We'll never nail down a guaranteed formula—
and it would be horrible if we
did—but one facet stands out immediately:
a sense of movement. A great
riff—regardless of how many notes
or chords are employed—grabs you
and sticks with you. A select few stay with you forever. A case in point would be Led
Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” with its resounding groove that's so reminiscent of a
hot rod shifting into high gear.
For Megadeth, memorable riffs are an essential part of the band’s sound. Principal guitarist
and songwriter Dave Mustaine has made a career out of crafting some of the most
iconic riffs in metal’s history, ranging from the machine-gun-like opening of “Holy Wars”
to the bouncing, flatpicked bass line of “Peace Sells.”
With the release of Th1rt3en—the band's 13th major recording—Megadeth shows
they still have the fire and drive that made them one of the biggest metal acts in history.
From the slicing first chord of “Sudden Death”—which is tinged with hints of black
metal on top of its classic Megadeth gallop—the album immediately sinks its talons in
deep, with unrelenting fury and aggression. The return of founding bassist Dave Ellefson
is more than welcome, and his complex, slinky helps make this set of new songs ring
true like those from the band's heyday.
But while the entire band performs excellently on Th1rt3en, lead guitarist Chris
Broderick deserves the biggest props. His work with headbanging outfits Jag Panzer and
Nevermore had already won him the praise of many of the most critical metalheads,
and his fretboard wizardry and composition skills were further highlighted on his debut
with Megadeth on 2009’s Endgame. But his playing on Th1rt3en shows that he’s even
more comfortable with the band’s groove, as evidenced by the incredible interplay with
Mustaine’s iron-clad rhythm work and Ellefson’s solid low-end foundations. On top of
that, Broderick manages to set his playing apart from his predecessors while retaining
the classic Megadeth feel. His lead work on the barn-burning triptych of “Never Dead,”
“New World Order,” and “Fast Lane” is a perfect example of this. Though Megadeth is
so influential and beloved that its fans engage in long, heated debates about which eras
and band members were the best, Broderick proves here that he can shred with the best
of them while keeping his playing tasteful and restrained when needed. No matter what
you think about the rest of Th1rt3en, by the time you reach the final track—“13”—any
fan of metal guitar will concede that his playing is on par with any of the lead work the
band has ever recorded.
Ultimately, Th1rt3en is a Megadeth album, through and through. The band has
forgone any efforts to modernize or evolve beyond their firmly established and proven
sound, but it doesn’t really matter. Th1rt3en is a solid album from start to finish, and
it has sonic elements from virtually all points of the band’s storied career—fast, vicious
riffing similar to what's on Rust in Peace, epically crushing opuses reminiscent of Peace
Sells…But Who’s Buying?, and even slower, more groove-oriented material similar to
1996’s Cryptic Writings. Th1rt3en might not reach the otherworldly heights of the
group’s previous work, but there’s literally something for every sort of Megadeth fans.
What's more, it proves Mustaine, Ellefson, and company have a whole lot more 'deth
left in 'em. —Jordan Wagner
Must-Hear Tracks: "We the People" and "Never Dead"