That after 25 years Metallica and Megadeth's respective careers can remotely still parallel each other is a mind boggling occurrence. From massive success throughout the late 80's and early 90's; to middling output through the lead up to the 21st century that ultimately culminating in fan proclaimed return to form efforts, both bands have followed a remarkably similar career trajectory.
However, given the substance abuse, label and band member issues faced by both outfits along the way, it has been unfortunate to see the ego of Megadeth brain trust Dave Mustaine grow larger than that of James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich's combined.
While 2004's "The System Has Failed" was an effort that signaled the groups return to form, the humility and palatable aggression that powered it were largely absent on its subsequent bloated follow-up, 2007's "United Abominations". Two years and the crucial swap of guitarist Glen Drover for Chris Broderick of Jag Panzer/Nevermore fame later and we are presented with "Endgame"; a technique propelled shred odyssey that seeks to recapture the bands past glory and modernize it in one fell swoop.
Therein lies the immediate problem. While the latest incarnation are certainly up for the challenge and deliver a stirringly precise and intricate shred fest worthy of snapping a pick a riff, there's a disconnect behind the emotion and the message present here. The songs often seem so top heavy and elaborate that they become oppressive through sheer weightiness, rather than their intensity. Furthermore, Mustaine recycles numerous political conspiracies, ideologies and more (sorry, but the nitro funny car tribute "1,320" pales in comparison to the equally as corny skydiving tribute "High Speed Dirt".)
Truly much of "Endgame" seems more like a blatant attempt at reclaiming the throne, rather than an earnest and heartfelt seize of power. Mustaine's love it or hate it sneer has been replaced by an almost theatrical rendition that feels more like an an act rather than his past cathartic expressions of indignation and outrage. On top of that, nearly every song comes off as a vehicle for how many impressive riffs Mustaine and Broderick can trade off before carpal tunnel syndrome sets in.
Furthering this indulgent spiral is the operatic, acoustically tinged ballad of "The Hardest Part Of Letting Go... Sealed With A Kiss", a trite Euro-drenched affair that may well have been lifted from a Hammerfall record. While unmitigated fretboard workouts like "Head Crusher" are enough to blow out a Guitar Center's worth of Marshall stacks, the over the top lyrical content is best taken with a grain of salt; better conjuring up imagery of a mediaeval drama theatre presentation than that of a gruesome torture device.
While it's not entirely fair to sling stones at a legend like Mustaine and his latest assorted cast of players. It's hard not to at least think that some of the praise dumped on them in recent years has went to their heads. "Endgame" is an album littered with pomp and lacking in substance. It hits all the right notes with surgical precision, yet few of them actually resonate with a discernible emotional bent.
Sure the immense chops and stamina on display are wholly impressive and find the band pushing their instruments and playing abilities to new limits. But so much is said and so little of it has any depth or a believable human response. With this being the case, to even mention "Endgame" in the face of the bands 86-92 heyday is like saying "Crush 'Em" stacks up to "Holy Wars...", well okay, maybe that's a bit too harsh, but you get the idea.
(3 / 5)