Album Review // 2022-09-01
The Sick, the Dying... and the Dead!
Megadeth was one of my first loves, as far as metal goes. Countdown to Extinction and Youthanasia were the first albums I heard by them. The artwork, pace, guitar riffs, the angsty vocals, and memorable flow to the songs really grabbed my attention as a kid. I continued to be a fan as years went on. I saw them live in 2005 - still one of my favourite concerts, ever. And quite frankly, to me, Dave is the king when it comes to guitar!
His story is crazy, as he has had some life experiences that almost took his ability to be in a band away. I remember when he had nerve damage with his arm. It was thought that he might not get his ability to play guitar back. Then his throat itself being affected by cancer. I think this had to be more than just a little discouraging, an attack on his very livelihood. This man is determined!
But with a new album coming out, I had to wonder what would he be coming out with now, in 2022, with the changes in members. The changes this time around seem to come abruptly, with the loss of Dave Ellefson, who actually was a founding member of the band.
It's funny - I am the type to think more deeply about things than the bands themselves sometimes do. But, I have always found with Megadeth, it just sounded metal, and that was it. It just made sense. It was only when someone asked me what I was listening to, and I said the name, that I realized it sounded like some kind of impending doom. But to those into metal, it made sense. It does make sense.
The name of this album - The Sick, the Dying... and the Dead! - when I first heard it, just made me think of the reality of death, the reality of sick people, the reality that we all face it. But for Dave, this is a reference to the black plague and the widespread death of the time.
I tried to go into this with an open and neutral mind. Though I have liked or even loved most of what Megadeth has put out, there are some things I feel I can do without, such as their collab with Christina Scabbia, or the album Super Collider. I listened to The Sick, the Dying... and the Dead! for the first time after a busy, barely-have-a-moment-to-think kind of week. These are the thoughts it stirred up after several listens.
It wouldn't be a Megadeth album without Vic showing up. Here he is dressed in an older fashion, ready for battle, and also one of the few alive. He seems to be the composure in this situation, as flames and bodies are shown in the backdrop. Is the cloak supposed to symbolize a plague doctor? I think this is well-done and appropriate for this band and album.
This album has Megadeth's defining feature seen early on in Megadeth's work. That is: immaturity, and a level of unrestraint on emotions and thoughts. I don't mean that as an insult; I mean, how many people can make a song that makes you think of a pissed-off rant you are spouting to yourself as an adolescent? In your head, in that moment, you really feel like there needs to be action, retribution, even. What is ironic about this, is that Dave is actually an intelligent, well-researched, thoughtful type, and he puts a lot of effort into what he produces. This album isn't a concept album, but overall, there is a sense of loneliness in it.
When you really look at the many ways he uses his voice on this album, it is quite amazing, after this many years! He uses his growly singing, his angry self-talk muttering, his higher screech, his fry. Like we have seen in previous work, there are clips and voices, such as used in Célebutante and Mission to Mars. Personally, I don't love clips in music, but the way it is used in the latter song really makes it feel like more of an interactive experience, and something I have come to expect from them.
I have to face the facts: many bands just don't stand up to the level of talent that goes on here. But you can have talent without passion, and I don't feel that is the case with Megadeth. When I first heard the song We'll Be Back, and saw the video accompanying it, I really noticed how great that song's layout is. It is a well-written song. That isn't the exception, here - it is more of the rule with their work on this album. Funny thing is, I followed it up with more songs that day from different bands, and they all fell flat in contrast. There were a few moments where the guitar came right out at me in a way that made me think it sounded a little different for Megadeth. Sacrifice was an example of a song that stood out as being different. I think if the entire album felt that way it wouldn't be a positive for me, but I think they actually were able to keep the Megadeth feel here, with some innovation. The lead guitar wraps around the melody and drums. It is done in such a way that solos don't feel like solos, even when they are basically back to back. Those quieter strumming moments take me back to other albums, and provide the right atmosphere. I feel like creating those quieter moments in thrash is an art in itself, and can be done wrong.
The Sick, the Dying... and the Dead!
Dave has made it clear that though it may seem the title here is referencing the pandemic, he was actually thinking of a plague from the past. I don't think we can really fathom what that was like, back in the day. Not as much medical knowledge, travel, communication. Apparently, during times of plague, flowers were sprinkled over dead bodies to get rid of the smell. We see this referenced in the song.
The sweet smell of rosies, a pocketful of posies
You can't mask the fragrance of death in their beds
There's typhus in the air, and ashes everywhere
Amongst the sick, the dying, and the dead
Life in Hell
Seems like this song is about someone who lived a shaded life. Their life is being compared to hell. Then, when they die, they are welcomed to hell. So, whatever way you look at it, it sounds like someone that struggled in life and death.
You may be eloquent with your savoir fare
But each time the smoke clears, another body's there
You've had more than your share of good advice
There's nothing left to say, now except "have a life"
Their faces haunt your dreams, each, and every night
When it gets too much, in your ring there's cyanide
Now everything fades out and you depart just like a ghost
The devil says, "Welcome to hell, I will be your host"
Dave wrote this song about the military planes called of the same name. It is a good way to tell their story. Always surprises me when Iced T's voice comes in... Every time. Apparently, they are friends.
