I’m a big proponent of freedom of speech and believe that everyone should be allowed to voice his/her opinion but if I hear someone badmouthing MEGADETH’s latest album I’ll have to exercise extreme restraint to keep myself from throwing said person off the top of a roof, mafia style. Let’s not mince words here – with “Endgame” Dave Mustaine has brought out the big guns and the ‘DETH war machine is firing on all cylinders. This is the album you’ve been clamouring for since the halcyon days of “Rust In Peace”, and that is no world of a lie.
Ever since the turn of the millennium Mustaine has been diligently clawing his way back to respectability after the turd that was “Risk”, with each successive album being a significant improvement on the last, and with “Endgame” his band has finally come full circle. “United Abominations” was a great album but it doesn’t even hold a candle to this latest platter of molten Metal. You want the flash and speed of “Rust...”? Check. You want the crunch of “Countdown...”? Check. You want the melodic dynamic of “Youthanasia”? Check. Yep, all these goodies are present in oodles here my friends, wrapped up in more trademark vocal snarls and blazing guitar duels than you can shake an axe at, with a razor-sharp Andy Sneap production job being the proverbial cherry on top. It’s all these elements that make MEGADETH the premier “Big Four” band of the here and now, more focused than METALLICA, less contrived than SLAYER, and simply better than the circus that is ANTHRAX will ever be. They simply let the music do the talking, and I’m loving what I’m hearing!
After a brisk intro (“Dialectic Chaos”) “This Day We Fight” lunges at you with the ravenous nature of a thousand wolves, immediately hitting the ground running with a ground ‘n pound Thrash riff and Mustaine triumphantly snarling “For this I was chosen because I fear nothing...”. It’s an instant ass-kicker and before we reach the 1 minute mark the speed is ratcheted up even more just in time for the first chorus and one of many solo fests between Mustaine and new tag partner Chris Broderick (JAG PANZER). “44 Minutes” keeps up the momentum, slowing the tempo somewhat in order for surprisingly epic opening harmonies to pave the way for a cracking mi-pacer that features what is possibly among the band’s most memorable choruses. “1,320” is another speed monster with a slight Punk-y uplifting vibe that’s not far removed from tracks like “High Speed Dirt” and “Lucretia”. Both “Bite The Hand That Feeds” and “Bodies Left Behind” then go for a more accessible groovy crunch (“Countdown To Extinction” style), with the latter being another instant favourite thanks to its absolutely wicked main riff and grin-inducing bass rumble. An effective mix of “Wake Up Dead” and “Symphony Of Destruction”, if you ask me. The title track’s rather nondescript first half had me a little worried but as soon as that pounding gallop kicks in towards the end my frown was turned upside down. Eek, cheesy, I know, but hey I’m in the throes of fanboydom here...
“The Hardest Part Of Letting Go... Sealed With A Kiss”, then, is the only real dud here – an unnecessarily demure ballad-like number that sounds like a leftover from the “World Needs A Hero” sessions. It does have a slightly orchestral vibe to it though (especially during the verses/chorus), so I’ll just call it an interesting misstep. Fear not though, as the next track (“Headcrusher”) easily ranks as one of the band’s most exhilarating numbers ever, a balls-to-the-wall thrasher that’s as speedy as it is grand (loooaaads of blistering solos here!), and that devastating riff-break that kicks in at 2:06 is the canonical epitome of THRASH FUCKING METAL. It’s right up there with SLAYER’s “Angel Of Death” and HEATHEN’s “Opiate Of The Masses” in my humble opinion. As the song dew to a close amidst a sonic hellstorm of deadly riffs, solos and double-bass drums I was nearly in tears. People will die when they pull that shit off live. It’s heart-warming to see how far they’ve removed themselves from the mire of the “Cryptic Writings”/”Risk” days. The final two tracks again revert a bit to the sound of “Countdown” and “Youthanasia”, being very chorus-driven but with more than enough crunchy riffing to see things through just fine. Oh, and take a minute to revel in the bleakness of the lyrics to “How The Story Ends”. Comical and genius all at once.
When all is said and done this album is the logical conclusion of the band’s stylistic evolution over the years and the true return to form they’ve always hinted at. The musicianship is of the highest order (I especially appreciate that James Lomenzo’s bass is given free reign here), the songs all maintain that trademark catchiness, and throughout it all not one iota of heaviness is sacrificed. In light of this, let it be known: “Endgame” is their best album in 15 years and will comfortably sneak into the upper half of this scribe’s year-end list. We’ll have to see whether Kerry King and co. have the balls to pick up the gauntlet...
(Online September 25, 2009)