On September 2, 2022, Megadeth released their 16th studio album (The Sick, the Dying… and the Dead! and the first since 2016’s “Dystopia.” The six-year span between records represented the longest gap in Megadeth’s career. “Sick” was intended to be released in 2019 but faced several setbacks with the album finally out for the world to consume. Here is a track-by-track review.
The Sick, the Dying… and the Dead!
The album’s title track and fourth single kicks off the record. The slow build-up to the main riff is interesting, I was expecting something a little more intense from an opening cut.
The acoustic breakdown at the 2:38 mark caught me off guard, but it fits within the overall context of the song and sets the stage for a well-balanced record in terms of heavy/clean guitars.
Side note: For some reason, I get some Layne Staley vibes when Mustaine sings “yeah, yeah” at the end of the verses, it makes me think of “Again” by Alice in Chains, and I have no explanation why!
Life in Hell
A solid thrashy riff kicks track two off and leads us into lyrics focused on corruption, addiction, and hell, all the hallmarks of a great Megadeth song.
The highlight of this track for me is the spoken word section which is a nice deviation from the rest of the song and sets up the ending of the song perfectly.
“Stalkers” is the second single from the record and starts with Mustaine sounding positively venomous in lyrics and riffage.
This is the longest song on the album, clocking in at 6:38, which seems longer than it needs to be. It could have benefitted from losing a minute or two in the final mix.
While I am a fan of the work of Ice-T, I find his contribution does not add anything to this song and slows the momentum down.
Pay close attention to the verse riff, it is one of my favourites on the album, and keep those ears tuned for some killer flute playing from Kiko Loureiro.
Dogs of Chernobyl
“Dogs” is as close to a love song as we get from Megadeth. The beautifully clean and acoustic introduction leads to a gawky transition into the verse riff, but it sorts itself out nicely. “Dogs” is also the second longest track of the (6:18) album and could have benefited from being placed further along the album sequencing.
The song hits its peak during the back end of the runtime when Steve Di Giorgio and Dirk Verbeuren set the tempo for one of the best breakdowns on the album that segues into another spoken passage. It is a theme on the album, where we get a stellar riff before a vocal delivery change.
You would figure that a song focused on warlocks, wizards, spirits of the dead, and Satan to pack a little more punch than what we get on “Sacrifice.”
I get some middle eastern vibes from the riff and solos, which sounds intriguing but leads to one of the weaker songs on the record.
Mustaine is trying his best, but you can hear the struggle in his voice to nail the vocals, which makes sense when you consider he was in varying stages of treatment and recovery during the recording of the record.
I love the opening of “Junkie,” some nice vocal effects lead us into the meat of the song. Be aware that there are plenty of tasty solo trade-offs and fills throughout the track reminiscent of earlier Megadeth albums.
Short but sweet sums this track up. Verbeuren puts some of his technical prowess on display while an energetic riff climaxes to more spoken word majesty from Mustaine (told you so.)
“Time” is the most consistent track on the record, and by that, I mean there are no surprises. It starts, follows the formula then ends. It is a serviceable song, but nothing fantastic.
“Soldier” is the third single and another solo-filled affair with what I consider to be the most personal lyrics on the record. Musically the song has a great military intro, but the words are the glue that holds it all together. The most poignant lyrics are “No reason left for dying, dying to be right, Days, living unforgiven, and unforgiven nights” Mustaine is making peace with the past on this one.
“Celebutante” Is the second strongest song on the album. A slow start gives way to a solid riff that conjures up memories from the glory days of thrash movement. The final minute of the song takes us on a roller coaster of tempo changes and frenetic soloing. Put this one on repeat.
Mission to Mars
I am conflicted with “Mars.” While sonically, it is a strong song, lyrically, it is hard for me to get my head around Mustaine musing about rocket ships, launch codes and headbanging on the gangway. It is not the first time Mustaine has tangled with outer space, and it will not be the last.
We’ll Be Back
The first single and album closer is my favourite track on the album. From top to bottom, it represents the sheer ferocity that a motivated Mustaine can unleash on the world of heavy metal. It is the strongest cut on the album, both musically and emotionally. I wish the rest of the record carried the same emotional weight.
“Sick” is neither the strongest nor weakest record in Megadeth’s war chest. Given all that Mustaine has endured during the past few years with health and relational challenges within the band, it is a welcomed entry into their catalogue.
There are plenty of easter eggs spread throughout the album for the most hardened fans to enjoy, and just as much excitement with some of the new elements the band introduced.
My favourite aspect of the record is the drum work from Verbeuren. All the beats sound fresh and add another level to the performance of the rest of the band. Let us give an honourable mention to Di Giorgio that put down some solid bass work, given the situation he inherited.
Whether it was an intentional move or dictated by circumstances, Mustaine pulled the curtain back, allowing the other members of the band to contribute to the writing of the record. Whether that helped or hindered, I’ll leave that to you to decide.
Until next time, play it loud friends!