Act of Defiance – Birth and Burial (Metal Blade 2015)

What an exciting project this is. I’ve been familiar with Chris Brodrick for quite a while now. He was a touring guitarist for Nevermore back in the day and, of course, his time in Megadeth. Unfortunately for him, his years in Megadeth saw the release of two of that bands three weakest albums, but also one of the masterpieces. I’ve been listening to the Drover brothers since Glenn made an appearance on the King Diamond record House of God. Shadows Fall was never really my thing, but I’m familiar with their sound and style.

The only one here I didn’t really know anything about was the vocalist Henry Bonner. He’s apparently been involved with quite a few bands, but nothing I’ve ever heard. But I got say I’m really enjoying his vocals. He has a really good, intense voice and abilities both in clean, hard rock style, vocals and a more gritty hardcore meets In flames style of performance.

The intensity of the music is I bit different than I anticipated. I don’t know what I expected, but this definitely wasn’t it. This really is edgy, fast, technical music with a focused vocal performance. The opener, Throwback, is totally guitar centric, which is to be expected with guitarists with the abilities of Chris Broderick. The solo midway through the third track, Thy Lord Belial, is just out of this world.

Refrain and Re-fracture is without a doubt my favorite track. It has that magic blend of aggression and melody. It’s also the first track on the disc to feature some melodic vocals, which I appreciate. The first time I listened to this song, I was puzzled by the drums in the intro which seemed ill fitting and out of place. After a few listens I have grown to expect it, but they still seem out of place somehow.

The second half of the disc is a bit weaker than the opening. Dead Stare and Poison Dream deliver a few nice guitar moments, but as stand alone tracks they don’t really make it. The title track finishes of the album and is a great finally. Powerful and strong guitar, backed by a thumping beat and catchy vocals, the lyrics are a bit over the top, but the melody is strong.

Considering that this is the debut, I’m extremely hopeful for the future. I would hope for a little more unity going forward, maybe more of a band sound, rather than heaping so much on the guitar. I guess this is Brodericks band, as he is the main songwriter and focal point. When they play as a band they sound great and I would love to see more of communal effort on the release.  I like the vocals and would love to see Bonner   get a little more room to explore and experiment.  The combo of powerful clean vocals and the intense screaming makes for such great listening experience.

 

Recommended downloads: Throwback, Birth and Burial, Refrain and Re-fracture

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Megadeth – Dystopia

I’m pleasantly surprised on the first listen, hey this doesn’t suck! Dave has reached into is anger and paranoia for concepts once again, thank god. Dave wrights his best music when he’s angry at someone or scared of something, however farfetched that something might be. Let’s just be thankful to Broderick and Drover for leaving the band and pissing him off once again.

The new guys are seasoned metal warriors. Kikos’ influence can be clearly heard one a few tracks. I’m not a big Angra fan, but I know a lot of their material and there is more than a few licks on Dystopia that has an Angra-esc style to it. Letting Kiko contribute right from the get go seems to be a good idea. The direction of the music is ever so slightly shifted. Every song on the album is easily recognizable as a Megadeth / Dave Mustaine song, but there is a little something different lurking on every track, something new and exciting.

The addition of Adler on drums had a lot of keyboard warriors all up in arms. Comments flying about Dave poaching the drummer of popular newer band to cash in that bands success, or how Megadeth finally had drummer worthy of following Menza and / or Samuelsen, presenting Adler as some sort of savior. The drumming could just as easily been laid down by Drover without me noticing. It’s solid drumming, but I really cant find any distinguishing features to set Adler apart from former drummers of Megadeth.

The album is definitely riff-heavy, there’s plenty of noodling going on in almost every segment, of every song. A song like the Emperor has no outstanding riff, but is jam-packed with ideas. I didn’t like this song very much the first time I heard, but it’s since grown on me. The banality and repetitiveness of the lyrics annoyed me at first, but I’ve got to admit that both song and melody is catchy as hell.

A real stand out track is Conquer or Die, and this is one of the songs you were can clearly hear Kikos influence. It starts out with latin guitar part and builds up the intensity before it explodes into a heavy song. There is a bunch of nice heavy songs on this album Fatal Illusions, Lying in State or Poisonous Shadow are the prime examples. Poisonous Shadow kind of stands out a bit from the other songs on the album and sounds a bit like it might have been originally conceived during the The World Needs a Hero sessions.

And once again Mustain is digging out some US centered political blabber. Post American World  and Foreign Policies is just too American in their lyrical content for me. The lyrics seem ridiculous and sounds like conspiracy theories for a guy from northern Europe.

Recommended downloads: Conquer or Die, Fatal Illusions, Lying in State, The Threat is Real

Megadeth – Super Collider (Universal 2013)

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I think Dave should slow down, take some time to build up some nice hatred, skepticism and make some new enemies. Post comeback Megadeth has been a roller coaster ride with great heights and unbelievable lows. The worst of them all was Thirt3en, my God, that was a bad, bad record. I can honestly say that the last record and this one are the lowpoints in Megadeths catalog. There isn’t much to remind one of the great tunes that has left Mr. Mustains pen over the last three decades. But I believe in Dave, I believe he can still make some great riffs, some headbanging beats and rocking melodies, sadly they are lacking on Super Collider.

I have to give props to Dave for King Maker, which is a song of classic Megadeth sound and quality. It’s a fast paced, in your face thrash, and (and this is important) the lyrics aren’t totally predictable and cliché. I’m not usually that concerned with lyrical themes, but predictable, cliché and banality in lyrics are a big no no.

I’m not going to go through this album song by song like I usually do, that would end up with med repeating the words “disappointment, mediocre and predictable, but nice guitar work” a whole bunch of times. Instead I will just comment on the few songs that made me react in some way. First off, the opener, King Maker, is solid with a classic Megadeth feel, as mentioned above. The title track, and also the first single, reminds me of 90’s Def Leppard. I think it’s got something to do with the riff and vocal melodies.

Built For War starts off great then just sinks into mediocrity, the main riff is a good example of what I love about Megadeth, but as a whole the song isn’t good enough. David Draiman lends a hand on Dance in the Rain, which is among the better songs of the album, a proper heavy metal song. Don’t Turn Your Back … has potential, but it seems like Dave couldn’t be bothered to finalize the writing process.

The closer is a Thin Lizzy cover of the great song Cold Sweat, but for some reason it sound like a Jeff Waters / Annihilator song, not a Megadeth song or a Thin Lizzy song.

Super Collider is a mediocre Megadeth album, the songwriting seems uninspired and half assed, but it sounds good. Johnny K. did a good production job, that must be said, and as always the guitar work is stellar, especially Chris Broderick’s solos are amazing.