It’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. It’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.
“After 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,” says Mustaine of the process re-tooling Megadeth after what is considered the “classic” line-up. “It was much like trying to turn a battleship -- no, more like an aircraft carrier-- around.”
Mission accomplished on ENDGAME, which is as extreme as anything Megadeth has ever recorded. The album’s signature track “Head Crusher” should not merely serve as a wake-up for old fans but also a new generation ready to keep Mustaine & Co.’s brand of shredding guitar and bellicose songsmanship at the forefront of today’s metal scene.
This, however, is not surprising for the man who has created and branded “Gigantour,” which for the past three years has united some of metal’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 metal’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 Business…And Business Is Good!, Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? , So Far…So Good…So What? and Countdown to Extinction remain true metal classics. No surprise then that Mustaine was awarded the title of “Riff Lord” at 2008’s Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards in the U.K, or that he was crowned “Golden God” at the 2009 Revolver Golden Gods Awards in America.
Which of course shouldn’t negate the flirting with commercial success on Youthanasia, Cryptic Writings or Risk. Or even Megadeth’s road back to the standing at the top of metal’s top players with World Needs a Hero, The System Has Failed and their Roadrunner debut, United Abominations. “It was a good lesson about the need to follow your heart,” says Dave of the creative process with Endgame. “I am grateful to have fans who have let me stretch my wings musically. But this is where I am most comfortable.”
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 “Vic’s Garage” after Megadeth’s iconic, skull-faced mascot Vic Rattlehead. His rationale for building a studio for Megadeth was simple: “When we went into the studio last time it was too expensive, too extravagant, too arrogant and I think it made us a little lazy,” 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. “It’s a great relationship,” says Mustaine of his ongoing dealings with the acclaimed British producer, also known for his work with Killswitch Engage and Machine Head. “We 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 isn’t listening to my point of view.”
Part of Megadeth’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 ‘Megs tightest line-up in years. Mustaine even went on record to say, “With 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, there’s “1,320”, a paean to the thrills of nitro funny car racing, but from there, it grows darker and darker. The Edgar Allen Poe waxing “The Hardest Part of Letting Go…Sealed With A Kiss” finds the narrator entombing his beloved in a wall of bricks whilst Broderick shifts from beautific acoustics to Megadeth’s riffy snarl.
But it’s a landscape of bitter realities where Mustaine’s lyrics resonate. “Bite The Hand That Feeds” and “The Right To Go Insane” 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 MTV’s floor commentator at the National Democratic Convention.
ENDGAME’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,” he says. ‘Endgame’ specifically is a document signed into law that further strips away personal civil rights. “It’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,” states Mustaine. Far-fetched? Surprisingly not.
Musically and lyrically Dave Mustaine remains metal’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 business…and business has never been better.