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Good, but... - 75%

Empyreal, October 18th, 2009

Megadeth are a conundrum for me. On one hand, they are a perfectly acceptable outfit, not too pretentious sounding and definitely not trying to be anything they aren’t, but on the other hand, I just don’t enjoy them as much as all that. I can listen to Dave Mustaine and his traveling circus of rotating band members any time and enjoy it well enough, but the question of why people think this band is so great continues to elude me. Why? Well, let’s take a look at their latest metallic venture entitled Endgame to find out.

So Dave is back after a few years with a new band, most notably in the inclusion of much-ballyhooed ex-Jag Panzer guitarist Chris Broderick. I guess that got some common sense into Dave’s head, because here there is a marked decline in the spoken-word political diatribes that often plagued United Abominations. Yes, imagine that, most of the vocal parts on an album actually being singing; what an innovative concept. The band pulls their weight well enough, with no-one putting on a particularly spellbinding performance except for maybe Broderick, who has been given elongated lead guitar sections just to show him off – but it’s actually kind of forgivable, as it is pretty entertaining in combination with Mustaine’s biting riffs and reedy vocal ramblings. No surprises anywhere, but everything is done well enough. Solid is the right word to use here.

The songs are all in the decent to good range, with the best ones being the opening volley of “Dialectic Chaos” and “This Day We Fight,” the chugging, snarling, smoldering mass of steel that is the title track and the strangely balladic “The Hardest Part of Letting Go…Sealed with a Kiss.” Even the mediocre songs like “Bodies” and “How the Story Ends” still have enough leads and riffs to not become worthy of skipping, so it’s all good. One thing I do like about this album is that Dave just focused on writing kickass songs, with no gimmickry and only a smidgen of politically fueled nonsense this time around. The songs only have one modus operandi, and that is kicking your ass.

But again, I just don’t think this album, or Megadeth in general, are anything really amazing. They just don’t have any real identity, and that’s much more important than most people give them credit for. Every once in a while you hear a song like “44 Minutes,” with its chunky rhythms and attitude-filled chorus, and think Hey, that sounds like Megadeth, but most of the time, Dave’s constant attitude changes and band changes render Megadeth void of any kind of signature flavor, if that makes sense. The band is TOO metamorphic; they have been even since the early days. Dave writes cool riffs, but the feel is different from album to album, in a gap that is too wide for them to hide behind the ‘variety’ failsafe.

A good band doesn’t just write good songs, but they write good songs while establishing an identity that will be expounded upon and revisited in future albums – yeah, you get some bands that change style and get a new identity, but that’s still different and more respectable than what Dave Mustaine has dug himself into. Megadeth just doesn’t have any kind of real style to them, and as a result, whenever I hear one of their songs without already knowing who it is, I go, what band is this again? That goes double for Endgame. This is a good album, but realistically it’s more like ‘Generic Metal Album Number X’ than an album by a storied and popular band making a comeback. Check it out if you want solid Heavy Metal.

Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com