Thursday, September 17, 2009

ALBUM: Megadeth "Endgame"

The ego has landed! Dave 'Motormouth' Mustaine, main-mensch for Megadeth returns accompanied by a new incarnation of his backing band, for the twelfth full length studio album 'Endgame'. The previous album 'United Abominations' was a solid, yet inconsistent, record, but definitely superior to Mustaine's output for over a decade. 'Endgame' successfully evolves from that earlier effort, once again employing the ubiquiotous Andy Sneap behind the desk, delivering yet another massive sound, with Mustaine rising to the challenge producing Megadeth's strongest, punchiest album in a very long time. This is easily the best Megadeth release since the mighty 'Rust in Peace'.

Starting with a simple instrumental that allows Mustaine and new guitarist Chris Broderick to flourish fancy fingerwork, displaying their distant guitar voices, teasing the listener for the treats that are to follow, the first of which is the absolute killer 'This day we fight'.
Holy shit! Megadeth are rocking out. Fast, furious, a real teeth-clencher, and the best way to kick things off. Mustaine really has my attention now. Thrashy tunes have popped up in the past paltry platters but it wasn't until last album's mighty closing track 'Burnt Ice' that I came to believe that Mustaine still had the vigour or even the interest in going hard like this. 'This day we fight' not only races along but is so potently heavy as to send me into a flailing fit.
'44 Minutes' slows the speed, to my distraction and dismay, though, thankfully, without sacrificing the pugnacity. A chunky, chugger, with a harmony heavy singalong chorus. Very much from the mould of ''Peace Sells...' and Symphony of Destruction'. Hooky, and crunchy, and a standout. '1,320' is another pacey head-banger, and probably should have been the second track. In many ways this is a real throwback, throwdown to an older era of metal, those halcyon late '80s, with a great drum-break before spiralling into whirl of traded leads. 'Bite the hand' proves an uptempo number sporting a slighty sexy, rocky riff while 'Bodies' falls into the format used by '44 minutes' and feels as if an album filler; the highlight stemming from a swell of harmoines that segue into a thrash riff laced with a cascade of solos. The title track, after another of Mustaine's annoying voice-over segues, builds to a swift gallop, before swapping into some scathing crunch, all of which is embroidered with plenty of athletic axe-work.
Chris Broderick, formally of Jag Panzer ( a long time fave band of mine whose progress between albums can only be described as glacial ) is a worthy sparring partner for his boss ( who is in typical fine form also); his solos distictive and often dazzling, without ever being excessive. Restraint is the operative word here. The compositions are lean, compact, consistent, with the exception of the awkward 'The hardest part of letting go...' an adolescent ballad embellished with strings that doesn't suit the tone of the album, especially when the following track 'Headcrusher' is one of the most aggresive songs since 'So far, so what?' However, the ever-so Cannibal Corpse-lite lyrics are at odds with diatribes and polemic that mark Mustaine's repertoire. Glenn Drover's drums are on fire throughout this whole album , this tune in particular is full of great examples of his skill, check out the rides tinkles in the chorus to show how he peppers each track with nuance, and character. 'How the story ends' lyrically is as if Dave wanted to write a Manowar tale of battles of yore. The chorus is catchy enough, shame that the text itself is silly. Yet again the guitar work overrides a fairly staid song, ablaze with brilliance. Opening with James Lomenzos brawny bass, which rumbles away throughout the album with latent force, ( very reminiscent of DD Verni's classic bass presence ) 'The right to go insane' is another ambling tune that builds to a rocking solo laden climax, a conceit employed too often and too distinctly on the album. The song is good enough, yet feels like either padding, or misplaced in the running order. Unlike the previously mentioned 'Burnt Ice' which closed 'United Abominations' in a frenzy, '...Insane' rocks along pleasantly, harmlessly, enough before ending abruptly, making the song feel perfunctory, which is disappointing after such a florid, fantastic opening section.

I honestly hope this album doesn't live up to the title, that Mustaine still has another few hard-nosed records like this one up his sleeve, and that this isn't his Endgame. Considering the fates of the so-called 'Big Four' thrash bands: Metallica struggling to write a decent album, let alone a decent song; Anthrax lost amid a prolonged production without a singer ( excuse me, are you the singing Bush? ); Slayer still brutal as ever though missing a little of their black magic; Mustaine's Megadeth seem hellbent on making up for lost time. 'Endgame' isn't perfect, and the tunes aren't all classics, but there are still enough rippers on here to make the album worth a listen. Perhaps a longer gestation may have garnered a stronger collection of songs. It isn't a second-coming, but it is extant evidence that a once-great band are indeed reborn, rocking hard, and still writing some cool tunes.

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