National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) 2017 Show Report

Engl Marty Friedman ampThe 2017 edition of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Convention has concluded, and it was mostly filled with updates/improvements on past products, but there were a few items of interest to the metal community!  Let’s gear up (pun intended) and see what 2017 had to offer!

First and foremost for heavy metal fans, Paiste introduced its limited edition Nicko McBrain (IRON MAIDEN) “Treasures” set – impressive looking cymbals with the artwork of the sun god, Tonatiuh, and of course with the Paiste logos in the classic IRON MAIDEN font.  When the company says this set is limited edition, it truly is limited, as there were only 83 sets produced worldwide!  For all you OCD freaks out there, Paiste also announced the Color Sound 900 series, with a variety of new colors to match the color of your kit.  I saw purple, blue, black, and red on display, and the color scheme was a delight for the eyes.

Honorable mentions included the Soultone booth, where they showed a picture of the late Nick Menza (OHM, ex-MEGADETH), which was a very touching and cool thing for them to do.  Yamaha drums celebrated their 50th anniversary, and were displaying a few of those solid kits on display.

NAMM is always top-heavy on guitars, and the APESHIT crowd loves to hear about new guitars on hand.
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MEGADETH – Countdown to Extinction – 20th Anniversary Edition

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since I first blasted MEGADETH‘s Countdown to Extinction on my cassette players as a high school freshman.  Those were good times in my young life as a metalhead which Capitol Records/EMI is hoping to bring back for everyone with the 20th Anniversary Edition.

Looking back, there are a lot of interesting aspects about the record.  First, it follows in the footsteps of the stylistic shift between successive fourth and fifth albums of Mustaine‘s former band.  After coming off a fourth record that showed the band at its absolute technical and ambitious peak, the fifth record was a blatant ploy at gaining more commercial success with a substantial watering down of the brilliant thrash that was laid in the previous record.  MEGADETH have never been dishonest about their motives for Countdown.  The record also stands as the peak of the band’s success as well as the last time this classic line-up would play this fast.

Nevertheless, Countdown still stands the test of time as a very modern and sophisticated piece of metal influencing bands such as NEVERMORE.  The songwriting was more direct, poignant and was packed with technical brilliance.  The guitar duo of Mustaine and Marty Friedman easily proved why they were the best guitar duo in thrash.  Their guitar work is still untouchable.  While songs like the cheese of “Sweating Bullets,” the hit “Symphony of Destruction,” and the title track are still the most popular, the true crown jewels lay in “This Was My Life” and “Ashes in Your Mouth.”

It’s important to note that the 20th Anniversary Edition is the original release of the record and not the remixed, remastered version that Mustaine produced a couple years back.  Also, Los Angeles natives will get a kick out of the liner notes which try to portray the record as being recorded in the midst of a warzone AKA the LA Riots.  Truth be told, the band recorded in the San Fernando Valley, which was very far from any action or violence of the LA Riots.  Yeah, MEGADETH are not a dangerous or socio-political band.

The second disc on the 20th Anniversary Edition is the complete show from the Cow Palace in San Francisco in 1992.  While select songs from the show have been released on various singles and EPs during that era, this is the first time it’s been available in its entirety.  This is easily the band at their peak.  Just a scorching performance that will never be duplicated by later incarnations of MEGADETH.  The production is killer with Dave Ellefson‘s bass as clear as the guitars.  His performance is just godly. Mustaine‘s banter in between songs has its unintentionally amusing moments.

If you long for a time when all Dave Mustaine was doing in the press was talking trash about METALLICA and MEGADETH were one of metal’s most relevant bands, then take a stroll down memory lane with the 20th Anniversary Edition.  (Capitol Records/EMI Music)

MEGADETH: New Album, Endgame, Out in September

MEGADETH have announced Endgame as the title of their twelfth studio album. The album is tentatively scheduled for a September release through Roadrunner Records.

