Review Summary: A phenomenal return to form for a band that had steadily been recovering over the space of two albums prior to this one
Ever since their inception it would be fair to say that Megadeth have been at the forefront of the thrash metal genre. Boasting a sound centered around fast paced guitar work with their signature lead trade-offs and their politically-charged lyrics spat from the mouth of Dave Mustaine with, the band is an icon of the metal scene and not without good reason. Their discography is ridden with quality such as the immortal "Rust In Peace" and other great albums such as "So Far So Good So What" and "Peace Sells". For many the band lost their ability to deliver the goods for a period of time during the middle of their career when they put out albums of sub-standard quality such as "Risk" but even these mediocre albums had one or two tracks that were guaranteed to keep fans of the band happy. During the mid-late 2000's however there was a change in the winds as the band returned to their thrash roots with albums like "United Abominations" and 2009's "Endgame".
"Endgame" is considered by many to be their finest album since "Rust In Peace" and is certainly their fastest since that particular album. This captures Dave Mustaine and his ever-changing line-up caught in a state of absolute rage, be it at the state of society or directed at the government. The guitars are fast-paced and have a lot of crunch to them, the drumming is relentless and the soloing is conducted at a furious pace. Dave flings line after line of angry lyrics at the listener and you are literally caught wondering how Megadeth have re-captured the anger that drove their earliest albums. "The System Has Failed" and "United Abominations" were both great albums with a lot of fantastic tracks but "Endgame" is just in another ball court altogether. This is an album that is track after track of intelligently structured music with some brilliant riffing that gets the listener in a choke hold from the introductory instrumental track and never releases them until it is all over.
"Dialectic Chaos" introduces the revitalized Megadeth in a speedy manner that has not been seen since their earliest albums, charging right out of the gates with its finger raised in defiance at the critics. The riffs are blisteringly fast but it is the solo trade-off that accompanies them that really sets the standard that this album has to live up to. There is nothing quite like hearing a band that has sounded somewhat stale or forced for several albums finally get their act together and start an album off with as strong a track as this, but Megadeth pulled it off. "This Day We Fight" is a song that picks the album up right where it left off with the ending of "Dialectic Chaos", following on from the note that is left to ring out and diving headfirst into a pool of intricate, technical riffs that bring back fond memories of the faster moments of "Rust In Peace". Many solos are scattered throughout this song whilst Dave and new guitarist Chris Broderick bust out the speedy riffs, and it will knock the breath from your lungs. These two songs are a one-two punch to the gut that few could turn their nose up at.
From here on out the album proceeds to accept some variety into its folds. "Head Crusher" and "1,320" are two breakneck thrashers with some cool drumming; "44 Minutes" and "Endgame" are a bit slower and introduce more of a melodic nature to the album's sound, whilst "The Hardest Part Of Letting Go" uses clean guitars to great effect. This is possibly the most varied Megadeth album since "Youthanasia" with a flood of guitar lines of all tempos that prevent stagnancy from creeping in. The slower songs are really great numbers, with the title track in particular having some cool riffs and some of the best anti-government lyrics the band has ever written. "The Hardest Part Of Letting Go" may well be the strongest cut on the album, and could easily become the center point for Megadeth shows in future if Dave so wished. It has some highly melodic guitar work to open it up and Dave croons over the top of this before the song dissolves into a frenzy of thrash riffs and Dave's signature snarl and then reverts back to the clean side of the spectrum to bring it to a beautiful closure. If you have not heard any of Megadeth's more recent works then perhaps this song would be a good introduction.
The one criticism that can be leveled at "Endgame" is the feeling that two of the tracks were shoehorned into it to pad it out a little. "Bodies" is the worst offender, containing some bland riffs that will not appeal to many and some rather dull lyrical content. The drumming is also rather lackluster and could have been so much better had Drover put a little more effort into it. "Bite The Hand" is another song that does not really do anything creative with the band's sound and instead just meanders around aimlessly. Neither of these songs are particularly weak but they are not anything special either and the album would not suffer had they been removed. Thankfully it more than makes up for any minor blips that it has with its emphatic closing moments. The last two songs, "How The Story Ends" and "The Right To Go Insane", are two absolute riff-fests that few could hope to match. The latter of the two in particular shows off Megadeth's instrumental prowess with much of the latter half being instrumentally-focused. These two tracks stick out as two of the best the band has done since their glory days and prove the band to remain at the top of the pile when it comes to thrash metal.
On "Endgame", Megadeth were clearly firing on all cylinders as it sounds both refreshing and angry. Few bands have ever had the ability to deliver quite as visceral an experience as Megadeth and they proved it again here, with quick and angry songs blending perfectly with the slower numbers. If you want a modern Megadeth album to check out then let it be this one.