Dystopia (Megadeth album)

Last updated

Studio album by
ReleasedJanuary 22, 2016
RecordedApril–July 2015
StudioLattitude Studio South, Leiper's Fork, Tennessee
Genre Thrash metal
Label Tradecraft/Universal
Producer Dave Mustaine
Chris Rakestraw
Megadeth chronology
Super Collider
Singles from Dystopia
  1. "Fatal Illusion"
    Released: October 1, 2015
  2. "The Threat Is Real"
    Released: November 25, 2015

Dystopia is the fifteenth studio album by American thrash metal band Megadeth. It was released on frontman and guitarist Dave Mustaine's Tradecraft label via Universal on January 22, 2016. The album was produced by Mustaine and Chris Rakestraw and features cover artwork by Brent Elliot White.

Thrash metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music characterized by its overall aggression and often fast tempo. The songs usually use fast percussive beats and low-register guitar riffs, overlaid with shredding-style lead guitar work. The lyrical subject matter often deals with criticisms of The Establishment, and at times shares a disdain for Christian dogma resembling that of their black metal counterparts. The language is typically quite direct and denunciatory, an approach borrowed from hardcore punk.

Megadeth American heavy metal band

Megadeth is an American heavy metal band from Los Angeles, California. Guitarist Dave Mustaine and bassist David Ellefson formed the band in 1983 shortly after Mustaine's dismissal from Metallica. Along with Metallica, Anthrax, and Slayer, Megadeth is one of the "big four" of American thrash metal, responsible for its development and popularization. Their music features complex arrangements and fast rhythm sections, and lyrical themes of death, war, politics, and religion.

Dave Mustaine American musician

David Scott Mustaine is an American guitarist, singer, songwriter, actor and author. He is best known as the co-founder, lead vocalist, guitarist and primary songwriter of the American heavy metal band Megadeth, as well as the original lead guitarist of the American band Metallica.


Prior to Dystopia's recording, longtime drummer Shawn Drover and guitarist Chris Broderick announced their departure from the band. It is the first album by the band since 2004's The System Has Failed not to feature the former, and the first not to feature the latter since 2007's United Abominations . These roles have been filled by Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler and Angra guitarist Kiko Loureiro, respectively.

Shawn Drover Canadian musician

Shawn Drover is a Canadian musician, best known for his work with the American heavy metal band Megadeth.

Chris Broderick American guitarist

Christopher Alan "Chris" Broderick is an American musician, best known as the former guitarist of the American heavy metal band Megadeth. He is also formerly the lead guitarist and keyboardist for Jag Panzer, appearing on four of Jag Panzer's albums The Age of Mastery, Thane to the Throne, Mechanized Warfare and Casting the Stones before moving on to Megadeth, replacing Glen Drover. Before joining Megadeth and while still in Jag Panzer, he was also a touring guitarist for Nevermore between 2001 and 2003 and then again between 2006 and 2007. He is now the lead guitarist for Act of Defiance, which he formed with fellow ex-Megadeth bandmate, Shawn Drover.

<i>The System Has Failed</i> 2004 studio album by Megadeth

The System Has Failed is the tenth studio album by American thrash metal band Megadeth, released on September 14, 2004. It was the band's second and final studio album to be distributed by Sanctuary Records. The System Has Failed was the first album to be released after Mustaine recovered from his arm injury sustained in 2002 which prevented him from playing guitar. It is also the first of three Megadeth records not to include original bassist and co-founder David Ellefson. Instead, the album features session players, including former Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland on lead guitar. However, Poland only provided lead guitar parts and solos on a contractual basis and did not rejoin the band. To date, it is the only Megadeth album where the only certified member of the band was Mustaine. As a result, it is occasionally referred to as a Mustaine solo album.

Following the lukewarm response to the band's previous album, 2013's Super Collider, Dystopia received largely favorable reaction from critics, being considered a return to form for the band. The album holds a Metacritic score of 69/100 as of August 2016. The album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 chart, making Dystopia the band's second highest charting album in the U.S. after Countdown to Extinction , which peaked at number two in 1992. Additionally, the title track earned the band its first Grammy win (for Best Metal Performance) at the 59th Grammy Awards after eleven unsuccessful nominations. [1]

The Billboard 200 is a record chart ranking the 200 most popular music albums and EPs in the United States. It is published weekly by Billboard magazine. It is frequently used to convey the popularity of an artist or groups of artists. Often, a recording act will be remembered by its "number ones", those of their albums that outperformed all others during at least one week. The chart grew from a weekly top 10 list in 1956 to become a top 200 in May 1967, and acquired its present title in March 1992. Its previous names include the Billboard Top LPs (1961–72), Billboard Top LPs & Tape (1972–84), Billboard Top 200 Albums (1984–85) and Billboard Top Pop Albums.