The angels of death ride the waves of the air
You barely see the pilots on this "Zero-Illum" night
The avengers ready, now, as the targets growing near
Tracer bullets, shot from the ground, behind enemy lines
Blacked out, we're under radio silence
Night vision on, green halos a' glow
It's killing time, another lesson in violence
Bodies pile up, and adrenaline starts to flow
Dogs of Chernobyl
This song has inspired me to watch the documentary that Dave watched that got him thinking about this song and bringing the lyrics together. I guess the dogs that were abandoned when evacuation took place at Cherbobyl were just devastated. This is a story of being left behind in a dark moment.
I see your face, wherever I turn
There's blood on my lips, as my eyes start to burn
You vanished and left me behind, like
One of the dogs of Chernobyl, where did you go?
Nuclear winter is here
No warning, and no pain, only shock and then dread
No one coming, no one going, I'm alive with the dead
Nausea overwhelms my brain, distance is the goal
Stomach spasms, leaking gut, I have lost all control
Saliva gurgling, I'm retching, till I overwhelm the bowl
I ask God, in repentance, "Do you still want my soul?"
I don't know if Dave was thinking of a specific person here that swore an oath to the devil in real life (whatever that means to you), or is referring to a person who is embracing evil things. It makes me think of making a deal with or trusting someone that just wants to screw you over. I have had this experience in my life. People peppering me up and telling me how great I am, and then trying to get something from me. I know Dave has talked about his experience with magic and hexes, so it makes me think he is talking about this in a more specific sense.
Just beware if every thought has consequences
What they think is worse than any curse could be
The sky's, the sky's, on fire, flames rise, and shadows fall
Cremate, cremate, the King, sky-clad, and drenched in blood
Binding hexes, casting spells, the demons drink to you down in hell
When you promised not to break the oath you take... The oath you make
Every charm and talisman can be broken
It must be unwound, and undone, if you wanna break free
The oath you take... The oath you make
Clearly, this is about addiction and how dangerous it is. Death by accidental overdose is a leading cause of death. I have felt the impact of addiction with people in my own life.
He found a dealer playing Russian roulette
The cure is worse than the disease
He's long past caring if he dies
He fills the needle, slams a shot, and then
Squeezing the trigger, he closes his eyes... Fire!
Junkie, what you live for, junkie, you'll gladly die for
A dope seeking missile
Psychopathy is terrifying! Not having a conscience isn't something I can fathom. But this is a real thing.
Psychopathy, like many psychiatric disorders and syndromes
Has environmental, as well as moderately strong genetic components
Findings indicate there are genetic influences
Accounting for all of the psychopathic dimensions
While environmental factors appear related to the disorder
The reciprocal nature between factors and expression
Of psychopathic traits is an important goal for future research
I think they really used a play on words here, because you can say it is the time for killing, or that you are trying to pass the time. I think both fit here.
Stop saying you're grateful, cause you're not, your kind is so hateful
I'll make sure I'm ready, I'll make sure that I'm ready to go!
If I told me once, I told me a thousand times
It's just a matter of time, you'll screw the world inside-out
You're a sick, psychopath, you squander everything, and then laugh
You've got to know what around comes around, and around!
To me, this song sounds like acknowledging how hard something has been - maybe your failures along the way - but picking yourself up and moving forward.
No reason left for living, living all alone
And dying unforgiven, with unforgiven bones
Dead year, and the dread years. They were all throughout your life
The road was soon your mistress, and the stage became your wife
This is about someone who wants to be the center of attention. Maybe they make drama everywhere they go. Best to stay away from this type of person.
You wanna hear the people screaming out your name
Whispers at night in your midnight confessions
You'll do anything for fame, celebutante
You say you're an actor, well, then come set-up the stage
Put the cast right where you want, show us what you got!
You say you're in movies, always dropping names of
So-called-semi-almost-famous friends, it never ends
Mission to Mars
I had to chuckle about this because at first I thought of Elon Musk. He is literally trying to set up life on mars. In 20 years, we may look back on this song and laugh that we thought it was a big deal to get to Mars. The lyrics have a campiness that only Megadeth can get away with.
Blast off I am on my way, I am a shooting star
A man on a mission
I hang with the man on the moon
I'll be there soon
I am a man on a mission to mars
We'll Be Back
It was smart to put this as the last song. The lyrics indicate you have a sense of need to keep fighting a battle. That you will give it your best. You could parallel that with the band continuing to write music.
I'm a soldier of fortune, of torture, and pain
I bash in your skull until no teeth remain
A 'most-deadly' weapon, pulverizing your head
With each crushing blow, how you wish you were dead
Just when you think it's safe, I attack
We'll be back
When you least expect your fate, I attack
We'll be back
A kick to your face, one move, big mistake
We'll be back
Let down your guard, full-on frontal attack
I'll be back!
Megadeth added two covers on the Japanese release, both of which seem pretty well-done. I am not a big fan of covers, myself.
I had a hard time picking the songs to put on my mix playlist. At first I really thought that it was obvious that the songs they put out as singles were the best songs, but after listening more times, I made my decision.
At first, I actually didn't like the "Yeah, yeah" that happened lots in the title track, but it helps create the melody of this song. I really like how it feels like older songs, but not so much that it is an exact replica. The opening riff is just so Megadeth. I enjoyed that calm strummy part too. It is really telling the story of The Sick, the Dying... and the Dead! here.
We'll Be Back will also join my playlist, as I really like the pace and the encouragement in this song, even though it is literally talking about pounding someone's face in.
I broke the rules and added Soldier On to my playlist, too. It was just too hard to decide. It has that memorable, get-stuck-in-your-head quality, and again, it is very encouraging.
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