Sunday, January 10, 2010

Battle Hymns Classics: Countdown to Extinction

-In order to keep a somewhat steady stream of new posts here at Battle Hymns, I will occasionally post "classic" reviews. These will be based on books or music that have had a lasting impression on me over the course of multiple years.

It was a "no brainer" to decide to use Countdown to Extinction as my first "classic" review, literally... it was suggested to me by my brother Brad. When I told him of my "classics" idea, he instantly said that it should be Megadeth's fifth album, Countdown to Extinction, so here goes...

In the twenty-three years or so that I have consciously been listening to music, (by that I mean, aware that I was actually listening to music), there is no other album that I have listened to more than Countdown to Extinction. In the year of 1992, my brother and I received our first three CDs from our Aunt Sally. The three CDs were: Red Hot Chili Peppers' Blood Sugar Sex Magic, Metallica's "black album" and Countdown to Extinction. As a pre-teen I listened to these three albums steadily, singing along with the lyrics, head banging and playing air-guitar. As a teen I did the same, but with less regularity, and more self-consciousness. And as an adult I more or less completely stopped listening to the Metallica and Chili Peppers albums. Metallica, because I can no longer stand the black album, or the songs on it, Chili Peppers, because I simply no longer like their music. But Megadeth is still one of my favorite bands, and while Countdown to Extinction isn't my favorite album, or even my favorite Megadeth album, I still love it.

I love this album so much that I actually own two copies of it...for fear that the album received in 1992 ever becomes unplayable. The need for two copies became necessary a few years ago when Megadeth re-released this album as "remastered". The remastered version features re-sung lyrics, and different solos, which make for a different listening experience, and one that is decidedly not the listening experience I am akin to. So when I found the non-remastered version used, I scooped it up and filed it away for future enjoyment.

I also love every song on this album. Well, almost every song, I've never been able to like "High Speed Dirt". As I have grown and aged, particular tracks have fallen in and out of favor with me. Most notable of these is "Ashes in Your Mouth" a song I initially disliked but now think quite highly of. While on the flip side, "Sweating Bullets" has been in steady decline for a few years. I guess the quintessential song on the album is "Symphony of Destruction", (this may be my most listened to song of all time). Plus, it is the one song that could be considered a "hit".

If I were to pinpoint my absolute favorite thing about this album, it would be the downright amazing riff-age. Nearly every song includes a riff that is solid gold. While other bands and songs from this era feel dated to me, or have just fallen off to the wayside as my musical tastes expand and contrast, Countdown to Extinction remains a solid go-to album when I'm in need of some metal. This is Megadeth's "classic" line-up at their collective finest and most polished. With Mustaine, and Friedman on guitars, the riffs really roll along, giving the album a quality that has helped sustain it for all these years.

No Countdown to Extinction post would be complete however without mentioning the many amazing solos. This is one of the album's most endearing traits; every single song has at least one blistering solo. As a kid I would air guitar these solos with great skill, my fingers moving up and down the invisible fret board. As an adult, I hear the solos and all I can do is shake my head in admiration as each solo astounds me with its intricacy and technicality. The amazing thing about Megadeth is that they had two great soloists in Mustaine and Friedman, so there is a bounty of sweet solos on this album.

Since this album, Megadeth has released seven more albums, (one is good, one is ok, the rest I either dont like or haven't bothered to listen to), but Countdown to Extinction stands out as their most accessible and successful. I consider this metal gem to be a must have for any metal or hard rock fan out there. So if you don't already own this album, buy the non-remastered version and enjoy.

This live video from Argentina gives me chills...I love how the crowd sings along with the riff.


jess said...

wow, i hope fredrik comes across your post soon, i have a feeling this little bromance of yours is going to escalate into new heights! =P i believe megadeth is one of his favourite bands. we were going to go to a slayer/megadeth concert in auckland but i ended up bailing out because of school and he didnt have anyone to go with. what a bummer.
hope you're doing well, ryan!

Ryan said...

Hey Jess, I'm happy to see that you read the Megadeth post! Slayer/Megadeth sounds like a pretty cool show.

Abhilash said...

Symphony of Destruction is indeed one of the best songs on the album,and also among their greatest!

Ryan said...

@Abhilash- Indeed. This album is easily one of my favorites. Symphony of Destruction was probably the song responsible for getting me into metal music.