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"United Abominations" is the 11th studio album by American thrash metal band, Megadeth. It was released in 2007 on Roadrunner Records and produced by Dave Mustaine, Jeff Balding & Andy Sneap. The line-up for the album was Dave Mustaine (vocals/guitar), Glen Drover (guitar), James LoMenzo (bass) and Shawn Drover (drums).
This was the first (and only) studio album on which Glen Drover performed, who went on to leave the band mid-tour to be replaced by Chris Broderick, and the debuts of James LoMenzo & Shawn Drover. The album reached a very credible No.8 on the US Billboard 200 and was the first album by the band on the Roadrunner label. This was also the album that brought Megadeth back to mainstream thrash metal, as opposed to the more groove-orientated, yet still very good, albums such as "Risk", "The World Needs a Hero" and "The System Has Failed". Yes folks, Dave Mustaine is angry again!
"Sleepwalker" begins with a softly plucked guitar harmony which in turn releases a little orchestral bit that leads into the main guitars. I enjoy the riffs and solos in this song, but I'm not too convinced by the backing vocals which don't really fit the style of the song. What is clear, however, is that LoMenzo is very talented on the bass and absolutely nails it on the chorus with some fine fretwork and open note playing combined.
My favourite song off the album, "Washington is Next!" employs some insane thrash metal guitar playing, but it does slightly borrow from Iron Maiden's "Wasted Years" in its intro-ending riff. However, what impresses me the most about the song is that it never stops moving along at a steady pace, in guitars, drums and vocals. Then you have the brilliant riff and solo trading between Mustaine & Glen Drover which makes the song even better. It's just a shame that Glen couldn't handle the spotlight a little more, because he'd have made an excellent second guitarist for the band for some years to come.
"Never Walk Alone... a Call to Arms" is up next, which drops back into the groove metal style of the previous three albums, and it's a song that I'm not too convinced about to be honest. The production is simply stunning - LoMenzo's bass is heavy, clunking and chunky - but there's something about the track that makes me turn away. After several listens to it over the years, I'm still not sure what that something is, either!
The titular song on the album has a simple riff played throughout that's complicated with a little alternate strum here and there, which makes me like the song more than it probably deserves. Mustaine's never been one to shy away from political songs, and here's another in the same mould as the likes of "Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?" in that he's forewarning us of impending doom in the world, and nothing can be taken for granted.
"Gears of War" is a song that begins with a haunting guitar melody - sounds you'd normally associate with a horror movie. The main riff sounds evil and a little like "Go to Hell" which was recorded for the "Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey" soundtrack in its heaviness. It's a song that was used on the video game of the same name, but wasn't written specifically for it. It's said the song was originally meant to be an instrumental, and it's my belief that if they'd released that version it would have been so much better. That's not saying that I don't like the lyrics or the vocals on the song, but I think that the guitars should have been allowed to shine through and given centre stage.
When you first hear "Blessed Are the Dead", you would probably think of Dave Mustaine's influences, and especially the influence of Angus Young as a guitarist, as the opening riff is straight out of the AC/DC closet. Unfortunately, the song is not very inventive in anything else and it's very much a case of a 'seen it, done it, recorded it as my own' type of song, which is never a good thing. As it's right in the middle of the album, I'm going to call it a filler song and hope to get away with doing that. As a huge fan of the band, this song disappoints me a little.
A bit of old school Megadeth is up next, and what you get with "Play For Blood" isn't necessarily 1980s thrash metal, but Mustaine is definitely tapping into those roots for inspiration. What you get here is some hard-hitting riffs that are backed up by relatively short - but effective - solos from the two guitars that you'd have normally heard in the early years with Mustaine/Poland and Mustaine/Young. This is the sort of song that I really like, and it's certainly a stand-out track on the album, but that's probably just because of those in-your-face solos that hit you one after the other.
"À Tout le Monde (Set Me Free)" is a song that was originally on the 1994 Megadeth album, "Youthanasia", but has been re-recorded for "United Abominations" with Lacuna Coil's Cristina Scabbia providing the backing vocals. My first question is this: why re-record a song that was very good and put it out on another full length album? It could so easily have been a B-side or something, but I'm obviously not Dave Mustaine and I don't make the executive decisions when it comes to the band. As a fan, I am convinced it doesn't work. Now here's the thing. I like some of Lacuna Coil's music, but this song really doesn't do Scabbia (or Megadeth) and justice at all. If I had to give it some marks, I'd say that the main solo sounds a little more polished than the original. Apart from that, it's awful, unfortunately.
