"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Megadeth - "Countdown To Extinction 20th Anniversary Edition" (2-CD Set)

Megadeth - "Countdown To Extinction 20th Anniversary Edition" 2-CD Set cover image

"Countdown To Extinction 20th Anniversary Edition" track listing:

Disc One:
1. Skin O' My Teeth
2. Symphony Of Destruction
3. Architecture Of Aggression
4. Foreclosure Of A Dream
5. Sweating Bullets
6. This Was My Life
7. Countdown To Extinction
8. High Speed Dirt
9. Psychotron
10. Captive Honour
11. Ashes In Your Mouth

Disc Two: Live At Cow Palace

1. Intro
2. Holy Wars ... The Punishment Due
3. Skin O' My Teeth
4. Wake Up Dead
5. Hangar 18
6. Countdown To Extinction
7. Foreclosure Of A Dream
8. This Was My Life
9. Lucretia
10. Sweating Bullets
11. In My Darkest Hour
12. The Conjuring
13. Tornado Of Souls
14. Ashes In Your Mouth
15. Symphony Of Destruction
16. Peace Sells
17. Anarchy In The UK

Reviewed by on September 5, 2014

"Megadeth's most commercially successful - and most successfully commercial - album definitely didn't need a bunch of extras to make it shine."

I have the same kind of relationship with Megadeth's "Countdown To Extinction" as I do with Metallica's Black album. On one hand, there's no denying the level of songwriting and craftsmanship. On the other, there's the fact that that songwriting prowess meant a big change from the sounds I fell in love with before. Both albums marked a change in direction for their respective bands that I didn't always agree with.

Still, I did my best to put the blinders back on and just appreciate the 20th Anniversary Edition of "Countdown To Extinction" for the songs and try to avoid thinking about the album in any larger historical context. My discovery: Twenty years on, this is still the hookiest album Megadeth ever put out.

Maybe it's the fact that Dave Mustaine chose to give the riffs a chance to breathe rather than changing speeds every few measures, as was his wont on past Megadeth releases that gives many of the tunes on this album their power. "Skin O' My Teeth" and the first single, "Symphony Of Destruction," have an almost AC/DC-like dedication to their central riffs.

The title track, with Marty Friendman's lead guitar work reminding me a bit of Iron Maiden in parts, represents more of a melodic bent than had previously been shown by the band, as does "Foreclosure Of A Dream." The latter tune has even more bite, lyrically speaking, than it did the year it was released.

Songs like "Architecture Of Agression" and "Ashes In Your Mouth" flirt with the band's earlier thrash, but without hitting quite the same velocity.

On the down side, "Psychotron" and "Sweating Bullets" still aren't all that impressive. This was also the album where Mustaine began to cede the lead guitar position to Marty Friedman, and though Friedman's ax-work is impressive, I still found myself missing Mustaine's trademark soloing through most of the front end of the disc.

The bonus live disc is a good showcase for the band, with Nick Menza's drumming managing to keep "Hangar 18" from falling apart during the end speed-up. It's also worth noting that the "Countdown" material doesn't feel out of place alongside earlier classics like "Wake Up Dead."

The only real knock I have against the live disc is that the band's performance of "In My Darkest Hour" is missing the ethereal quality that the studio version has. It's a little too muscular. Also, there are a few moments during "Wake Up Dead," where overly loud rhythm guitar drowns out the solo.

The box includes some extras, including postcards of the band and a poster, for those who collect such things.

Megadeth's most commercially successful - and most successfully commercial - album definitely didn't need a bunch of extras to make it shine. Still, this deluxe edition of "Countdown To Extinction" has enough new stuff that even those who already have the album would do well to replace a well-worn copy.

Highs: A great album, with a great new live disc as well.

Lows: Even a classic has a couple throwaway tracks

Bottom line: A deluxe package featuring a creative and commercial high point for one of metal's greatest bands.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)