7 Things We Love About Megadeth’s New Album ‘The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead!’
Here are seven things we love about The Sick, The Dying... And The Dead!, the 16th studio album by thrash legends Megadeth.
The successor to 2016's Dystopia, which earned the group their first-ever Grammy for the title track, has been in the works for quite some time, with April of 2019 once being forecasted as what would become one of many targeted release dates. Months after that mark was missed, leader Dave Mustaine revealed he had been diagnosed with throat cancer, which put all immediate plans on pause, though he did continue to show up to writing sessions while undergoing treatment.
A triumph over cancer, outlasting the coronavirus pandemic which shuttered the world in 2020, and new blood by way of drummer Dirk Verbeuren's first studio appearance and the last-minute addition of Steve DiGiorgio to re-record the album's bass tracks (James Lomenzo has since occupied the live role on a permanent basis), The Sick, The Dying... And The Dead! is more than simply just a new Megadeth album — this is further irrefutable evidence of Mustaine's unbreakable determination and iron will.
As one of metal's all-time hook writers, the Megadeth mainstay offers a lot of instant gratification over the course of these 12 new tracks, but, like always, there's killer arrangements to unpack, double-edged lyrical meanings and so much more that will keep you lured in after dozens of listens.
So, after six long years, let's finally dive into a new Megadeth record!
The solos on “We’ll Be Back” and our first proper taste of Dirk Verbeuren… Umm, and that breakdown at the end, too!
The world’s first glimpse at The Sick, The Dying… And The Dead! came with some G-forces, pinning the listener to their seat for a solid four-and-a-half minutes.
It’s an utterly ridiculous payoff for fans who waited so many years for the successor to the Dystopia, an album that yielded Megadeth’s first-ever Grammy victory for the title track. The title alone is so lovably cocky. You’ll be back? What? You just got here, we’ve been waiting forever! And, wow, there’s more where this came from? Holy shit, buckle up everyone!
Toss in the fact that it’s the album closer and it’s tougher to make a better first impression. Speaking of which, we finally get to hear drummer Dirk Verbeuren’s first contributions to a new Megadeth track and the dude just crushes it, raising the level of intensity to places this band has rarely gone before, if ever.
Those solos are absolutely pyrotechnic — a proper shredfest as Dave and Kiko Loureiro do battle. Then the breakdown at the end? First they melt your face, then they beat your skull in until no teeth remain, just like Mustaine promises in some of his most vengeful, ultra-fucking-metal lyrics ever.
I could probably do a few hour-long podcasts on why “We’ll Be Back” rips so hard, but it’s time to soldier on…
Megadeth, "We'll Be Back"
“Soldier On!” Shows Mustaine Is Still Scrappy, Even in His 60s
Upon this song’s release, Mustaine commented that it's about "coming to the realization that you need to walk away from a relationship that's very toxic." He noted it's a challenge to take those steps in order to make that change, but that you ultimately have to do what is right for you, first and foremost.
You can read as much or as little into that you as please — we're going to take the broad approach in assessing "Soldier On!," the second single off this record and ninth overall in the track listing.
It's got a nice shuffling rhythm that goes a bit bananas over the chorus, which is one of the best refrains among the dozen tracks here, if not the absolute best. Thematically, it demonstrates that even four decades later with millions of albums sold, thousands of shows played, a Grammy and slaying the cancer dragon amid the writing sessions, Dave Mustaine still has that familiar chip on his shoulder.
That chip has fueled brilliance in ways perhaps not otherwise possible and it's the fighting spirit and unwavering determination that has largely defined Mustaine's character makeup — and it's not going anywhere, which yields rich musical rewards for all us Rattleheads.
Megadeth, "Soldier On!"
“Dogs of Chernobyl” Is Not Entirely What You Think It’s About
Well, it is what you think it’s about until suddenly it isn’t. But that’s pretty typical of Megadeth, right? It’s a calling card of Mustaine’s lyrics to use such extreme visuals to connect on a different emotional touchpoint.
In the case of “Dogs of Chernobyl,” the chorus shifts from a realistic surveying of the damage done and in the chorus there’s a physical and mental human toll that begins to unfold and into morphs into a heartbreaking love story: “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?”
It’s a grimy mid-tempo track too and I think I can safely say that quite a lot of us envisioned a lightning fast song about radioactive dogs on the hunt or something. Under different circumstances, we get that payoff over the back half, which mimics the frantic search for safety amid the devastating effects of such close proximity to a nuclear disaster: “Saliva gurgling, I’m retching, till I overwhelm the bowl / I ask God, in repentance, ‘Do you still want my soul?’”
“Come listen to a tale of a tragic sacrifice / Of a warlock king of satanic ancestry”
Ummm, okay! Hey, wait a minute…
“Sacrifice” is a bit of an inversion of “The Conjuring,” at least in the overall intent behind actions taken in devotion to/opposition against black magic. Ultimately, it’s all about “the wickedest wizards” who “barter the souls of the lost for the damned” when it comes to life’s more sinister temptations and those who give in and take a walk on the dark side.
Mustaine speaks from experience as a former black magic practitioner who has since seen the light and, rather than delivering a set of instructions for black magic like he did in that classic Peace Sells track, the Megadeth leader offers a way out via another immortally catchy chorus.
Ice-T's Cameo on "Night Stalkers" Is PERFECT
Ice-T returns the favor after Mustaine guested on the Body Count song "Civil War" off their 2017 album Bloodlust and does so in dramatic fashion.
At 190 BPM, "Night Stalkers" is a total ripper and would've remained so even without Ice-T's spoken word contribution. Dedicated to the U.S. military's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, this one lyrically tackles the heroics of this highly specialized unit and the Body Count frontman offers a commanding presence that brings an added sense of realism to an already dangerously real track. "Locked and loaded, game's over, bitches!"
Megadeth, "Night Stalkers"
"Celebutante" Is a Classic Heavy Metal Song Riddled With Cynicism
Fame-obsessed people make for easy targets, but in so many ways they're still quite worthy targets. Let's be real — nobody likes fake, phony, snobby, dishonest, lying, sleazy folks who will do anything just to be famous for any reason at all, right?
Dave certainly doesn't, at least with "Celebutante" serving as Exhibit A. It's a grand ol' piss take and that's not even the best part! We all know how much NWOBHM and the rest of the world's classic heavy metal style impacted Megadeth and this high-energy song makes no attempt to hide that in a fun-loving nod to that thrilling period.
Rust in Peace Gets Name-Checked on the Super Fun “Mission to Mars”
3:25 — “Why don’t we just return to Earth and let it rust in peace out here?”
Dave’s got a knack for self-reference and it resurfaces here. Remember “Victory” off Youthanasia? A masterclass in autobiographical lyrics!
On “Mission to Mars” it’s not quite that level of genius, but has no intentions in trying to be. This is a big dreamin’ track with a massively playful arrangement, anthemic pop melody (another one of Dave’s knacks) and cinematic sequences. At one point, astronaut Dave’s commander delivers a fun nod to Megadeth’s 1991 tech-thrash triumph — “Why don’t we just return to Earth and let it rust in peace out here?”
Dave makes an emergency request to return to Earth, but that part of this song won’t be turned into a spoiler here.