My Favorite Albums: #83 Megadeth’s “Countdown to Extinction”

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10 juin 2009, 5h25m

I have been told by a radio host that there are two types of Megadeth fans: those that think “Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?” is the best Megadeth album and those who think “Countdown To Extinction” is the best. Personally, I like to think I am neither, as I enjoy all their discography (“Risk” excluded). I have pondered the meaning of this and I guess it’s meant to signify the earlier thrash albums versus the more mainstream sound that Megadeth had during this era. I wonder why people worry about this, as if the popularity of “Symphony of Destruction” impedes their ability to like the album. Okay, so the album is different than the earlier stuff, but what this really mean? Overall, I would say better song structure and cleaner production. Megadeth’s dueling guitar sound is greatly enhanced by the clarity of the production, bringing out the nuance of their shredding, whereas it was muddy before. And yes, I think Mustaine’s song writing ability got better as time went on, when he introduced more melody. It wasn’t less metal. Just less heavy and exploratory.

Now, “Countdown to Extinction” is an album that I really feel lacks bad songs. Of all the songs, only “This Was My Life” is not immediately recognizable to me. The rest have outstanding moments that make them memorable. “Skin O my Teeth” is a great album opener, striking immediately into a fast paced drum roll and a chugging riff that Dave manages to get an interesting cadence over. This song is further enhanced by one of the best solos on the album, as it fits the music perfectly but still manages to diverge into interesting speed and phrasing. “Symphony of Destruction” is a song that may be recognizable to non-metal fans, having cropped p in many other places. It has kind of a start stop riff that really lay out a good rhythm and gets even more interesting in its digressions leading up to the chorus. This is one of Mustaine’s more restrained vocal performances on the album, but they are rather present and luckily, the lyrics aren’t too shabby. “Architecture of Aggression” is a stand out on the album, as the machine gun drum intro and the guitar sound really harkens back to the older Megadeth. Add the fact that Dave’ growl is so strong here, talking of course war/politics and you have an archetypal Megadeth song. Although not their fastest song, it really highlights the guitar and that is what Megadeth is all about.

Foreclosure on a dream” is an interesting divergence, as I guess it could be classified as a ballad. Although I wouldn’t call the acoustic part particularly striking, it comes to a head with its conflict with the electric guitar, which provides a moving background for Mustaine’s singing. Surprisingly, it also features a really badass solo for a ballad. My complaint with this one is the damn George H.W. Bush talking segment. What is with Dave Mustaine and talking songs (see album “World Needs A Hero”). “Sweating Bullets” may very well be the silliest song on the album. I’ll go ahead and say it: Dave Mustaine can write some really laughable lyrics. This interplay between him, made even wackier by Dave’s rising at weird times vocals and you have a recipe for disaster. What saves it is the same stop start effect made so present in “Symphony of Destruction”. For some reason, this style really seems to drive the heavy home, which is really enhanced by the drum beat and a really simple solo. “This Was My Life” has a promising vocal intro, but I think it gets a little too high pitched at times. The riff is good, but just not as memorable as most of the other songs. “Countdown to Extinction” is one of the more interesting ones compositionally. For instance, the bass is more present, jumping out every so often to really drive in the rhythm. I also like this best on the album for Mustaine’s vocal delivery, especially the rising intro and the subdued but multi-layered chorus. Plus, the riff in the chorus is extremely well voiced and entertaining.

High Speed Dirt” is another song with a rawer sounding tonality, driving a little faster than most of the other songs. Dave really comes off challenging in his vocal delivery and something about the rhythm here, delivered so well by the drums; push the song along into the chanting chorus. “Psychotron” is another of the stupider lyrical songs and at times the delivery of the song’s body verges on rapping. But some reason, I really like this song, to the point where I would probably pick it as my favorite on the album. The riff is among the heaviest on the album and I like the little noodling segments as each line’s delivery. The snare drum really adds a snap to each line. The solo really rises above the backing section, in a very powerful but subdued way, even permeating into the main body of the song. And let face it: the weird lyrics make it very memorable. “Captive Honour” is immediately memorable to me because of the talking segment which features Mr. T. However, the rest of the song is good, especially the intro’s acoustic lead in that provides an interesting plucking line as well as good contrast to the rest of the song. Dave really snarls the vocals here, which is usually when his vocals are at their best. The chorus is also very memorable. “Ashes In The Mouth” works well as a closer, as its heavy style really satisfies why you listen to Megadeth. The riff at the chorus lead ins are quite well timed to draw attention and the solos work well. I also enjoy the layered chorus that provided lyrics thematically appropriate for the end of the album. And let us forget that it’s the albums best example of the duel solo where Mustaine and Friedman each take turns shedding only to combine in harmonic lines. I find this to be an orgasmic effect.

This is a great album. I don’t care if Megadeth sold out as long they write me more songs like “Architecture of Aggression” and “Psychotron”. Although it doesn’t have a much duel solos as some of the other albums, it is still a speed metal dream with enough variety to keep it all interesting.

Favorite Track: “Psychotron”

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