<i>Countdown to Extinction</i> 1992 studio album by Megadeth

Countdown to Extinction is the fifth studio album by American thrash metal band Megadeth, released on July 14, 1992, through Capitol Records. It was the group's second studio release to feature the "classic" lineup of Dave Mustaine, Marty Friedman, David Ellefson and Nick Menza, with all of them contributing to songwriting on the album. The album features some of the band's best known songs such as "Symphony of Destruction", "Sweating Bullets", and "Skin o' My Teeth", which enjoyed significant chart success and made a great musical impact.

The Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance is an award presented at the Grammy Awards to recording artists for works containing quality performances in the heavy metal music genre. The Grammy Awards is an annual ceremony, where honors in several categories are presented by The Recording Academy of the United States to "honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position". The ceremony was established in 1958 and originally called the Gramophone Awards.

Background and production


In June 2013, Megadeth released its fourteenth studio album, Super Collider , to mixed critical reaction. [2] In the months following the album's release, frontman and guitarist Dave Mustaine revealed that he and the rest of the band had already begun to discuss a follow-up, [3] an urgency somewhat influenced by the then-recent death of Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman, which had reportedly given Mustaine a sense of mortality. [4]

<i>Super Collider</i> (album) 2013 studio album by Megadeth

Super Collider is the fourteenth studio album by American heavy metal band Megadeth. It was released on June 4, 2013, and is Megadeth's first album to be released on Tradecraft, a Universal label created for frontman Dave Mustaine. In the U.S., a special edition of the album was made available exclusively through Best Buy retailers. The album features a guest appearance from Disturbed and Device vocalist David Draiman. On April 23, 2013, the title track was released on iTunes as the album's lead single.

Slayer American thrash metal band

Slayer is an American thrash metal band from Huntington Park, California. The band was formed in 1981 by guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman and vocalist and bassist Tom Araya. Slayer's fast and aggressive musical style made them one of the founding "big four" bands of thrash metal, alongside Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax. Slayer's current lineup comprises King, Araya, drummer Paul Bostaph and guitarist Gary Holt. Hanneman and drummers Dave Lombardo and Jon Dette are former members of the band.

Jeff Hanneman American guitarist

Jeffrey John Hanneman was an American musician, best known as a founding member of the American thrash metal band Slayer. Hanneman contributed both lyrical and musical material to every Slayer album up until his death in 2013 and wrote the songs "Raining Blood", "War Ensemble," "South of Heaven," "Seasons in the Abyss," and "Angel of Death," all of which have been played at almost every live Slayer performance after their respective compositions. He had his own signature guitar, the ESP Jeff Hanneman Signature model.

Over the course of 2014, the band announced its intentions to start pre–production on the album. The band had been working on new material since December 2013, and in January 2014, Mustaine revealed that many riffs had already been written for the record. [5] In May 2014, prior to his departure, Drover revealed that he and Mustaine had entered the studio and began tracking some demo ideas. [6] The band originally planned to record in August 2014 and release the album in 2015. [5] [7] Instead, plans were only made to demo new material that October [8] and start recording in January 2015. [9] Mustaine elaborated that, due to a reduced tour schedule for summer 2014, the band had more time to focus on songwriting. [10]

Additionally, several hardships struck the band in 2014. In May, bassist David Ellefson lost his brother Eliot to cancer, following which, the band cancelled a number of scheduled shows. [11] On October 4, Mustaine's Alzheimer's-afflicted mother-in-law went missing from a campground. Her remains were discovered on November 26. [12] Furthermore, drummer Shawn Drover and guitarist Chris Broderick announced their resignations from the band that November. [13] The pair would later emerge in a new band, Act of Defiance. [14]

David Ellefson Bass guitarist

David Warren Ellefson is an American bassist, co-founder and second-longest serving member of the American heavy metal band Megadeth from 1983 to 2002 and again from 2010. He has also been referred to as "Junior" to differentiate him from his bandmate Dave Mustaine, but does not go by this name professionally. Ellefson currently resides in Scottsdale, Arizona. In addition to playing bass guitar in Megadeth, Ellefson also has various side projects which include Temple of Brutality, F5, Killing Machine and Metal Allegiance.

