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Album Review: Megadeth – Countdown To Extinction: Live

4 min read

It’s a difficult task commenting on the merits and demerits of a recording of a live performance at which you were not present. It is impossible, whilst sitting here at my desk with a cup of tea, to listen to Megadeth thrash through a set on their recent Countdown to Extinction: 20th Anniversary Tour and get a real sense of the atmosphere or the consensus of the crowd. You wouldn’t, for example, be able to judge the zeal of the band on this particular occasion, without the tossing of Dave Mustaine’s fiery mane to guide you, if it were not for the singer and guitarist’s cheeky remark at the end of Ashes In Your Mouth: ‘So that was Countdown to Extinction… was it as good for you as it was for me?’

MegadethCountdownToExtinctionAnd I’m sure it was as good for those who attended – their ardent cheering and participation certainly suggest as much. When you attend a concert under the banner of an album’s anniversary tour, there are no prizes for guessing where most tracks on the set-list are going to come from. As such, audiences would have less justification in complaining if their particular favourite wasn’t chosen from Megadeth’s extensive catalogue. With the Countdown to Extinction tour, or at least the gig at which this recording was made, the group have sandwiched the 1992 double-platinum album in its entirety, and with its original track-listing, between a couple of essentials from their other records – Peace Sells and Hangar 18, for example.

It is therefore the case that this album does not really have much that is new to offer Megadeth fans. This is the fifth collection of live tracks from the band to be released since 2002, and whilst there are probably a couple of tunes on there that haven’t made it onto these previous recordings, the most significant hits on the album have already received adequate attention. However, that’s not to say, necessarily, that the album is not worth adding to the shelf – diehard fans will no doubt appreciate the additions to Megadeth’s live catalogue, as well as fresh versions of the classics. But that’s just it – sale of the album will probably be generally restricted to ‘diehards’. Casual listeners looking for a taste of Megadeth’s live sound are probably best served by an album that covers a wider array of the band’s work, and those who haven’t yet listened to Countdown To Extinction will gain more from hearing it with studio-quality production.

Whilst the sound quality isn’t bad, some of the layers, particularly in the rhythm section, are a bit muddy at times. This is to be somewhat expected though – metal is a hard genre to capture in full clarity – and the problem does little to detract from the attack of Megadeth’s performance. If there’s one thing this album does show, it’s that the group’s musical brutality, and their technical proficiency, haven’t been diminished by age. Despite the physical adversity that Mustaine’s has faced during his career (i.e. the nerve damage that rendered his left arm essentially useless for some time), such issues appear to be behind him – he has no trouble shredding up and down the neck of his guitar with youthful dexterity.

What I cannot reach a conclusion on with this album is whether the contrived snarl that inflects Mustaine’s vocals sounds more or less appropriate emanating from a face that’s a bit more road-worn. But whatever a fan’s take might be, they should be content knowing that the Megadeth formula hasn’t changed; that the heavyweights of thrash metal have as much of a propensity to induce some head-banging now as they did in 1992.

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