“I think a lot of people are gonna be happy, because the music is really aggressive again,” says Dave Mustaine, discussing the sound of the material he and the reconstituted Megadeth have been recording in Nashville for the band’s upcoming 15th studio album.
Indeed, longtime fans of the thrash legends will be pleased to hear that they’re taking a turn for the heavier—particularly following 2013’s Super Collider, which many listeners felt veered too far in a mainstream hard rock direction.
But even more so, fans are probably just happy to know they’ll be hearing anything at all from the band, given Megadeth’s recent turmoil.
That story had been followed closely by the metal crowd: Back in November 2014, drummer Shawn Drover and guitarist Chris Broderick both quit Megadeth in rapid succession, and have since paired up with Shadows Fall bassist Matt Bachand in a new outfit, Act of Defiance. In the aftermath of their announcements, Mustaine and bassist David Ellefson gave no indication of who would take their places, only that the band would continue on.
Eventually, Lamb of God’s Chris Adler was confirmed to be filling the drum throne for the new recording sessions. But for a band like Megadeth, who have always boasted top-notch lead players like Chris Poland and Marty Friedman (the latter of whom was, in fact, earlier this year engaged in unsuccessful talks to rejoin the group along with his Nineties-era bandmate, drummer Nick Menza), the biggest question remained unanswered—who would fill the guitar slot vacated by Broderick?
The answer, as it turned out, was an unexpected one: Angra guitarist Kiko Loureiro, who, while a somewhat under-the-radar pick, possesses a blazing, technically dazzling style that would seem to be a perfect fit for the band. But as far as Mustaine is concerned, Loureiro’s attributes extend well beyond his six-string abilities.
He has called the 42-year-old Brazilian shredder the “best guitarist we’ve ever had,” but he also says that, just as importantly, they mesh personality-wise. “Chris and I had a good chemistry, but we weren’t really as close as I would have wanted us to be,” Mustaine admits. “Kiko, I feel like I’ve known him for years.”
As for how the new music is coming along, Mustaine says that he’s been working from a large cache of ideas. “I compiled stuff from things I laid down over a lot of years, on cassettes, microcassettes, even going back to floppy disc,” he says. “I put all of it onto a hard drive, and it came out to more than 200 song ideas and riffs. Which is a pretty overwhelming number. We got that down to 13 songs.”
Mustaine reports that song titles slated for the record include “The Emperor Has No Clothes,” “Tyranocide” and “Poisonous Shadows.” Of the last tune, he says, “Kiko plays some piano on it, and we actually reached out to [former Megadeth producer] Dann Huff’s dad [famed Nashville arranger Ronn Huff] to do some orchestration on it. It’s a very dramatic kind of song.”
That said, he also confirms that, overall, “there’s nothing too out of the ordinary on the record. I think probably the most noticeable thing will be how my playing with the San Diego Symphony [in April 2014] affected some of my guitar work. Learning Vivaldi and Bach and all that, there’s some stuff on the album where you can tell that made an impression on me.
“But,” he adds, “there’s nothing like ‘Blackest Crow’ [from Super Collider], and, lyrically, nothing like songs that were on [1999’s] Risk, talking about ecstasy or the breadline and stuff like that. These songs are definitely very dark. But is there anything unexpected? It depends what you expect. And anyway, to be predictably unpredictable…is still to be predictable.”
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