Alzheimers disease Progressive, neurodegenerative disease characterized by memory loss

Alzheimer's disease (AD), also referred to simply as Alzheimer's, is a chronic neurodegenerative disease that usually starts slowly and gradually worsens over time. It is the cause of 60–70% of cases of dementia. The most common early symptom is difficulty in remembering recent events. As the disease advances, symptoms can include problems with language, disorientation, mood swings, loss of motivation, not managing self care, and behavioural issues. As a person's condition declines, they often withdraw from family and society. Gradually, bodily functions are lost, ultimately leading to death. Although the speed of progression can vary, the typical life expectancy following diagnosis is three to nine years.

Act of Defiance is an American heavy metal supergroup from Los Angeles, California, formed in 2014 by guitarist Chris Broderick and drummer Shawn Drover of Megadeth after they both resigned from the band on the same day, vocalist Henry Derek and bassist Matt Bachand.

Despite everything, Ellefson announced that the band was still intent on starting work on the album in early 2015. [15] Ellefson additionally suggested that the album would "help determine" Broderick and Drover's replacements. [16]

Production and recording

2015 RiP Lamb of God - Chris Adler by 2eight - 3SC5483.jpg
Megadeth performing in San Antonio, Texas (27420135011).jpg
Chris Adler (left) of Lamb of God joined the band to record drum tracks, but left shortly thereafter; Kiko Loureiro (right) of Angra joined Megadeth in 2015

In February 2015, Ellefson revealed that the album was "pretty much written". [17] The band entered Latitude South Studios in Leiper's Fork, Tennessee in April 2015, [18] and recording finished in July. [19] It was initially unclear as to who would produce the album. Mustaine suggested that instead of rehiring Johnny K, who produced both Thirteen (2011) and Super Collider (2013), the band would possibly opt for a new producer. [20] While Mustaine initially indicated an interest in working with producer Max Norman, who had mixed Rust in Peace (1990) and produced Countdown to Extinction (1992) and Youthanasia (1994), [21] it was later revealed that Mustaine would be producing the effort along with Toby Wright. [22] However, Wright was let go early on, [23] and Mustaine instead produced the album with Chris Rakestraw. [19]

While there was initial speculation that Mustaine and Ellefson might try to reunite the Rust in Peace -era lineup, there was initially no statement from the band on the matter. It later came to light that the band had in fact been in discussions with former members Nick Menza (drums) and Marty Friedman (guitar), but were unable to reach an agreement. [24] [25] The opportunity would not arise again, as Menza died of a heart attack in May 2016. [26]

During March 2015, several rock music news websites speculated that Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler would perform drums on the album, [27] [28] which was later confirmed by the band. [29] It was also announced in the same month that Angra guitarist Kiko Loureiro joined the band. [30] Mustaine revealed a track listing for the then-untitled album on July 27 and announced production of the album was completed a month later. [31] [32]

Album cover

The cover was done by New York artist Brent Elliott White, who was given the idea to go for a post-apocalyptic approach. Vic Rattlehead is depicted as a cyborg, with a virtual reality headset in place of the riveted visor, a headset instead of metal caps on the ears, and a mouthpiece resembling a mask. The pose, holding the head of a cyborg resembling the Statue of Liberty and a katana, is an homage to Seven Samurai . The setting homages 12 Monkeys by having a deserted and destroyed city, Mad Max by putting Vic under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and The Walking Dead with the "drones meant to be like Michonne’s enslaved zombie buddies". [33] In the 2016 Burrn! magazine Readers' Pop Poll, the cover was awarded Best Album Cover. [34]


Mustaine elaborated on possible lyrical themes, revealing that he had been reading about world history and "crazy science stuff". [3] Both Mustaine and Ellefson had indicated that the album would feature a different musical and stylistic approach from the previous album, including a move away from a radio-oriented sound, [35] [36] which was subsequently characterized as a move back towards a thrash-oriented sound. [37] [38] Mustaine also stated his belief that the album sound and songwriting would be influenced by his 2014 guest performance alongside the San Diego Symphony. [25]

