As evidenced by Megadeth's last three studio albums, fans are used to being let down. Dystopia could have been another case in point when an anticipated reunion of the Rust in Peace-era lineup failed to materialize. Undaunted, Dave Mustaine recruited Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler and Brazilian guitarist Kiko Loureiro of prog metal outfit Angra. Megadeth's 15th studio album marks a return to the band's thrash roots. It's angry, extremely aggressive, but also tight and polished. Adler adds clean, thunderous playing chock-full of syncopation and Loureiro proves to be a real surprise. Mustaine has historically cooked up imaginative riffs and motifs, but has seldom had a guitarist who displays the level of creativity and style that Loureiro does. The furious, stinging opener (and first single) "The Threat Is Real" offers bracing double kick-drum work from Adler, with a blazing riff and an off-the-rails solo by Loureiro. If you can't stand Mustaine's voice, this isn't going to change your mind; it's all monotonic and every syllable is discernible. The title track single is more melodic but the kick drum and bass throb frame a chugging scalar dual guitar break before erupting into thrash. "Fatal Illusion" contains an angular vamp that borders on Hendrixian; it gives way to an Ellefson bass break and a homicidal riff with modal and fractured rock chord voicings. The intro to "Death from Within" offers one of the knottiest, gnarliest riffs Mustaine has written. The knife-like fills in the line ends draw away from the lead right back to the vamp. The anthemic backing vocals are catchy as hell. "Post American World" is grinding tension and cultural dis-ease, with Adler double-timing the band. "Poisonous Shadows" has a full-blown string orchestra and features Steve Wariner's pedal steel for added atmospherics. While "Lying in State" is the heaviest track here, "Conquer or Die!" is a cooking instrumental. Closer "Foreign Policy" comes dangerously close to pop-punk but pulls it off. While musically, Dystopia is more energetic and focused than anything Megadeth have released in quite a while, Mustaine's conceptual take on the "war on terror" and what he perceives as the "threat to America" reveals he is on his usual neoconservative political soapbox. As on Holy Wars/The Punishment Due, he uses sound samples from the modern Middle East and even employs chord voicings in some songs that derive from modal Arabic sources in order to hammer his xenophobic point home. Many will disagree with his position, but to his credit Mustaine welcomes detractors to the debate. It's easy to appreciate the music on Dystopia; it showcases Mustaine and a crack new version of Megadeth at a creative peak. It's also tempting to argue with the songwriter's politics and the hamfisted way he puts them across.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek