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Megadeth - "Endgame" (CD)

Megadeth - "Endgame" CD cover image

"Endgame" track listing:

1. Dialectic Chaos
2. This Day We Fight!
3. 44 Minutes
4. 1,320'
5. Bite The Hand
6. Bodies
7. Endgame
8. The Hardest Part Of Letting Go ... Sealed With A Kiss
9. Head Crusher
10. How The Story Ends
11. The Right To Go Insane

Reviewed by on September 26, 2009

"'Endgame' finds Mustaine angry as hell and looking to smash all his enemies into submission. In other words, just where we want him."

Megadeth has always been at its best when Dave Mustaine had something to prove. In the band's mid-1980s heyday, Mustaine was trying to carve out a niche for his band to set it apart from the rest of the "big four" in thrash metal — especially the biggest of them, Metallica, who'd thrown him out of the band in 1983.

That drive resulted in albums like "Peace Sells ... But Who's Buying" and "Rust In Peace," that married speed and technical excellence unmatched by any other thrash act.

Then in the 1990s, something fell apart. Suddenly, the weird time changes and multiple-solo symphonies of sound were largely replaced with conventional verse-chorus-verse song structures tailor-made for the radio play they received.

A lot of people remember the Megadeth lineup that featured Nick Menza on drums and Marty Friedman on guitar fondly for their efforts on "Rust In Peace," but seem to have forgotten sub-par efforts like "Countdown To Extinction" and "Youthanasia" also came out of that era (we won't even mention "Risk").

The 21st century has seen Mustaine and Megadeth crawling out of that hole, starting with "The World Needs A Hero." Mustaine's rediscovery of thrash gained speed on "The System Has Failed," his comeback from a near career-ending nerve injury and the dissolution of the band as it had existed at that point. "United Abominations" thrashed mightily, with only a couple soft spots, establishing Megadeth's latest rhythm section of drummer Shawn Drover and bassist James Lomenzo.

"Endgame" finds Mustaine angry as hell and looking to smash all his enemies into submission. In other words, just where we want him.

The disc opens with the superb "Dialectic Chaos," an instrumental that introduces us to Megadeth's newest guitarist, Chris Broderick, who trades licks and solos with Mustaine with a ferocity not seen since the days of "Wake Up Dead."

The last couple of albums have shown the wisdom of cribbing guitar players from power metal acts (Broderick came from Nevermore, while previous guitarist Glen Drover came from Eidolon). Dave can bring the thrash like nobody's business, but he works best opposite a guitarist like Broderick whose technical expertise (arguably) exceeds his own.

"This Day We Fight!" is possibly Megadeth's best song of the past 20 years, with speed, ferocity and anger that even younger bands would have trouble keeping up with. Mustaine growls, "The last request of my life is to die killing my enemies," and I can't help but nod and smile in that oh-so-wicked metal way.

Unfortunately, the album loses something after that. "44 Minutes," which details the famed Los Angeles bank robbery in which the police were hopelessly overmatched by assailants with automatic weapons, would seem to be perfect subject matter for a metal tune, but the lyrics aren't great. Also, after the speed and power of the two songs before it, this slower tune can't help but feel anemic. Great solos, though.

The ode to funny car racing, "1,320,'" ratchets the speed back up and reminds me more than a little of "High Speed Dirt," one of the better tracks from "Countdown To Extinction," in terms of velocity and subject matter. That said, the soloing on this one is spectacular.

I've always enjoyed Megadeth's political songs, even when I disagreed with their message. "Bite The Hand" is a successful stab against the Wall Street bankers that plunged the United States into its current economic chaos. Less successful is the title track "Endgame," which marries Mustaine's newfound apocalyptic Christianity with a Glenn Beck worldview in which we'll all be implanted with microchips and sent off to FEMA-run concentration camps.

I'm also not a huge fan of the ballad "The Hardest Part Of Letting Go ... Sealed With A Kiss." Other than "In My Darkest Hour" all those years ago, Mustaine hasn't fared well with this kind of song. His singing style just isn't suited for acoustic tunes. The middle section, which ramps up the electricity works marginally better, but it's definitely the disc's weakest spot.

Fortunately, the band snaps back spectacularly with the single "Head Crusher," which gets us back to the energy of the first two tracks. Shawn Drover gets a co-writing credit on this one, and it features his best drumming on the album.

The last two tracks, "How The Story Ends" and "The Right To Go Insane" are both decent. Sure, I'd have liked something faster to go out on, but the speedy solo break at the end of "Insane" does nicely.

Other than some quibbles with the lyrics and a couple of filler tunes, "Endgame" is a phenomenal album that continues Megadeth's 21st century return to form.

Highs: "Dialectic Chaos" and "This Day We Fight!"

Lows: The ballad "The Hardest Part Of Letting Go ... Sealed With A Kiss"

Bottom line: A superior thrasher from one of the bands that invented the genre.

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 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)