In May 2015, the band posted several videos clips on PledgeMusic featuring snippets of new songs, titled "The Emperor" and "Conquer... or Die". [39] One song, "Poisonous Shadows," was stated by Mustaine to feature piano parts performed by Loureiro. Additionally, he indicated that it would include orchestral arrangement by Ronn Huff, father of record producer Dann Huff who worked with the band in the late 1990s. [25] It was also announced that the album would feature a guest appearance from country musician Steve Wariner, who would perform steel guitar parts. [40] However, neither Huff nor Wariner were credited in the album's liner notes. [19]


In spite of the departures of Broderick and Drover, Ellefson stated that the band initially intended to release the album late in 2015. [41] In January 2015, the album, yet to be titled at the time, was listed by Loudwire as one of the "30 Most Anticipated Rock + Metal Albums of 2015". It was suggested that the departures of Broderick and Drover, as well as the lack of details about possible replacements fueled anticipation on the part of fans and critics. [42] With an official title and release date confirmed, the album also made Loudwire's 2016 list. [43] Upon its release for streaming, Loudwire's Joe DiVita praised the album's title track. [44]

A teaser launched in late September hinted that the song "Fatal Illusion" would be released as the album's first single on October 2. Mustaine had previously announced that a single accompanied with a video would premiere during the holidays. [45] "The Threat is Real", the album's second single, [46] was released for streaming on November 25. [47] On January 7, 2016, the title track was released for streaming. [44]

The album was released on January 22, 2016 by Mustaine's Tradecraft label, distributed by Universal Music, and was made available on CD, vinyl and digital download formats. [48] In the United States, a version of the album including two bonus songs was available exclusively at Best Buy. This version was also available on iTunes. [49] In addition, a deluxe version was announced featuring a virtual reality headset and including a code to download video of the band performing five songs from the album. [48]

Dystopia debuted at number three on the Billboard 200, with 48,000 copies sold in its first week, [50] [51] in addition to another 14,400 copies in its second week, when it fell to number 30 on the Billboard 200. [52] Dystopia sold over 110,000 copies in the US fourteen weeks after its release. The album was a bigger seller than Super Collider, which took 43 weeks to reach 80,000. [53] The album sold 148,000 copies in the US by December 2016, becoming the second biggest-selling heavy metal album released in 2016. [54]

To support Dystopia, Megadeth embarked on a North American tour in February–March 2016, with supporting acts Children of Bodom, Suicidal Tendencies and Havok. [55] The band toured the United States with Suicidal Tendencies again in September–October 2016, with Metal Church, Amon Amarth and Butcher Babies replacing Children of Bodom and Havok. [56] [57]

On May 10, 2017 in Japan, a Deluxe Edition SHM-CD was released with four exclusive bonus tracks and a live DVD. [58]

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
AnyDecentMusic? 7.0/10 [59]
Metacritic 69/100 [60]
Review scores
AllMusic Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg [61]
The A.V. Club D [62]
Blabbermouth.net 8.5/10 [63]
Consequence of Sound C+ [64]
Exclaim! 6/10 [65]
The Guardian Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg [66]
Metal Hammer 9/10 [67]
Now Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg [68]
Rolling Stone Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar half.svgStar empty.svg [38]
Slant Magazine Star full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svg [69]

Dystopia has received generally positive reviews from critics, and holds a Metacritic rating of 69/100. [60] Commending the band's return to a more aggressive style, Calum Slingerland of Exclaim! wrote that Dystopia put the band back on track and started a new chapter in the band's storied career. [65] Sarah Rodman of The Boston Globe liked the combination of energetic riffs and cynical lyrics about the state of the world. [70] Loudwire's Chad Bowar said Dystopia was a first-rate Megadeth album and praised the interplay between Mustaine and Loureiro. [37] Record Collector's Joel McIver called the album a return to form for Megadeth, and a big improvement over the previous two records. [71]

A favorable review was posted on heavy metal news site Blabbermouth.net. Reviewer Ray Van Horn, Jr. proclaimed "Dystopia isn't monumental, but it's a damned good (often magnificent) album. The entire foursome in this incarnation of Megadeth goes for the win and Dystopia readily scores." [63] Thom Jurek from AllMusic agrees, saying "It's easy to appreciate the music on Dystopia; it showcases Mustaine and a crack new version of Megadeth at a creative peak." [61] Dom Lawson of The Guardian called the album an "absolutely blistering return" to the style "of past glories like Rust in Peace and Endgame ." [66]

