Megadeth 2006 / Cleopatra 2021
Thrash metal royalty rein in the noise to turn it into a stained-glass image of their regular lore.
Seen from the outside as hardline purveyors of melodic clang and sociopolitical bark, Dave Mustaine’s quartet were possessed with a penchant for burying clever details in their music from the very start, yet it took the Americans years to get rid of youthful hubris and let themselves demonstrate vulnerability by removing electric charge from a stage performance. This rare concert happened on May 9th, 2001 in the capital of Massachusetts and landed on CD as a very limited edition the band’s fans could purchase to cherish nuances revealed in familiar tunes, but now, issued for mass consumption, the historic document can actually bring new converts to the veterans’ fold.
It could have been easier for the foursome if their numbers started off as acoustic sketches, when any artist should be tempted to strip all down to essentials, but this combo’s tracks are usually based on riffs, so they went the hard way of reinventing fans’ favorites and fresher cuts – a few from "The World Needs A Hero" and a few from “Cryptic Writings” alongside earlier smashes – significantly changing the songs while keeping the then-recent classics recognizable and full of fury. As a result, the purified riff is laid bare only on “She-Wolf” in which the group inject transparency yet retain its speed, as they do on “Moto Psycho” in a rougher fashion, whereas the show’s reservedly fervent opener “Dread And The Fugitive Mind” unexpectedly, albeit delightfully, unfurls a series of magnificent flamenco-laced solos exposing fantastic filigree in the interplay between the collective’s leader and Al Pitrelli’s guitars.
However, “Trust” still bristles with heavy intent, driven by David Ellefson’s bass and Jimmy DeGrasso’s drums who provide the ever-sympathetic rhythms, such as the march in “Use The Man” that sounds chaotic in places – which is strange, given the song’s unplugged origins – or the brief excerpt of “Holy Wars… The Punishment Due” that has the crowd reeling. Although Mustaine may seem to be straining sometimes when trying to embrace balladry, he will excel in wrapping his pipes’ roar around “Time: The Beginning” and rendering it extremely tremulous, even more so than in the studio, and, rising above the backing vocals’ sway, will engage the ensemble in a spiritual call-and-response on “Promises” and the audience in the singalong on “Symphony Of Destruction” – the earliest offering on display and the concert’s rambunctious, and slightly awkward, finale.
Pieces like “Almost Honest” lent themselves to the drier treatment with no difficulty and rock in style, yet they’re rather an exception to the rule that the metal kings bend here, on their most honest recording of all.