OTwo Reviews: The Sick, the Dying… and the Dead! by Megadeth

Image Credit: Megadeath and Universal Music Group

Thomas Kavanagh dissects Megadeth's recent release ‘The Sick, the Dying… and the Dead!’

Megadeth have cemented themselves as one of the legends of thrash metal. Releasing their first album in 1985, they have been pioneers of blistering, fast-paced guitar playing and killer guitar solos. So far, they’ve released fifteen albums, and now they’ve come out with their sixteenth, the follow-up to the Grammy-winning, critically acclaimed album Dystopia. This one’s epithet might be familiar to those of us who suffered through the recent pandemic: The Sick, the Dying…and the Dead!

So how does it stack up in Megadeth’s library?

There isn’t any doubt that Megadeth kept up the fast-paced thrash metal that defined their early career and that they returned to on Dystopia. In many ways, this feels like the latter’s sequel. That makes sense. Why fix what isn’t broken, right?

There’s no doubting the skill of Megadeth’s men. Frontman Dave Mustaine has adapted well to a grizzled, grittier tone as a vocalist. As a guitarist, he and fellow guitarist Kiko Loureiro blast out rapid riffs and epic solos. Drummer Dirk Verbeuren also earns his keep here, keeping up with the fast pace of the guitar duo and adding in skilful drum fills at intervals. 

The songs themselves are intense and brutal, living up to Megadeth’s reputation

The songs themselves are intense and brutal, living up to Megadeth’s reputation. Two highlights for me were the title track, with blistering riffs coupled with a dark clean guitar interval creating a despairing feeling reminiscent of plague (the Black Death, not the Covid-19 pandemic, Mustaine clarified in an interview), as well as ‘Night Stalkers’, which features a cameo from rapper Ice-T.

The standout track for me is ‘Dogs of Chernobyl’. The clean guitar opening is nectar to the ears, proof that Megadeth can have melody amid brutal riffs. The song goes heavier, and transforms into speedy thrash towards its conclusion. The song reflects a recent personal aspect of Mustaine, who underwent cancer treatment in 2019 during the making of the album. The lyrics reflect a nuclear wasteland, a fitting title.

The album is not without negatives, however. The fast-paced riffs can become boring after a while, and I found myself wishing they had more melodic moments like the intro to ‘Dogs of Chernobyl’. Megadeth aren’t incapable of injecting melody into their songs, as they’ve proven on previous albums. As well as that, it isn’t without awkward lyrics. Songs like ‘Junkie’ and ‘Mission to Mars’ could have used some more revisions lyrically. At other times, because it sounds like Dystopia, I can’t help but compare the two albums, and I have to say this is the weaker effort. The hooks aren’t quite as memorable here, and at times, it feels like a blatant copy of what came before.

Even so, in conclusion, it’s a good album despite its flaws. It’s no Rust in Peace; let’s be clear about that. And maybe it’s not quite as good as Dystopia. But it’s a fine album nonetheless; proof that Megadeth can still put out good content more than thirty years since their heyday.