Writing for Rolling Stone, Kory Grow declared that Megadeth "sound reborn" on the album and said the band has "rarely sounded tighter or more cutting." Grow also stated that despite the "grim" lyrical themes of conspiracies and impending doom, Mustaine managed to insert some humor into the album, citing lyrics from "The Emperor." [38] John Semley of Now called Dystopia "a great record" and praised Loureiro's playing on the record. Semley argued that despite the album's plusses, however, it would likely be overshadowed by Metallica's followup to 2008's Death Magnetic , tentatively due for a 2016 release. [68] Metal Hammer's Dom Lawson credited band turmoil following the release of Super Collider for the creation of "one of the finest records Megadeth have ever made." [67]

A more moderate opinion of the album came from Jon Hadusek of Consequence of Sound. Hadusek called the album "worthy of bearing [the band's] name," but criticized several aspects of the release. He opined that Loureiro's playing was largely "cold, calculated and emotionless," and suggested that Mustaine's lyrics form "a loose concept album of post-capitalist suspicions, X-Files conspiracies, and pseudo-Libertarian rhetoric." [64]

The views allegedly expressed by Mustaine in the lyrics of several songs have been a point of criticism for the release. While J.J. Anselmi of The A.V. Club declared that the album features "masterful instrumentation," he complained about lyrics displaying Mustaine's "offensive politics" and "xenophobia," [62] a sentiment shared by Benjamin Aspray of Slant Magazine. [69]


Burrn! 2016 Readers' Pop Poll for Best AlbumDystopia2016
Revolver 20 Best Albums of 2016Dystopia2016
Rolling Stone 20 Best Metal Albums of 2016Dystopia2016

59th Grammy Awards Best Metal Performance "Dystopia"2017

Track listing

All songs written by Dave Mustaine, except where noted. [19]

Side one
1."The Threat Is Real"4:22
3."Fatal Illusion"4:16
4."Death from Within"4:48
5."Bullet to the Brain"4:29
Side two
6."Post American World"Mustaine, Kiko Loureiro 4:25
7."Poisonous Shadows"Mustaine, Loureiro6:02
8."Conquer or Die!" (Instrumental)Mustaine, Loureiro3:33
9."Lying in State" 3:34
10."The Emperor" 3:54
11."Foreign Policy" (Fear cover) Lee Ving (uncredited)2:28
Total length:46:51


Credits adapted from Dystopia liner notes, unless otherwise noted. [19]


Additional musicians

Production and design


Dystopia achieved success on international music charts. It charted in the top ten in a dozen countries, and entered into the top twenty in four more. The album debuted at number three on the US Billboard 200, selling 48,000 copies (and streaming equivocal to another 1,000 copies) in its first week. This both topped the position and sales of the preceding album, Super Collider, and marks the band's second highest domestic chart position, after Countdown to Extinction, which reached number two in 1992. The album also charted at number three in Canada and Finland, and reached number two in Japan.

Chart (2016)Peak
Australian Albums (ARIA) [75] 6
Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria) [76] 14
Argentine Albums (CAPIF) [77] 3
Brazilian Albums (ABPD) [78] 4
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders) [79] 19
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Wallonia) [80] 25
Canadian Albums (Billboard) [81] 3
Czech Albums (ČNS IFPI) [82] 5
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100) [83] 25
Finnish Albums (Suomen virallinen lista) [84] 3
French Albums (SNEP) [85] 39
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100) [86] 10
Greek Albums (IFPI) [87] 13
Hungarian Albums (MAHASZ) [88] 15
Irish Albums (IRMA) [89] 19
Italian Albums (FIMI) [90] 21
Japanese Albums (Oricon) [91] 2
Mexican Albums (Top 100 Mexico) [92] 4
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ) [93] 6
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista) [94] 13
Polish Albums (ZPAV) [95] 8
Portuguese Albums (AFP) [96] 20
Spanish Albums (PROMUSICAE) [97] 21
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade) [98] 7
UK Albums (OCC) [99] 11
US Billboard 200 [100] 3

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