Another politically charged song is next with "Amerikhastan" which deals with the 'War on Terror' that came about after the attacks of September 11th, 2001. Mustaine's lyrics are a little tongue-in-cheek, but they also have their serious side. They're telling the listener that this war will not end until there's no more Middle East and until the United States controls all the oil in all the Arabian countries. Musically, there are some amazing guitar riffs going on and I really like the ending solo that Mustaine throws in so easily. Some would say Mustaine's ranting on the song as it's a lot of spoken word, but how many bands get by with doing that all of the time? Limp Bizkit do it, Suicidal Tendencies do it. So there you go!
"You're Dead" fires out plenty of time changes, ranging from mid-paced guitar riffs to breakneck speed thrash solos that I really like. Mustaine is well in his element when it comes to playing solos but it's the song structure that intrigues me the most, as I can almost imagine Bruce Dickinson singing this one for Iron Maiden. It's one of those songs that doesn't say a lot and doesn't do a lot, but you know it just somehow completely works... and it works well. That's the key to being a successful band, I think. If you can write a song that seems to effortless and make people listen, then you've got something good on your hands.
"Burnt Ice" brings the album to a close with a solo-fest, and a guitar duel between Mustaine and Glen Drover. Instantly you think that Marty Friedman is back with the band because of its furious pace. There really isn't much more to say about the song, except that it's a very pleasing end to the album. Once again, Mustaine triumphs as the riff and solo God of thrash metal in every sense.
In summary, while I do think James LoMenzo is a very competent bass player, I still pined for the ferocity of David Ellefson's playing. Luckily for me, I only had another 4 years to wait to listen to him on a Megadeth album again when he and Mustaine rekindled their friendship and LoMenzo went on to pastures new. And Dave Mustaine? Well, the man's a living legend. He's rarely recognised outside of the thrash metal genre for his musical talent and if you asked people on the street for their opinions of great guitar players, he's likely to not be named. For me, however, he's right up there with the likes of Angus Young, Eddie van Halen and Jimi Hendrix. As for "United Abominations", this gets thumbs up from me. Yes there are a few niggling problems here and there like the re-recording of " À Tout le Monde (Set Me Free)" and like the filler song, "Blessed Are the Dead", but don't judge it by those two songs alone. What about the brilliant "Washington is Next!" or the very enjoyable "Gears of War"? There's a little for everyone on this album, and it's not just for the thrash metal fan - it can be enjoyed by fans of the heavy metal genre in general.
2. Washington is Next!
3. Never Walk Alone... a Call to Arms
4. United Abominations
5. Gears of War
6. Blessed Are the Dead
7. Play For Blood
8. À Tout le Monde (Set Me Free)
10. You're Dead
11. Burnt Ice
My rating: 8/10
United Abominations is the eleventh studio release by Megadeth, and is both impressive, offensive and hilarious in equal measure.
The concept that (now born-again christian) frontman Dave Mustaine has chosen to deal with is the New World Order (a favourite of his), the corporate takeover of America, illegal wars and the wilful destruction of society for profit.
These are valid topics, but I get the feeling that Dave has just been watching a few too many conspiracy 'documentaries' on youtube. He also has a go at the UN, which will strike anyone living outside of the USA as a bit harsh, seeing as the UN doesn't really do anything to anyone. Ever.
'Sleepwalker' is a strong opener with a sweet guitar riff and characteristically snarling vocals from Mustaine, whose lyrics are absurd yet very entertaining.
'Washington is next' is one of the more urgently-paced tracks I've heard in a couple of years and makes good use of a rapidly rolling drumbeat and minor scale riffs to convey a sense of panic. Again the lyrics are sublimely retarded, with Dave single-handedly jeopardising the heretofore logical arguments put forward by antiwar/anti lobbying groups with his paranoid youtube-style ranting.
'Never walk alone' has an interesting change of tempo and timing, with a truly catchy riff over the chorus, but this is followed by the offensive 'United Abominations' which is a sort of tea-party rant about Europe not doing what the American chickenhawks tell them to regarding the War on Terror.
There's also 'Gears of war' which was used in the video game of the same name (didn't notice when I was playing it). The other track worth noting is an up-tempo reworking of Youthanasia's 'A tout le monde', featuring some woman from some band called Lacuna Coil that Dave Mustaine obviously offered to duet with in a transparent attempt to bang her. I thought that this duet was better than the original however, and the increase in tempo really suits the song.
Sadly things fizzle out on the last three tracks, with 'You're Dead' and 'Burnt Ice' being fillers sandwiching another offensive apparently pro-war track 'Amerikhastan'.
There's some classic Megadeth in here, but there's also some filler and some stupid and inflammatory stuff written by a man who seems to be struggling with finding a target for the vitriol that he's defined by.
Megadeth are often compared closely to Metallica, and it is quite obvious why. However, to me, this comparison should have ended years ago, when Metallica released their self-titled album. Why is this? Because Megadeth have still got it - and this album definitely proved it.
