Itâ€™s a rare thing when a musician comes face to face with what made them great to begin with. ENDGAME is that moment for Dave Mustaine and Megadeth. Itâ€™s the record where it all comes full circle in a career that has set not only set standards in hard rock and metal, but defined them. Megadeth are rage on a tight rein, as precise and beautifully destructive as a laser guided missile.
â€œAfter the smoke had cleared from personnel and label changes, I knew that regaining respect for me and for Megadeth was going to be a huge undertaking,â€ says Mustaine of the process re-tooling Megadeth after what is considered the â€œclassicâ€ line-up. â€œIt was much like trying to turn a battleship -- no, more like an aircraft carrier-- around.â€
Mission accomplished on ENDGAME, which is as extreme as anything Megadeth has ever recorded. The albumâ€™s signature track â€œHead Crusherâ€ should not merely serve as a wake-up for old fans but also a new generation ready to keep Mustaine & Co.â€™s brand of shredding guitar and bellicose songsmanship at the forefront of todayâ€™s metal scene.
This, however, is not surprising for the man who has created and branded â€œGigantour,â€ which for the past three years has united some of metalâ€™s most musically literate players including Dream Theater, Children of Bodom and Opeth. Then again, what else would one expect from someone who culled a sound from The New Wave of British Heavy Metal and created metalâ€™s then new chic, which was state of the art speed metal?
The Megadeth machine is built on a blueprint of stark, complex musicianship. Over time, with album sales nearing 25 million worldwide, Mustaine has balanced rabid-dog aggression with staggering song-craft. The albums Killing Is My Businessâ€¦And Business Is Good!, Peace Sellsâ€¦But Whoâ€™s Buying? , So Farâ€¦So Goodâ€¦So What? and Countdown to Extinction remain true metal classics. No surprise then that Mustaine was awarded the title of â€œRiff Lordâ€ at 2008â€™s Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards in the U.K, or that he was crowned â€œGolden Godâ€ at the 2009 Revolver Golden Gods Awards in America.
Which of course shouldnâ€™t negate the flirting with commercial success on Youthanasia, Cryptic Writings or Risk. Or even Megadethâ€™s road back to the standing at the top of metalâ€™s top players with World Needs a Hero, The System Has Failed and their Roadrunner debut, United Abominations. â€œIt was a good lesson about the need to follow your heart,â€ says Dave of the creative process with Endgame. â€œI am grateful to have fans who have let me stretch my wings musically. But this is where I am most comfortable.â€
At this point, Dave Mustaine has nothing to prove. To make the record he wanted, Mustaine found himself building a full-blown recording studio in San Marcos, California, just outside of San Diego, dubbed â€œVicâ€™s Garageâ€ after Megadethâ€™s iconic, skull-faced mascot Vic Rattlehead. His rationale for building a studio for Megadeth was simple: â€œWhen we went into the studio last time it was too expensive, too extravagant, too arrogant and I think it made us a little lazy,â€ muses Mustaine.
Andy Sneap, metal-producer and mixer par-excellence and a Megadeth cohort from United Abominations, returned to work alongside of Mustaine. The result of this metal-mongering synergy speaks for itself. â€œItâ€™s a great relationship,â€ says Mustaine of his ongoing dealings with the acclaimed British producer, also known for his work with Killswitch Engage and Machine Head. â€œWe had a few intense moments, but that is part of having a real working relationship. I am a better guitarist, singer and producer due to my tremendous respect for Andy and my open ears when he is listening or isnâ€™t listening to my point of view.â€
Part of Megadethâ€™s new energies on ENDGAME goes to the induction of guitarist Chris Broderick, who joins Mustaine, drummer Shawn Drover and bassist James LoMenzo in the â€˜Megs tightest line-up in years. Mustaine even went on record to say, â€œWith this album, I am also very excited to be introducing my new lead guitarist, Chris Broderick, to the world. I have always felt lucky to have had top shredders in that position, but after touring with Chris in support of my last album, I couldn't wait to get into the studio and see what he could do."
Not one to keep an exactly cheery lyrical stance, ENDGAME finds Mustaine more scalding and articulate than ever. Sure, thereâ€™s â€œ1,320â€, a paean to the thrills of nitro funny car racing, but from there, it grows darker and darker. The Edgar Allen Poe waxing â€œThe Hardest Part of Letting Goâ€¦Sealed With A Kissâ€ finds the narrator entombing his beloved in a wall of bricks whilst Broderick shifts from beautific acoustics to Megadethâ€™s riffy snarl.
But itâ€™s a landscape of bitter realities where Mustaineâ€™s lyrics resonate. â€œBite The Hand That Feedsâ€ and â€œThe Right To Go Insaneâ€ delve into an economically disenfranchised nation of have and have-nots. Mustaine himself is no stranger to politics, a self-admitted CNN junkie who in 1992 was MTVâ€™s floor commentator at the National Democratic Convention.
ENDGAMEâ€™s title track is Mustaine at his darkest. "Thematically, I've never been known to be a silent bystander in a world that needs our participation,â€ he says. â€˜Endgameâ€™ specifically is a document signed into law that further strips away personal civil rights. â€œItâ€™s a bill that George W. Bush had signed into law that could put an American citizen in a prison, much like a concentration camp,â€ states Mustaine. Far-fetched? Surprisingly not.
Musically and lyrically Dave Mustaine remains metalâ€™s true iconoclast whose latest musical offering rumbles with the intensity his career has been built on. Megadeth has come full circle. Megadeth are back to the killing businessâ€¦and business has never been better.