Thursday, 26 November 2009

CD Review: Countdown to Extinction, by Megadeth (1992)

Two classic tracks surrounded by so much scrap metal? Unfortunately, that may be the best way to describe Countdown to Extinction. Dave Mustaine swings his bat artistically, delivers two grand slam home runs, and about seven strike-outs.

The production values of this CD should be highlighted. Mustaine produced with Max Norman, who also engineered and mixed the album, and together they achieved a clarity and sharpness of sound that is rarely matched. Every note of every instrument is vivid, at any volume.

Content wise, there are few heavy metal albums that are this uneven. Usually bands are at an understandable stage of evolution in each CD -- good, bad, or ugly. But here Megadeth combine two brilliant peaks with a barren valley of the blah.

The good first: Symphony of Destruction is a chugging lyrical masterpiece of heavy metal, with Mustaine unusually restrained on the guitar and controlled on vocals. It's one of the rare occasions where Megadeth functions as a band rather than as a pyrotechnical showpiece, and it's brilliant. Equally terrific is the title track Countdown to Extinction: more ominous, with a memorable, alarmist guitar riff announcing the extinction of species.

A couple of other songs are worth a spin: This Was My Life and Captive Honour demonstrate spirit, power and good innovation. Captive Honour deserves special mention for the booming and energetic drum work that provides backing for the jury section.

The rest? Some tracks are plain miserable: Architecture of Aggression, Psychotron, and Ashes in Your Mouth deliver combinations of the annoying, the monotonous, and the simplistic. Others are plain boring: Foreclosure of a Dream may be trying to say something important, but the audience is sleeping. And some tracks are just plain: High Speed Dirt has all the creativity expected from a high school band.

Mustaine deserves credit for taking on issues of social and personal relevance, and certainly the lyrics and thoughts are several grades above the typical heavy metal fare. But ultimately, it's all about the music, and there are too many music fails on this album.

Countdown to Extinction is a CD packed full of the mediocre, the boring, the indifferent, and the uninspired, but nevertheless a CD that should be treasured for providing the world of heavy metal with two all-time classics.


Dave Mustaine: Guitars, Vocals
Marty Friedman: Guitar
Nick Menza: Drums
David Ellefson: Bass

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Skin O' My Teeth - 7
2. Symphony of Destruction - 10
3. Architecture of Aggression - 5
4. Foreclosure of a Dream - 6
5. Sweating Bullets - 7
6. This Was My Life - 8
7. Countdown to Extinction - 10
8. High Speed Dirt - 7
9. Psychotron - 6
10. Captive Honour - 8
11. Ashes in Your Mouth - 6

Average: 7.27

Produced by Dave Mustaine and Max Norman.
Engineered and Mixed by Max Norman.

Countdown to Extinction at the Ace Black Store.
The Ace Black Blog CD Review No. 51.

All Ace Black Blog CD Reviews are here.

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