From the onset, it is clear that Endgame is going to be about one thing and one thing only – bitter, seething thrash, the kind that only Dave Mustaine can deliver. Ultimately though, this turns out to be a blessing and a curse for Megadeth where the balance between song-writing and riffing seems to be somewhat skewed.
There has recently been an influx of retro-thrash styled bands gaining popularity by giving attention to a classic genre of metal. Musically speaking, Endgame is effectively Dave Mustaine giving these mere children a lesson in how to thrash out. The record is filled to the brim with incredible instrumental work throughout with the guitar playing being of particular note. New axe-man Chris Broderick is among the best lead players to grace a Megadeth record and guaranteed to “melt faces”. Whilst he may not have the soul and originality of classic ‘Deth guitarists like Marty Friedman, he makes up for it in ridiculous technicality, putting many of his predecessors to shame (not Friedman though – that’s just impossible). The guitar duels between Mustaine and Broderick are very reminiscent of the Rust In Peace-era of Megadeth and are a very welcome return, adding a great sense of urgency to the album as a whole.
Unfortunately, Mustaine’s actual song construction seems like an afterthought to the guitar abuse. On the initial few listens, there are few choruses or vocal hooks that really stick out and make the tracks truly memorable. This is uncharacteristically strange as “MegaDave” has a penchant for clever metal writing, merging the heaviness of his guitar playing with a keen sense of melody. This just isn’t present in the same way on Endgame, with only a few songs such as ‘44 Minutes’ or ‘Bodies’ having vocal moments that will stick in your head. Furthermore, lyrically Endgame is overly laden with Dave’s political ramblings and seems to lack some of the forethought of earlier ‘Deth releases. This isn’t entirely a bad thing, occasionally resulting in the snake-bite quips that only Mustaine can truly pull off, but many of the vocals seem tacked on and almost weak, failing to add to the muscular body of music behind them.
Whilst Endgame has widely been hailed as a return to form by most of the metal press and fans alike, I personally don’t agree. Whilst certainly a good album, the sacrifice of memorable song-writing for unrelenting riffs seems like Megadeth shooting themselves in the proverbial foot. Endgame suffers from what I like to call ‘Annihilator Syndrome’ – the riffs are certainly there, but the songs aren’t quite.