Remember when Metallica’s “black” album came out? Those of us who were fans since Kill Em All certainly do and I remember selling my cd back about a week after picking it up. Yes, there were some good songs, but they were all short, radio-friendly and (gasp) there was a ballad of all things! The Metallica of old was gone and really hasn’t returned since. I see Super Collider as Megadeth’s “black” album. The standard Megadeth thrash sound is still there but only in short bursts here and there. Dave Mustaine’s scathing social commentary is toned down a bit and the songs in general are more radio friendly. That being said, there is no mistaking the songs for Megadeth. In that sense, I think this is less of a departure from their “sound” as the ”black” album was for Metallica. Many have already heard the title track “Super Collider”, and I would caution you not to judge the rest of the album on that song as I feel it is probably the weakest on the album. If you can get past the change in direction, this is a good, listenable metal album.
Super Collider is the fourteenth album from Megadeth, a band that has been active for 30 years and seen over 20 different members. Most notably, Dave Mustaine also shares some history with Metallica as he was an early member of that band as well, being let go in 1983, which prompted the formation of Megadeth with bassist Dave Ellefson. Over the course of their career, Megadeth have sold over 50 million albums, had six consecutive albums certified platinum or better, and have received eleven Grammy nominations. Not too bad for a thrash band. As a band, Megadeth has also taken part in some historic tours, most recently joining Metallica, Slayer, and Anthrax in the Big Four shows. For Super Collider, Megadeth again worked with Johnny K as producer (Disturbed, Sevendust, Machine Head) which in this case may have had some influence on the overall sound, but more on that later. No stranger to controversy, Dave Mustaine often says exactly what he’s thinking with seemingly no filter and one can see Super Collider as the album Dave wanted to release regardless of the criticism he had to be expecting.
The album gets off to a great start with “Kingmaker” a song reminiscent in feel of “Wake Up Dead” in a way. Heavy pounding riff to open the song with a fast galloping verse filled with some trademark Dave Mustaine venomous, indicting lyrics about our society’s never ending search for pleasure and the consequences of that, “…worshipping the pill, drown them all with alcohol, anything for thrills… I want everything that makes me feel alright… Mom and Daddy’s lights are on but nobody’s home”. Fast, but simple riffing, the galloping bass and drums, and two relatively short solos really carry this song and likely make it one of the tracks on the album that shouldn’t disappoint longtime fans.
When “Super Collider” was first released, I will have to say that I was a bit taken aback as it doesn’t seem like any Megadeth song I can quickly recall, and in this case that is not a good thing. Very far from thrash and very radio-friendly metal/hard rock is where I would place this song. Of course, Dave Mustaine’s trademark vocal tone comes through but only in the verses, other parts of the song has him joined in harmony for some soaring vocal type choruses that seem out of place on a Megadeth album.
“Burn” starts off with a great intro guitar solo and then immediately jumps into the verse, again driven along by some simple but driving riffing. Carrying on the theme of the album, this one is heavy but more radio-friendly than would be expected from Megadeth. Lyrically, some of the lines may reflect Dave Mustaine’s pre-emptive response to the anticipated criticism of the album and his explanation about changing direction by burning some of the bridges to the past, “I’ve got a sickening feeling my life is standing still, it’s clear that fate is closing in…born to lose I’ll die to win, Burn baby burn, because it feels so good…I’m getting on my own nerves, I get no satisfaction…”
Spoken vocals similar to those of “Wake Up Dead” (off Peace Sells…1986) start off in “Dance in the Rain”. Some good drums in the background keep the song interesting as well as the subtle tempo changes and guitar fills add some interesting elements to this song. The main riffs throughout this song as well as in many on the album have some thrashy elements to them but never stay to that style. Thrash does make an appearance toward the end of the song briefly as there is an abrupt break and transition reminding me again of what is heard in “Wake Up Dead” and then song becomes much faster and has an entirely different feel, more like older Megadeth.
The bluegrass banjo opening of “The Blackest Crow” has the potential to throw many fans into an uproar and the theme carries through the rest of the song, so keep that in mind. Personally, since this was track eight on the album and I had shifted expectations at this point of what was going to be on the album, I found the intro and concept interesting. The song is actually carried throughout by the underlying bluegrass banjo line with the heavier guitar layered on top. This is likely the farthest song from thrash and possibly most radio-friendly on the album but taken on its own, the song works and there is some good guitar solo work thrown in as well. Thrash, no; listenable, good song, yes.
The last of the new tracks “Don’t Turn Your Back” seems completely appropriate in terms of order on the album. The song opens with a bluesy guitar intro then fades into a faster metal riff and some fast double bass accenting things nicely. This last track on this album that has angered some reviewers and fans for the departure from thrash and the heavier, trademark Megadeth sound, I find this an interesting choice for the last track. It’s almost as if Dave is asking long-time fans to not “turn your back on a friend”.
The standard edition of Super Collider officially closes with a cover of Thin Lizzy’s classic song “Cold Sweat”. If this was on previous Megadeth albums it may have stood out more as an odd choice for a cover song, but on this album it fits in well with the style of songs on the rest of the album. Those looking for an original Megadeth interpretation of the song will be disappointed as this version is extremely faithful to the original. As it is so close to the original, it’s a good song, but does take away from the overall feel of the album. This song will likely work extremely well in a live setting as part of the encore, but really should have been a surprise bonus-type song to avoid raising unfair expectations.
2. Super Collider
4. Built for War
5. Off the Edge
6. Dance in the Rain
7. The Beginning of Sorrow
8. The Blackest Crow
9. Forget to Remember
10. Don’t Turn Your Back
11. Cold Sweat (Thin Lizzy cover)
Dave Mustaine – lead vocals, guitar
Dave Ellefson – bass, backing vocals
Shawn Drover – drums, percussion
Chris Broderick – guitar, backing vocals
Record Label: Tradecraft (dist. by Universal Music Group), June 2013
Video for “Kingmaker”