At this point we can stop arguing (if there actually ever was an argument about it) that Megadeth is Dave Mustaine, Dave Mustaine is Megadeth, and there’s no other guiding principle beyond that; certainly not cohesion. Cohesion, it seems, is what was most evident on the band’s three best records (three best in my opinion, perhaps). That would be Rust In Peace, the potent (and unjustly derided “sell-out”) Countdown To Extinction, and the no-bones-about-it rock of Cryptic Writings. Each record has a singular personality about it and the band sticks to it and creates something that feels consistent from start to finish.
Consistency does not mean repetition, and I would have had no desire to listen to the same thrash and bash copy-catted through a 45-to-60 minute span. But to my point, each of these albums had a specific vision or goal in mind and the work didn’t lose the plot. Unfortunately, there seemed to be no plot at all for Super Collider, the band’s latest. Over here you have a couple of thrashy crashers for the old fans and those that got into the previous Th13teen, or however the hell it is spelled. Over there, you have the hard rock fans that kinda dug some tracks from Risk, bucking the fashionable hate that the album gets (and a couple of its songs deserve). In the middle there is the desire to expand just what it is that this band is and could be, and that is perfectly fine.
I like when bands try. I think that it is a good thing when they experiment, provided that the context the experimentation resides in works. On it’s own, the fact that “The Blackest Crow” starts with, and is girded throughout by bluegrass accompaniment is kind of cool. The song itself is lyrically a goodbye ballad, with the singer mourning a lover’s cold departure (not to death, as metal might expect, but just away). It has that lineage of a folk/western type of song and that transition from backporch blues to hard rock stomp almost seems logical. It doesn’t seem logical next to “Forget To Remember” which sounds like classic Megadeth hard rock, not too far from Countdown‘s sound. Then we have “Built For War” which is, as you’d expect, the bid for Rust In Peace action and works to a certain extent.
But all in one place, the collection comes off as fractured and bipolar. It doesn’t know what it wants to be, and the listener fights to be as generous as possible toward it. It tends to become exhausting.
A lot has been made of David Draiman’s appearance on “Dance In The Rain,” but I was underwhelmed. Mustaine has a growler-voice already, even more so in the past five-or-so years, and Draiman’s voice doesn’t bring much more to the mix in terms of dynamics. Maybe I would be more enthusiastic if I was a Disturbed fan, but the conclusion left me with the unmotivated “meh.” You can be a whole lot of things when you’re trading in heavy metal/hard rock, but if you’re only getting “meh” as a dividend, something is wrong with your portfolio. And enough has been said about the infantile “Burn!” by other critics, so I’ll just let their statements and the fact that this is a song titled “Burn!” do the work.
The bottom line is: Super Collider doesn’t have the conviction to be madly diversified, but likewise is too scattered to hang together properly. The binding principle is Mustaine himself, alone. In the CD packaging, the tray card finds an image of Mustaine standing in the core of a super collider (modeled after a photograph of the one at CERN). Throughout the booklet he is pictured with the band only once, with the other pictures being a sort of photo collage (as employee documents). In this scenario, there’s nobody really there to guide him to what is a good or bad idea. I’m not talking about dictatorial insertion; just a little creative tension that suggests maybe things need to be tightened up or clarified. It feels scattershot and undisciplined, and I’m not sure the presumed goal of pleasing everyone in bite-sized portions accomplished anything other than irritating the disparate factions.
In the end, the only super collision is the lack of unity — of the band, of the songs, and the inherent goals — the album displays, even if the Thin Lizzy cover track “Cold Sweat” is kind of cool.