Friday, November 5, 2010

Melody Maker, 1988

by Simon Reynolds

At a Megadeth concert, the fact is inescapable. Their audience is a congregation come to worship, and their God is Death. It's as simple as that. Why then does the
unrelenting bombast of "this life-denying nonsense" fascinate? Because it appeals to something deep-rooted and unbudgeable in masculinity, and if some girls can trip out on it, while many boys are repelled by what it stirs in them, then that's because we're all ambi-sexual, all torn inside by Eros and Thanatos.

Megadeth, like those other kings of their scenes (Bad Brains, Public Enemy, Big Black, The Ex) - exceed their own puerility by the extremity with which they're fixated. These fixations produce extreme art, attain a visionary edge. Megadeth's mediaeval, Good/Evil worldview appropriately generates a noise of absolutes - the futurist absolutes of rigour, acceleration and momentum.

Just as you can gasp at the Pyramids (if you choose to forget the immense suffering it required to erect them) or gawp at footage of a mushroom cloud (if you shut from your mind the truth of the specific South Pacific terrain and ecosystem vaporised instantly) so you can abstract elements of the spectacular, of pure form, from Megadeth. But only in clear conscience if you understand (and reject) the psycho-
sexual underpinnings.

At their peaks, Megadeth are all fire and brimstone, a sirocco of scalding ash. The incredibly simple (and similar) riffs sometimes mesh into a frenzied pitch and there's a white frazzle that is brighter than a thousand suns, while the bass chunnels several leagues beneath the crust. "In My Darkest Hour" and "Devil's Island" have colossal riffs that arch and flail like the spine of a whale in a boiling sea. The uncanny combination of ponderousness, agility and speed can decimate. But a lot of material fails to attain sufficient severity of punishment.

Like Reagan and some 61 million fellow Americans (according to Gore Vidal) Megadeth believe nuclear war is inevitable, is God's chosen means of implementing the
Armageddon. Megadeth are maybe more singular in the anticipatory glee ("you'll be the first to die") with which they approach this point finale of History. At least one hopes so.

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