Endgame was recorded at the band’s brand new, self-built studio, Vic’s Garage, located near San Diego and named after their iconic Vic Rattlehead character (seen on the band’s album covers). Production duties were shared between Andy Sneap, who produced the band’s 2007 United Abominations album, and frontmand Dave Mustaine. Some track titles include “Headcrusher,” “1,320” “How the Story Ends” and “This Day We Fight!

Mustaine commented: “Thematically, I’ve never been known to be a silent bystander in a world that needs our participation. As more is revealed about our former President’s legacy, a little-known yet staggeringly frightening document which was signed into law, named Endgame, has been uncovered. The album Endgame is the most energetic music offering I have penned in over a decade and is far more believable than knowing someone signed Endgame -the document- into law. The album is also the perfect ‘ass-kicking’ music to listen to once you are done reading the aforementioned document!

“This new album is my proudest moment since the famous (or infamous) Rust in Peace album. With this album, I am also very excited to be introducing my new lead guitarist Chris Broderick to the world. I have always felt lucky to have had top shredders in that position, but after touring with Chris in support of my last album, I couldn’t wait to get into the studio and see what he could do.”

A six-minute video, via the official MEGADETH fan club, features Andy Sneap describing the process of mixing “Headcrusher.” Watch the video:

MEGADETH – United Abominations

Dave Mustaine set the tone for United Abominations with the well-received comeback album, The System Has Failed. So what how does the second album of MEGADETH‘s second life measure up? First off, United Abominations is the most politically charged album in their career with Mustaine vehemently expressing his opinions on the current state of the world with the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United Nations, terrorism, the U.S. government, etc. Just the album artwork’s allusion to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the mass murder scene inside the U.N. displays Mustaine‘s unabashed viewpoints on the subject. However, it’s probably a safe bet that one would best be served by not blindly adopting the political viewpoints of a historic flip flopper as Mustaine has proven to be.

Opening track, “Sleepwalker,” is easily the heaviest and most intense track and sounds like a compromise between Rust in Peace with the more streamlined mainstream metal approach of the early to mid-90’s material. “Washington is Next” is a proto-metal track that eases back on the throttle while maintaining an uptempo tone. The majority of the album is reminiscent of material found on Youthanasia, Cryptic Writings, and Countdown to Extinction: riffy, catchy, and polished and accessible enough to avoid being intense or abrasive. The title track sees Mustaine spouting off extremely damning criticism of the United Nations. Musically, it’s solid and catchy, even though hearing Mustaine sing the line, “United Abominations,” sounds a bit sour. “Blessed are the Dead” is one the best songs on the album with its meaty riffs and flawless songwriting. Unfortunately, longtime fans will be turned off by the fact that Mustaine chose as the song’s topic, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – the same four horsemen that METALLICA used to rework the Mustaine-penned “Mechanix.” Similar to The System Has Failed, there are some throwaways in the form of “You’re Dead” and the ill-fated guitarathon of “Burnt Ice.” Perhaps the biggest atrocity on United Abominations is not the flat soda-esque Gears of War video game song but the re-recording of Youthanasia‘s “A Tout Le Monde.” Mustaine has not made it a secret in the past that he intentionally wrote Youthanasia, Cryptic Writings, and Risk for maximum radio airplay and this stunt is no different. Cristina Scabbia, from the flavor of the month band LACUNA COIL, lays down a duet with Mustaine that simply adds little substance to the original. Scabbia‘s adequate albeit unexciting contribution actually sounds like Amy Grant.

United Abominations clearly shows that MEGADETH in 2007 can still dish out strong riffs, catchy songs, some guitar wizardy, and solid song arrangements. However, it’s safe to now say that we’ll never see MEGADETH going for an all out speed metal massacre and that the band is satisfied with their streamlined mainstream metal sound of the 90’s. Unfortunately, it also seems as though we also won’t be seeing another classic album from MEGADETH. (Roadrunner Records)