Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Album Review: MEGADETH

Roadrunner Records

If Dave Mustaine had Megadeth's musical arsenal set to stun on the 2007 release United Abominations, he toggles the switch to kill mode on Endgame, an album that requires no more than a single listen to merit its stripes in any 'best Megadeth album' debate.

Endgame isn't Dave Mustaine writing songs for radio, and it's not Dave Mustaine trying to keep pace with the commercial success of his previous bandmates. What the album is, is Dave Mustaine demonstrating - yet again - why he's one of the most prolific musical forces in heavy metal. Packed with piss and vinegar aplenty, musicianship that slays, and a melodic underbelly that ties the proceedings together like a tender kiss on the forehead after an uncompromising knee to the groin, the album is a scalding blur of blinding speed, progressive dynamics and tenacious attitude.

In other words, it's Megadeth. The band's twelfth studio release, Endgame would have made a white-hot follow-up to Rust In Peace, the 1990 breakthrough that bridged the gap between Megadeth's speed and thrash roots and the more commercial-savvy metal that marked their march into the new millennium. Opening instrumental "Dialectic Chaos" sears with a blazing intensity reminiscent of "Into the Lungs of Hell" - but with the flames fanned even higher - and a tight epicenter of guitars spiral into the frenzied battle cry of "Tonight We Fight!"

Whether inspired by current events ("44 Minutes," "Bite the Hand"), extreme sports ("1320") or the more personal side of life ("The Hardest Part of Letting Go... Sealed with a Kiss" - the most epic cut on an album full of masterpieces), each of the eleven tracks on Endgame are bound together by incendiary performances, from guitar solos that peel the skin off your arms, to a pulverizing bottom end that blisters your feet. Over it all, Mustaine delivers his vocals like a mercenary on a mission to get in, get out, and deliver an ammunition belt full of retribution along the way.

"Bodies" has roots in the same guitar-driven melodic jungle as Countdown To Extinction, while also showing the maturity of 15 years of personal and musical growth, Mustaine pining, "they have all been good friends, just not good friends of mine, their bodies left behind..." before a progressive breakdown leads into a musical freefall as much about temperance as it is full-on metallic release.

The title track is a scalding testament to the players, the returning rhythm section of bassist James LoMenzo and drummer Shawn Drover being joined by guitarist Chris Broderick, a power metal shredder whose previous bands include Jag Panzer and Nevermore. As much as Mustaine has made an art form out of playing musical band members (he hasn't entered the studio twice with the same band since the release of Cryptic Writings in 1997), he's also managed to bolster Megadeth's signature surge of fire and brimstone with each ensuing change. The trend continues here, with what proves to be the most mind-blowing Megadeth lineup since Mustaine-Friedman-Ellefson-Menza made their four-album run in the '90s.

Considering the magnitude of Megadeth's history, it's impossible to understate the magnitude of the following statement: Endgame is the musical apex of Megadeth's quarter-century catalog.

RATING: * * * * *

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