Bottom of the Barrel: Megadeth – Super Collider (2013)
Genre: Hard rock / heavy metal
Release date: 4th June, 2013
Record label: Universal / Tradecraft
For fans of: A ballsier Risk
Much like Risk (1999) before it, 2013’s Super Collider is a record lovingly vilified by hardcore Megadeth fans for marking an immense musical devolution. At the turn of the 21st century, Dave Mustaine and his motley crew of metal buddies, at long last, returned to their old-school thrash metal sound after spending much of the ‘90s trying their damnedest to crack the radio-rock market. From 2000 to 2011, the ‘Deth was gradually rebuilding itself, with every album getting heavier and heavier and, arguably, better and better, peaking at the late-career (and criminally underrated) masterpiece Endgame (2009).
But for some reason, in 2013, the band decided to give that whole “commercial hard rock” thing another go. The end result was Super Collider, a record that – although still somewhat heavy when compared to the low-point that was Risk – once again alienated fans, who were just beginning to get back on the Megadeth train after their 2000s thrashy re-invigoration.
And while this hatred is definitely understandable, listening to this record once more several years down the line is not as painful as the backlash would have you expect. Quality-wise, it’s probably comparable to Cryptic Writings (1997), a record that mostly ditched the original Megadeth vision, but still had one or two traces of the quartet’s early, speed metal sound scattered throughout.
For, truth be told, there are some heavy moments on Super Collider. The opener, “Kingmaker”, is a well-crafted and fast, albeit commercialised, metal song (probably why it was the only track from this record that was regularly performed live on-tour) and the beginning solo to “Burn!” is reminiscent of Skull Fist’s “Head of the Pack”. The opening of “Off the Edge” also builds very well, with both the lead guitar of Chris Broderick and the bass of David Ellefson functioning expertly.
However, it’s once you get to the actual body of the songs, the verses and choruses, that the compositions fall flat. Mostly, the rhythms and pacing are similar throughout and the guitars revolve around open-string chugging. Even some of the solos aren’t as energised as they could be, which is borderline criminal considering Chris Broderick is the lead axe-man on this record. For a true taste of this expert maestro’s work on the strings as well as Shawn Drover’s behind the kit, check out Act of Defiance, which lets the ex-‘Deth duo truly unleash their skills.
However, even at times when the instrumentation works almost perfectly, such as on the ever-progressing “Dance in the Rain”, the song tends to be let down by the vocals of Mustaine, who alternates between two tones throughout the entirety of Super Collider: tired and constipated.
The long, stretched-out melodies that come hand-in-hand with hard rock often suffer the hardest from Mustaine’s ineffective vocals, sounding strained and forced on what should be big, powerful moments. Not even a guest turn by acclaimed Disturbed frontman David Draiman can save the singing on this album.
As a result, Super Collider sounds like a talented band making music that’s out of its element. Dave Mustaine has been at his best on the mic when he’s laying out quick, verbal tirades like “Peace Sells” and “Holy Wars… The Punishment Due”. And even in his slightly younger days on Youthanasia (1994) and Cryptic Writings, he could bust out some Axl Rose-esque wails. Getting him at this age to sing these big radio-rock choruses is like having Johnny Rotten front Iron Maiden; as skilled and acclaimed as both parties are, it would never work.
Of all the horrid albums reviewed in The Bottom of the Barrel so far, Super Collider is easily the best, since it does have elements that do work, such as “Kingmaker”, which every Megadeth fan should hear at least once. The only aspect of this album that’s beyond saving is Mustaine’s singing. If you can look past that, who knows, you may enjoy Super Collider. But if you can’t, no one would blame you for giving this a pass.
See where Super Collider lands in the “Bottom of the Barrel” rankings here.