Someone once told me that Dave Mustaine was “the comeback king,” and this is not far from the truth. If not for his metal outfit Megadeth, Mustaine would likely have become Metallica’s equivalent to Pete Best except with a different instrument. Upon 13 studio albums since the mid-80s, Megadeth plays second fiddle (in terms of sales) to Metallica while also carving out its own niche in the metal world as one of thrash’s “big four.” Like Metallica, the band has had a “hit or miss” career come the late ’90s, mostly due to experimenting outside its given genre — though admittedly Metallica succeeded far greater at Load than Megadeth did at Risk. With this perspective in mind, Death Magnetic has redeemed St. Anger by popular consensus and Endgame is a grand step above its predecessor, 2007’s United Abominations.
Megadeth is known by many to be politically abrasive, case and point being songs like “Peace Sells” and “Washington’s Next!”. Fronted by Mustaine, each of Megadeth’s albums bear his signature “creepy conscience” vocals as if you are listening to the devil on your shoulder at maximum volume. Megadeth has managed to impress some critics recently as United Abominations was rather highly praised, but unfortunately the record fell short of stellar with scattered musical schematics, overblown political tirades, a duet with Scabbia from Lacuna Coil to rehash “A Tout La Monde” (seriously?), and a bonus bullshit cover of “Out On The Tiles”. In the end, United Abominations felt a little too commercial, even for Mustaine who constantly wishes to be the center of attention — and now we get the jawdropping Endgame.
If this record is intended to be Megadeth’s one-off, then by all means give the boys a hand. Endgame is quite frankly this band’s answer to Abbey Road (and I use this term loosely, all of you cute little Beatles fanboys out there) or as close as Megadeth could ever hope to get. Everything is slash, thrash, and crash here with a strand of melody sewn delicately throughout, a perfect competitor to the upcoming Slayer release. There are no subtle hints of power metal or “progressive but not” song structures, there are no attempts at blatant rip offs from other bands, only tons of inspiration put to good use and an intro to die for.
Opener “Dialectic Chaos” is exactly the kind of instrumental spectacle you could hope for from Megadeth, succinct and respected in its complexity; without fail, a breath between enters us into second track “This Day We Fight” that could claim cribs from fellow “big four” alumni Slayer only less so an acquired taste. “44 Minutes” and “1,320′” are truly classic Megadeth, modern takes on the atmosphere from Countdown To Extinction and most definitely a return to form that does not feel forced or misplaced at all. “Bite The Hand” comes in to shake down “1,320′” with overt talks of financial meltdown in the United States in tandem with “1,320′” and its survival of the fittest rhetoric. Following this five song death machine of music we get the full-on head blast that is “Bodies”; however during the bridge and drum fill it becomes a tad too overdone and leaves this writer wanting.
Beyond “Bodies” we arrive at our titular track that sweats Big Brother and conspiracy theorist subject matter. While this does suit the tone of Endgame, the lyrical depth here reads more like someone dictating Reznor’s Year Zero screenplay footnotes, a doubly big loss since it is the title song and therefore a meant as the centerpiece on an otherwise rather pristine dinner table. “The Hardest Part of Letting Go…Sealed With A Kiss” revisits Mustaine’s infamous ellipses and does not disappoint, with a slow-building introduction reaching epic proportions and an almost Misfits-esque lyrical delivery during the midsection before downplaying into an Unforgiven musical theme.
Lastly we receive a cycling back to the strength and sneering credit of Mustaine and company: “Head Crusher” is nothing short of skull pounding and preferably so; “How The Story Ends” is slightly misplaced but cannot be sold short on this alone; “The Right To Go Insane” is this album’s golden child, hearkening back to “Sweating Bullets” in lyrical context and delivery with a melodic sound that brings the listener in close before destroying him or her with a comatose-inducing set of solos and thrasher drums. Again, if this is as close to the perfect career closer that Megadeth (Mustaine primarily speaking) can attain, then far be it for anyone of us to interject — Endgame is as perfect as any thrash record of the current generation if not more so (near future Slayer release notwithstanding), and Mustaine could easily bow out on a high note right here.
Now if only we could retract Risk and Hidden Treasures…