As much as we will always love him for his vast and pioneering contribution to metal over the last four decades, David Scott Mustaine does often make it difficult to lend unequivocal support. Every time the Megadeth figurehead backs some bigoted wacko in a US election or, as he has recently, claims to not believe in evolution, a large portion of his fanbase winces and backs slowly away until the scary man changes the subject. But whatever we may think of his political or religious views, he at least has the decency not to be a bland, boring corporate footsoldier. And, in stark contrast to his most high-profile peers, Dave has been on exceptional musical form in recent times too, with both 2009’s Endgame and 2011’s Th1rt3en adding plenty to his band’s esteemed legacy.
Oddly, however, Super Collider falls short of fully emulating the brilliance of its immediate predecessors. Initially, as the fiery rush of opener Kingmaker blazes forth, it certainly sounds as if Mustaine and his henchmen have kept the accelerator nailed to the floor. A gnarly tale of drug addiction and societal apathy, it’s a classic slice of snarling belligerence with Dave on peerless, flame-eyed form and some typically mindblowing solos from the man himself and six-string sidekick Chris Broderick.
Next is the title track. Mid-paced and closer in feel to AC/DC than Exodus, it’s bold, catchy and refreshingly straightforward. But herein lies the chief problem with Super Collider as a whole: Kingmaker and the snotty bravado of Built For War (‘…what do you think your fists are for?’) aside, there is little here that taps into the same blend of melodic bite and blazing technicality that has informed most of Megadeth’s classic moments.
Songs like Burn! and Off The Edge are certainly ballsy enough, with huge hooks and countless bursts of incendiary fret-bothering from Mustaine and Broderick, but the visceral complexity of Holy Wars or Head Crusher is conspicuous by its absence. Even so, these are all eminently memorable and enjoyable songs, played brilliantly and sung with absolute conviction, even though in terms of surprises, only the vocal presence of Disturbed’s David Draiman on Dance In The Rain and Forget To Remember and the inspired bluegrass shuffle that underpins the churning menace of The Blackest Crow qualify as unexpected developments.
Sonically, of course, Super Collider is immaculate. Producer Johnny K is clearly not a fan of rough edges, but streamlined perfection suits Megadeth better than any other band of their generation. This is by no means the first time Megadeth have abandoned the high-speed ethics of thrash in favour of a rounded, radio-friendly hard rock approach, but it may be tough to listen to Super Collider end-to-end without bemoaning the absence of a balls-to-the-wall speed metal song.
This is a strong album and fans will find plenty to enjoy, but some may wonder whether it’s his band’s evolution – rather than the Earth’s – that should be concerning Dave Mustaine at this point.