Before listening to the music, the cover art definitely appealed to me, as the Megadeth mascot - Vic Rattlehead - has once again been reinvented, and placed in a classic Megadeth scene, with explosions and chaos all around.
2. Washington Is Next
3. Never Walk Alone... A Call To Arms
4. United Abominations
5. Gears Of War
6. Blessed Are The Dead
7. Play For Blood
8. A Tout Le Monde (Set Me Free)
10. You're Dead
11. Burnt Ice
The album begins with Sleepwalker, which is at first deceiving, until the guitars begin, with a fast paced drumbeat. A very catchy (for heavy metal) chorus makes this song one to listen to again and again.
Washington Is Next follows, opened by James LoMenzo's bass sound coupled with precise guitars. After the short intro, this song comes alive, with a fast galloping drumbeat, and again sports some surprisingly catchy choruses.
After these two excellent opening songs, the pace does seem to drop a little, with Never Walk Alone... A Call To Arms and the title track - United Abominations. These both have a slight element of filler material, the latter of the two a little polluted by Dave Mustaine's political rants.
Gears Of War is up next - sharing a title with the popular Xbox 360 game. This song starts off with a synth-sounding melody, before the chugging riffs break out. Just as the verse is beginning to feel a little old, a melodic chorus again appears, definitely catching the interest again. Before long, the song finishes with some technical guitar work from Dave and Glen Drover.
The next track features repeated references to the four horsemen, snarled out in Dave Mustaine's trademark style, along to more well written riffs. Onto the seventh track - Play For Blood is a very forgettable and quite bland song, which has never really excited me much. Luckily though, it's over in under 4 minutes, and does have quite a nice guitar solo in there!
Megadeth fans will all know the next song, A Tout Le Monde, but this version has been jazzed up, and is now very different to the original. Sped up very noticeably, and with the addition of extra vocals from Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil), it's still an excellent song, yet whenever I listen to it, I feel like the song has been somewhat ruined. I'll stick to the original on Youthanasia, thanks Dave.
I don't quite know what's going on with Amerikhastan. All this talk of New Yor-qatar and Califorabia simply reeks of more badly fitting political lyrics... And here they are. The majority of the song is Dave talking American politics, which to be honest I couldn't care less about, almost spoiling the fast-paced riffs and frequent skillful solos.
You're Dead is another one that I almost forgot is even on the album. Once again, this song is nothing special. Very slow-paced for Megadeth, until the guitar solos break out at least.
Burnt Ice brings the album to a close, with meaty riffs, and well fitting guitar parts in between. This song really is a pleasure to listen to from a guitar-oriented point of view, and in my view rounds the album off very well.
So there you have it - my humble opinion on United Abominations. The last few albums had been a little disappointing, but this one has raised the bar again, to the excellent Megadeth standards - even if it is mostly in the opening songs.
United Abominations is the most recent Megadeth album released in May 2007 on the Roadrunner Records Label. I really quite dig some of Megadeth's older stuff so was rather looking forward to giving this a listen - I'd heard Sleepwalker and Amerikhastan repeatedly on KNAC.com radio. I didn't really know what to make of Amerikhastan, it seemed like a load of conservative political rubbish to me. Sleepwalker was a decent track though, so I decided to give it a go and not judge it on the one duff track.
Whilst the child-eating guitar riffs are still there it seems that Mustaine's vocals have lost the anger of his youth and it now sounds a bit like a lecturous old dude waffling on. Musically the Megadeth style is still there, very recognisable and has changed little over the years. The female vocals of Cristina Scabbia add a refreshing change from Mustaine and his seemingly "I've given up booze and drugs and now I'm boring" agenda.
At their peak Megadeth were really good, so it's impossible for them to completely have lost their quality but this album is a bit slower than previous releases and the lyrical content just seems a bit serious for my liking.
1. "Sleepwalker" Dave Mustaine 5:53
2. "Washington Is Next!" Mustaine 5:19
3. "Never Walk Alone... A Call to Arms" Mustaine, Glen Drover 3:54
4. "United Abominations" Mustaine 5:35
5. "Gears of War" Mustaine 4:26
6. "Blessed Are the Dead" Mustaine 4:02
7. "Play for Blood" Mustaine 3:49
8. "À Tout le Monde (Set Me Free)" (featuring Cristina Scabbia) Mustaine 4:11
9. "Amerikhastan" Mustaine 3:43
10. "You're Dead" Mustaine 3:18
11. "Burnt Ice" Mustaine 3:47
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Washington is Next!
3 Never Walk Alone...A Call to Arms
4 United Abominations
5 Gears of War
6 Blessed Be The Dead
7 Play for Blood
8 A Tout Le Monde (Set Me Free)
10 You're Dead
11 Burnt Ice