They say that art imitates life, and given the issues that have plagued Megadeth in the past few years, their new record was bound to be one that burned with a fiery intensity.
Marking a furious return to form that began with the Grammy-winning Dystopia, Megadeth’s 16th album, The Sick, the Dying … and the Dead! pushes forward musically and poignantly marks frontman Dave Mustaine’s recent triumph over his recent battle with throat cancer – and gives fans surefire proof that the thrash legends are back and better than ever.
The new record sees Mustaine joined by guitarist Kiko Loureiro, drummer Dirk Verbeuren, and bassist Steve DiGiorgio, who temporarily stepped in to record the album before James LoMenzo rejoined the Megadeth family as their permanent bass player following David Ellefson being dismissed from the band due to a sex scandal.
In true Megadeth style, the album’s title track kicks the 12-track record off with a bang, with the leading track opening with the ominous voice of a villager urging people to “bring out your dead”, a line that Mustaine says wasn’t just inspired by Monty Python and Holy Grail.
“It’s a little bit of that, but more than anything it’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein when they were going looking for the dead people,” Mustaine tells Rolling Stone.
While one could be forgiven for assuming that the album’s title refers to COVID, Mustaine makes a point to insist that it actually has nothing to do with the pandemic.
“People think the record is about COVID and I have to cry foul on that – it’s absolutely not about COVID,” Dave says.
The plague-themed lyrics continue throughout the headbanging opening track, more specifically, a reference to the seemingly innocuous nursery rhyme “Ring Around The Rosie” in which Mustaine sings:
You can’t mask the fragrance of death in their beds
There’s typhus in the air, and ashes everywhere
Amongst the sick, the dying, and the dead
Asked about his motives behind the reference to the macabre children’s song, Mustaine explains, “The poem is actually about little kids talking about people being cremated entirely, and I thought, ‘That is gnarly, that is just absolutely gnarly!'”
“What the plague doctors used to do is wear these crazy masks that had really long apparatuses that went over their mouths and noses, and they would fill it with flowers and camphor and stuff like that to cover the smell of the dead.
“That’s what the guy on the cover of the album is wearing as well as some of the people in the background,” he adds.
The rest of the album is rife with ultra-frenetic riffing, and fiercely intricate solos, all of which bring together everything that’s exhilarating and distinctive about Megadeth.
Among these include the blistering throwback fury of “Night Stalkers” (featuring rap icon Ice-T), the more mid-tempo and melodic “Soldier On!”, and the first single “We’ll Be Back”, with Mustaine confirming that the final track is a warning that iconic rockers won’t be stepping down into obscurity anytime soon.
“This record signifies that Megadeth is back and we’re not going to go out any way but on top,” he declares.
And in even more exciting news for fans, the rocker revealed that there’s also hope for even more new music in the pipeline.
“If there’s going to be new music, there will be new music, but I already talked to our guitarist Kiko [Loureiro] about starting to put some riffs together and he was over the moon about that,” he says.
“We’ve just finished this record, we haven’t even played one song live yet and we’re talking about recording a new record.
“Which is cool for fans who don’t want their band to go away, but I also want to make sure we don’t get distracted doing other things, or water down our songwriting process, because that process is a sacred process.
“I write very differently from the other people, I tend to try and write a story and then have the music work the story,” he explains.
The Sick, the Dying … and the Dead! is out now digitally as well as on CD, vinyl, and cassette.
The Sick, the Dying … and the Dead! Track List
1. “The Sick, the Dying … and the Dead!”
2. “Life in Hell”
3. “Night Stalkers”
4. “Dogs of Chernobyl”
8. “Killing Time”
9. “Soldier On!”
11. “Mission to Mars”
12. “We’ll Be Back”