Monday, January 25, 2010

Megadeth - Endgame [music review]

* Released in September 2009
Endgame is the 12th studio album from veteran thrash metal band Megadeth and thankfully continues in the same heavier vein as 2004's The System Has Failed and 2007's United Abominations. After cozying up to a more mainstream and accessible sound for a few years, those albums marked a return to the faster, angrier style of metal the band helped pioneer back in the early 80's.
Lead singer and guitarist Dave Mustaine is, of course, the one constant in the band, which has experienced numerous personnel changes over the decades. The latest change brings in new guitarist Chris Broderick, who establishes his chops right off the bat during the opening instrumental "Dialectic Chaos", where he and Mustaine trade off blistering solos over a track that perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the album. The album's title was inspired by Alex Jones' 2007 documentary film Endgame: Blueprint For Global Enslavement, which speculates about secret plans by elite global powers to ultimately run the world. I haven't seen it, but from what I've read it smacks of a paranoid conspiracy theory mindset. As unrooted in reality as its theories may be, it does provide colourful and ample fodder for Mustaine's lyric writing. On the title track, he weaves concepts from it with the reality of a bill that the last Bush presidency signed into law, granting W. the ability to have American citizens held in detention centres.
The rest of the songs cover all manner of topics, including the economic collapse ("The Right To Go Insane" and "Bite The Hand"), high speed auto racing ("1320"), a medieval torture device ("Head Crusher"), the famous North Hollywood bank robbery ("44 Minutes"), and a couple of songs inspired by ancient warriors ("How The Story Ends" and "This Day We Fight"). "Bodies" contains lyrics that seemingly allude to his rocky history as an original member of Metallica: "Went all along the road/All the bodies left behind/They all have been good friends/Just not good friends of mine/I've been kicked out and said I quit/Said I had enough and this is it/All I wanted was just one more show for the road/Cuz it was over last time before I could blink". Super Dave, it's been 27 years now - let it go!
The lyrics are solid, but it's the great music that elevates Endgame to a level the band hasn't achieved since 1994's Youthanasia. There's one tight, heavy guitar riff after another, save for a momentary break during acoustic intro and outro sections on "The Hardest Part Of Letting Go...Sealed With A Kiss" (the excellent "Sealed With A Kiss" middle part resumes the onslaught, though, at least for a short period). Other than this brief moment of deflation, there isn't another mis-step throughout the rest of the album. Mustaine's singing voice isn't for everybody, with its snarly whine, but it's certainly unique and as much a part of the Megadeth sound as whacky time signature changes and double bass drum patterns. Speaking of which, Shawn Drover's powerhouse drumming also deserves a mention.
I'm not one who really cares for 99% of the new metal bands that have come on the scene over the past 10-15 years, but who needs 'em when the originators are arguably at the top of their game? 2009 gave us some stellar Megadeth and 2008 brought Metallica's brilliant Death Magnetic, one of their strongest albums. What's 2010 packing?
Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

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