Countdown To Extinction (1992.), Megadeth’s fifth studio album
The story of Dave Mustaine and his world famous thrash metal band Megadeth is one never short of interest. During the 1980’s, Megadeth never quite found true consistency. Dave Mustaine, out to make music to rival his old band Metallica, was plagued by band line-up troubles. If it wasn’t him firing band member’s such as Chris Poland for selling band equipment for drug money, then it was Dave himself abusing drink and drugs like it was the last day of his life. As a result, the early Megadeth lacked any sense of chemistry and this reflected in the band’s music which, although it was pretty cool and great to listen to, did not quite have the classic touch. This all changed with the recruitment of drummer Nick Menza and guitar genius Marty Friedman. With the new line-up in place, the band recorded the classic that is ‘Rust In Peace’, one of my personal favourite albums of all time. Following a hugely successful tour, there was no doubt that Megadeth had discovered their greatness. Following the tour, Dave Mustaine and Co. went into the studio to make the follow-up album, 1992’s ‘Countdown To Extinction’.
At the time it would have seemed impossible to top an album like ‘Rust In Peace’. So many bands make a great/classic album and then follow it up with a flop. Well this was certainly not the case with Megadeth. OK, in my opinion they don’t top ‘Rust In Peace’ with this album but they still produced another definite 5* effort. ‘Countdown To Extinction’ is an amazing achievement. With this album, we see Megadeth beginning to depart from the thrash stylings of their earlier albums. This is mostly in the speed of most of the songs; the album is slower throughout. However, the riffs are on the whole heavy and at times bone-crunching, the great guitar solos are still there and the recording is undeniably vintage Megadeth. In many ways this is the band’s response to Metallica’s self-titled, released a year earlier in 1991. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of the Black Album. I know all band’s have to develop, but with Metallica, their sound was noticably more safe on the Black Album, with less inventive solos, unimaginative lyrics and sometimes sloppy and repetitive slower riffs. However, with Megadeth’s development with ‘Countdown To Extinction’, none of these problems occur. The band develop their sound and become maybe more commercial but at the same time loose none of their bite. Dave Mustaine still writes awesome lyrics which raise various social/world issues and still puts together really inventive and cool riffs. The solos on the album are great, especially Marty Friedman’s efforts. Finally as well, Megadeth have a great sense of humour in their music too and this can be seen in some of the funny voice over sequences during the album (more about that later). ‘Countdown To Extinction’ was a big success for the band, hitting No.2 in the album charts – it’s the album Dave Mustaine has been trying to beat ever since. That’s how good an album this is!
Following Megadeth’s re-union in 2004 with the release of ‘The System Has Failed’, Dave Mustaine personally helped remaster the band’s back catalogue. With ‘Countdown To Extinction’, the remaster is excellent. All of the guitar lines shine through the remaster, the drums are crisp sounding and the bass is ever present. Mustaine’s vocals also sound great. The remaster of the album also has a great track in the ‘Crown Of Worms’ out-take and demos for ‘Countdown To Extinction’, ‘Symphony Of Destruction’ and ‘Psychotron’. A great remaster version to get hold of.
So what about the 11 tracks on the album? ‘Countdown’ gets underway with hard hitting opener ‘Skin O’ My Teeth’. This song, with a contemplation of suicide theme, has some pretty fast riffs and assured Mustaine vocals. Friedman serves up a great solo during the course of the song. Following this is a true Megadeth classic in ‘Symphony Of Destruction’. A deceptive orchestral opening builds into a slower, chugging but phemoninal metal song. A catchy riff and growling Mustaine vocal sets the tone of the song. The chorus is great and Friedman plays yet again another great solo. ‘Architecture Of Aggression’ follows. Gun fire opens the song before a great pacy metal riff kicks in. A great song with Mustaine raising lyrical issues questioning military tactics. ‘Foreclosure Of A Dream’ is next up, a song looking at political failings. The song has a hard, resonating chorus. The slower verses with softer guitar are good contrasts. One of Megadeth’s most famed songs, ‘Sweating Bullets’ rolls in next. This is a great but also really funny song. Dave Mustaine does some amusing narrative voice overs in the verse. Musically the song is quite simple but it’s very effective. The soloing in the middle of the song is pretty captivating.
‘This Was My Life’ is an underrated track. The song has a quite echoey chorus and some stunning punchy metal riffs. The title track is next, ironically this is probably the weakest track on the album. Lyrically the song is very effective, with some powerful lyrics about the extinction of endangered species. However musically the song never quite gets going, with only the flurried chorus a highlight in that respect. Still, not a bad track. Nevertheless, things pick up again with ‘High Speed Dirt’, with more great riffs and some blazing solos from Friedman and a catchy acoustic guitar fill, before a great ‘High Speed Dirt!’ chorus. ‘Psychotron’ is next, another highlight of the album filled with gritty riffs and catchy solo fills. Theres more amusement, with some funny voice overs in ‘Captive Honour’, a song which looks at crime and it’s consequences. In many ways this is a much improved version of ‘502′ from the ‘So Far, So Good…So What!’ album. Then though, we have the best saved till last with ‘Ashes In Your Mouth’. This song, which looks at the aftermath of war, is my personal favourite track on the album. It’s a criminally underrated song which has an awesome opening sequence and a great accelerated chorus, with a distorted ‘God Have Mercy!’ Mustaine vocal. The song is brilliant right through it’s 6 minute run time. A cool drum solo followed by pounding chords finish off what is a classic Megadeth album.
So there you have it, another essential album in the Megadeth discography. Dave Mustaine and his band may have slowed things down a bit and lost some of their thrash stylings, but this album more than makes up for it in very well crafted songwriting, powerful lyrics and catchiness/humour. ‘Countdown To Extinction’ is another chapter in the development of Megadeth and captures the classic line-up of the band at the top of their game. ‘Countdown’ is a must for any Megadeth fan and for any metal/rock fan in general. Even if your not really into thrash bands, you will be sure to find a lot of common ground with this great album.
MY RATING: 9/10