This album has gotten so much bad press that it's hard to approach with an open mind. As a huge Megadeth fan, and someone who was very fair to their previous album, I wanted to be able to say good things about Super Collider. If it was possible, I would say to all those uncritical, starry-eyed Mustaine fanboys out there, "don't worry, the album is great, fuck the haters, bro!" (or whatever they sit around and say to each other). Maybe if I was incredibly dishonest, I could say all those things, but I can't. This album is awful.
Perhaps the worst thing about Super Collider is how much of a tease it can be. Songs like "Burn!", and "Built for War" all start out very promising, as if we're about to hear a solid, late-era Megadeth song like "Headcrusher", "Sleepwalker", or "Sudden Death". But no, in almost every case, the music devolves into a bland soup of mid-tempo Mega-mush. I don't mind Megadeth going poppy (Cryptic Writings was awesome) but for God's sake, the title-track sounds like a Nissan commercial! And yet again, with "Burn!", Dave tries to go the bad-ass, danger-boy route like he did with "Fast Lane" and "Moto-psycho", songs you might remember…for being two of the worst, cringe-inducing Megadeth songs ever. Dave's voice really sounds shot here, as he barely bothers to do more than speak in his low voice through most of the record.
As for the other members, it feels as if they've become resigned to their roles as "hired hands" – as Dave condescendingly calls them – unable to challenge the project-leader in any meaningful way (hmm, what does that remind me of?). Of course, much of their playing here is very solid, especially Chris Broderick's solo work.
And in fairness, not everything about this album is bad. Some of the riffs are pretty sweet, and Dave can still write a catchy melody here and there. One interesting surprise comes with the banjo-laden "The Blackest Crow", which might be my favorite song on the album. The poetic lyrics actually suit the rustic feel of the song very well, and for a brief moment you sense the band was actually inspired: "I left her everything, she only left my ring"… damn, maybe this song should have been called "Burn!" instead. Otherwise, "Kingmaker" and "Don't Turn Your Back…" both show flashes of excellence, but are not nearly enough to carry the entire record.
People are saying this might be their worst album since Risk. But Christ, at least Dave's voice was still in good shape then. And with Risk, Dave could easily justify it by saying "we were just trying something different", but that "get out of jail free card" expired a long time ago. And I understand when people say we shouldn't judge Megadeth by Dave's public behavior. But when his public persona begins to bleed into his art, the distinction starts to become meaningless. Yes, Dave has always been kind of a jerk. But at least before the late 2000's, he was a witty, thoughtful, likable jerk who made AMAZING records (he still is all those things when he chooses to be). After all, it was Dave who said, "Without death, life would be meaningless, don't you think?" Nice. And now this same person has embraced…young earth creationism!?!?
Again, this publicity grabbing nonsense (let's hope that's all it is) wouldn't matter if it didn't impact the lyrics on Super Collider, which on the whole are either incredibly trite, predictable, and uninspired, or are simply so preachy and pedantic that you feel personally insulted upon listening.
The lyrics to "Off the Edge" are so generic, it's as if someone generated a computer algorithm using tired, old cliches, set it to equally generic music, and then spat it out like a wrench on an assembly line. As for the more political content, it's not as bad as I thought it would be. There are indeed disturbing things happening in the world right now that merit a perceptive, measured, and intelligent response, and Dave actually comes close to it at the end of "Dance in the Rain", but the verses that precede it just sound so forced and awkward that it botches whatever good there is. I would have more sympathy for Dave if he would use his public platform to try and make a real difference, or encourage people to take some substantive action, rather than mouth off about the most paranoid, self-perpetuating conspiracy theories; ones which only reinforce the believer's feeling of powerlessness and negate any sense of personal responsibility.
But you know, who needs principles when you have books and records to sell?
Call me sentimental, but part of me still has faith in Megadeth and their ability to make good records. That same part of me feels bad and wants to give this album at least a 5.1 out of 10, just to keep its head above water. But that would only dull the message that needs to be said here: Super Collider is a massive failure. The last thing Dave Mustaine needs is another cheerleader to go lock-step with everything he does.
If people simply treat Mustaine as untouchable and kiss his ring at every opportunity, you know what we'll get for it?
More albums like this.
Let's hope this won't be how it all ends. And let's hope Dave starts drinking some tea with honey to repair that voice of his. As a good friend of mine said recently:
"Dave's voice is gone, presumably he spent it yelling at clouds".
Favorite Songs: "Kingmaker", "The Blackest Crow", "Don't Turn Your Back"
(Oh, and it doesn't help that Dave's taken what was one of the BEST tours in the US and turned it into this)
*Correction: "Cold Sweat" was originally included in the criticism of this album's style, but has been removed because the author did not realize it was a Thin Lizzy cover, and he only knows their (classic) Jailbreak album. The author regrets this error.