---------- CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Megadeth is coming off 2009's highly successful "Endgame" LP and the 25th-anniversary reissue of the seminal "Peace Sells . . . But Who's Buying." It's also involved in the Big Four concerts (performing along with Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax), which have seen a global explosion.Now, with the recent release of the band's top-notch latest album, "Th1rt3en," Megadeth is once again at the pinnacle of the heavy-metal world.Guitarist/vocalist/songwriter and overall main Mega-dude Dave Mustaine has, in a rather low-key way, produced music at an unparalleled pace since the fracturing of the band's "classic" lineup in the late '90s. Because of that, "Th1rt3en" could simply have been business-as-usual.Mustaine goes for the jugular, though. Early on, you get that adrenaline rush and realize that "Th1rt3en" is something special."Sudden Death" kicks things off with the band exercising what sets it apart from its thrash contemporaries -- orchestral riffing and precise trade-offs between guitarists Mustaine and Chris Broderick. This track is particularly reminiscent of the axe-heavy "Wake Up Dead" (from "Peace Sells").Next up is the album's first single, "Public Enemy No. 1." The song is comfortable with its identifiable hook and chorus as well as the harmonic progressions that rekindle the vibe of "Hangar 18."Track 3, "Whose Life (Is It Anyways?)," is a maniacally-paced Mega-tune that echoes the early union of metal and punk -- the birth of thrash, as it were -- while maintaining a simplistic structure a la the band's "Countdown to Extinction"/"Youthanasia" period.Mustaine himself has promoted "Th1rt3en" as the first "complete" album he's heard since Guns n' Roses' "Appetite for Destruction," and he ain't just blowing smoke. The album clicks not by its attempts to reinvent the mosh pit, but by Mustaine parlaying his various songwriting strengths.You've got the riff-driven assortment that dominated Megadeth's mid-career style on "We the People," "Drugs, Guns & Money," "Millennium of the Blind," "Deadly Nightshade" and "New World Order." There's also the jazzy complexity that emanates throughout Megadeth's canon (especially carrying over from "Endgame) predominant here on "Black Swan." Nothing would be complete, of course, without Mega-style thrash which surfaces with "Never Dead" and "Wrecker."Part of the strength found on "Th1rt3en" is the now-veteran status of guitarist Broderick and drummer Shawn Drover. The Zen factor, though, rests in the return of founding bassist David Ellefson. The connection Mustaine and "Junior" share was apparent from Megadeth's formation up to their rift in 2002; that panache resurfaces once again with Ellefson cementing his status as thrash/speed's Lord of the Low-End. Simply put, all of Megadeth's pistons are once again firing in unison.At this juncture, there's the unavoidable question: How does "Th1rt3en" rate historically with Megadeth's library? Suffice it to say, the album doesn't break any new ground. It does, however, gather the band's strongest elements, dispensing them into what very well might be Megadeth's most diverse album to date.
I have stated before that the Mustaine/Ellefson/Drover/Broderick lineup could be Megadeth's strongest, and I feel comfortable with that assessment now that the band actually has new music on the racks. "Th1rt3en" takes what Megadeth does best and turns it up a notch or two for an album that can easily hold its own with the classics in the band's storied catalogue.