything else, instead you just enjoy how fucking groovy and head-bang worthy the tracks are. The fact that an aging old man is desperately trying to sound edgy doesn’t dawn on you as the riffs and solos caress your ears like a mother feeding its baby some spiked milk. Sweet, with a bit of a kick to it.
And then they just… stopped. Like, Death From Within comes on and the entire rest of the album is complete mediocrity with good solos. There’s lots of chugging sure, but there some good grooves there, nothing really awful. At some points there are tracks where it is actually just a bunch of chugging until the solo, Post-American World being an example of such. It is literally just absolutely fucking nothing until the solo hits, then the song ends. And this isn’t the only track like that. But again, that’s generally forgivable.
What ISN’T forgivable is what I mentioned before, those god forsaken vocals. It’s just so damn obvious that this is sung by an old geezer, and it really takes you out of Megadeth’s aesthetic. You know that scene in 30 Rock where Steve Buscemi infiltrates a high school, arrives is dressed up in teenager cloths and goes “how do you do my fellow kids?”? That’s how I feel when I hear Mustaines voice. The dude is desperately trying to remain relevant and just can’t fucking do it, not only to a failure, but to a complete detriment of the album’s quality. The culprit of all of this is how precisely and clearly Mustaine states every single word, when it would be a really, really good idea not to.
Terrible lyrics in metal is not so uncommon. In fact, I’d even say it’s the norm. Metal is unlike most other genres, in that the lyrics are normally quite unimportant, which explains why much of the most highly acclaimed metal albums of all time have rather lackluster lyrics. Part of that is because you literally can’t hear them, which is I guess one way to mask being a shitty writer. In black metal, death metal, and even some sludge metal, it’s very normal to not be able to hear a single word spoken in the entire album. It’s why there is actually a distinction between vocals you hear and vocals you can’t, called “clean” vocals. Now I know pretty much everyone who is reading this knows this shit, but I feel like there is a lesson to be learned here. Even in bands with clean vocals, normally the lyrics aren’t that great, but it’s masked by the fantastic musicianship and melodic playing, with riffs and all that good shit. A lot of people only listen to metal because of those riffs in the first place. Basically, this is a very roundabout way of saying if you’re going to have shitty lyrics, have something to distract someone, or make sure they can’t hear them anyway.
Megadeth doesn’t do that. Instead they let their 9th grade reading level fupa hang out. And when it hangs, it pours. Because what they do is instead of masking their poor writing, they actually strip down the music so that you can’t focus on anything other than the lyrics. There really isn’t a eloquent way I can put it that’ll take up text space, this is just pure trash. The Emperor in particular is some of the cringiest lyrical garbage you’ll hear out of a major band. Not that there isn’t any other cringe on this album (the end of Poisonous Shadows gets a solid B+ in that department), but I think The Emperor easily tops them all, which is saying something.
I really wanted to like this. For the longest time I was holding on to the fact that this was a 7/10 and a great comeback. And I do think it’s a step in the right direction. But a step is just a step, and where they’re stepping from is one of the worst records in recent memory. In reality, while I dissing this a bit more than it deserves, Dystopia really is just average overall. If I was a major Megadeth band, I would really hope this would be their final record, because if this is all they got, there’s nothing left in the tank.