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Roadrunner (2011)
Rating: 7/10

What else could be a more fitting title for Megadeth’s thirteenth studio full-length album than Th1rt3en?!

Megadeth have had more line-up changes than I’ve had hot dinners, and although Chris Broderick (guitar) and Shawn Drover (drums) remain from 2009’s Endgame, it’s no surprise that there is yet another change in personnel with mainman Dave Mustaine bringing back original bassist David Ellefson to the fold following an eight-year hiatus.

Clocking in at just under an hour, Th1rt3en boasts, you guessed it, 13 tracks, beginning with the melodic strains of ‘Sudden Death’ which, despite lacking pace, is a dark, brooding affair with Mustaine’s vocals adopting an even more sinister sneer; the snarls higher in the mix courtesy of producer Johnny K, who also contributed to some of the songwriting.

‘Public Enemy No. 1’ – an ode to gangster Al Capone – may disappoint a few, because despite being an infectious affair it’s nothing more than a hard rocker that has more in common with early Alice Cooper rather than thrash metal. Even Mustaine’s smirk conjures up some of Cooper’s early works and suddenly I’m hearing a less lethal Megadeth. To my dismay this continues throughout the album although ‘Whose Life (Is It Anyways?)’, with its punkoid guitar sound, injects an element of pace, but again we’re still lacking the ferocity of the previous opus.

I hate to say it but there’s something rather unremarkable about Th1rt3en. Ellefson’s bass certainly doesn’t have the effect of James LoMenzo’s spine-shuddering strumming, and while the solos and drum assaults are still crisp, the whole affair is, sadly, reverting back to safe.

‘We The People’ drifts by without effect, although ‘Guns, Drugs & Money’ does pack a mightier punch, but Mustaine still seems keen to resort back to groove-based metal rather than anything barbed. It seems that Johnny K’s influence is all over this record, and only ‘Never Dead’ attempts to cross the bridge into thrash territory.

Elsewhere, ‘New World Order’, featuring former Megadeth members Marty Friedman (guitar) and Nick Menza (drums) on the writing credits, is a complex affair. Almost disjointed in its melody, it features a catchy, chanted chorus, and while still lacking cutting edge it’s one of the album’s best moments. However, ‘Black Swan’ and ‘Deadly Nightshade’ once again wallow in more melodic waters, while driving song (!) ‘Fast Lane’ rattles by like a runaway train whose impact is mere powder puff effect.

I am disappointed with Th1rt3en, and unsure as to why Mustaine has reverted back to a more simple, less furious sound? It seems that guitarist Andy Sneap’s (Sabbat / Hell) involvement in the production of United Abominations (2007) and Endgame was more than just a tad responsible for the band’s injection of snarl and pace, because here even the title track fails to ignite; it plods along bringing with it bouts of frustration and perspiration as I ponder just what Megadeth will come up with next. I just hope it’s better than this.

Neil Arnold

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