Monday, September 14, 2009

Megadeth - Endgame (Or The Emperor's New Clothes of Metal)




Megadeth was one of the first metal bands I ever listened to. I collected their entire discography before any other band's. Until about two years ago, if you asked me who my favorite metal band was, I'd say Megadeth, hands down. I allowed Dave Mustaine his mistakes, I cut him a lot of slack on The World Needs A Hero, and I actually liked Risk. After all, no band is perfect (except a couple). I was pretty crushed when the band broke up in 2002, and I was unbelievably pumped when Dave announced that he would put out at least one more Megadeth record in 2004. The System Has Failed was truly promising. It sounded like an 80's metal god brushing off the dust and making a real record again after 20 years. Just listening to it made me excited to hear what the next record was going to sound like.

But then I heard what the next record sounded like...

Listening to United Abominations for the first time was my most dissapointing moment as a heavy metal fan. The riffs were mostly stock and boring, the solos seemed directionless, and some of the choruses sounded straight out of a top 40 record. The "politically charged lyrics" were literally retarded. It sounded like a confused 14 year old who just started skimming the headlines of yahoo news, not a 40 something who once covered the democratic national convention for MTV. Honestly, I'd rather listen to some old Anti-Flag lyrics.

The album sucked, plain and simple. There were literally two songs I could even sit through comfortably, one being outstanding (Sleepwalker), and the other bearable (Burnt Ice). Even after I decided the album was terrible, I listened to it regularly to see if maybe I was wrong, maybe it would be better this time, maybe all the great press it was getting wasn't total bullshit... but no. It was just as stupid, uninspired, and idiotic as ever.

But this review is about Endgame, right? Yeah, that's right, it is. I just wanted to give you some history. I was a die hard Megadeth fan, but this is the first Megadeth album I won't be buying. I'm reviewing this from their myspace. There are a few good things to say about it, and its marginally better than the previous record, although that's not saying much. I'm gonna go song for song on this one...

Dialectic Chaos

This instrumental jam is pretty outstanding. It gave me a lot of hope that this album might actually be good. It showcases the outstanding leads that are on this record. Chris Broderick is a great player, and he actually steps up Dave's playing almost as much as Marty Friedman did. Although, its a little weird to hear straight sweep picking on a Megadeth record. Its almost as good as Into The Lungs of Hell. The only problem for me is Shawn Drover. The drumming just doesn't cut it for a Megadeth song. While it was cool how he joined the band (learning all the songs in a matter of weeks before his first tour with them), Drover just doesn't cut it for the formerly state of the art speed metal band.

This Day We Fight

This is a pretty good song. I would even call it a pretty good Megadeth song. The vocal melodies/rhythms make sense, the riffs are fast and frantic, the lyrics are mostly unintelligible, but when you can hear them, they don't sound stupid. The solos again are outstanding. The drums are ok on this one. Two good songs in a row? Is this the Megadeth album I wanted to hear last time?

44 Minutes

No. It isn't. Dave Mustaine has a terrible habit of writing awesome intros to not so good songs (example). The song starts with a nice epicly bruding solo over droning strings, but drops off into a bullshit riff with nonsense vocals sputtering out an idiotic narrative about some dudes holding up a bank or something. Dave shouldn't write narrative lyrics, he should leave that to the King. The chorus is reminiscent of the Nickleback songs I've had the misfortune to hear. The solos, however, are awesome.


1,320

This is by far the best song on the record. Fast as shit, awesome riffs, amazing solos, good vocals; everything you expect from a good Megadeth song. The chorus is a little weird to me, but I'll cut them some slack. This is the second song Megadeth released to fans. I thought it was great then, but I wasn't holding my breath, since Sleepwalker was one of the songs they released from the last record, and we all know how that turned out. The song is good, and I wish the whole record sounded like this.

Bite the Hand

The intro to this song is stupid and unneccessary. The verse is pretty good, but is always interupted by stupid little modulations. Someone needs to teach Dave how to modulate keys like a fucking human being. The lyrics are about all the financial turbulance of the last two years. This is a perfect example of a song that could be good, but Dave mucks it up with bad lyrics and weird riffs for the sake of weird riffs. Again, the solos are great.

Bodies

Same bullshit as 44 Minutes. I prefer the Sex Pistols version. Solo section is awesome, though.

Endgame

Dave pulls the intro trick again. It's even more dissapointing when the intro has really righteous vocals over it (example). Beyond the intro, it isn't even a Nickleback song, it just sounds lazy, especially the chorus. The vocals, again, just float along without any real direction. It seems like Dave just writes a bunch of lyrics and pastes them onto the riffs he mashes together.

The Hardest Part of Letting Go...

For this kind of Megadeth song, I prefer Promises. The soft intro is ok. Dave's vocals can't really stand up to that kind of vulnerability anymore, but its ok. The galloping in the verse is nice, as well as the synth strings. But there's really not much else to the song. This one is ok, but its not enough to make me want to listen again.

Head Crusher

This is the first song the band released on their website. It's fast and has some good solos. All around its a pretty good track. Its also the first single from the record. The video is a little wack though. This is the fourth and final good song on this record. If you're listening along, things aren't getting any brighter.

How The Story Ends

This a song that
might actually be good if it were two times faster. The vocal melodies aren't attractive. If you're going to actually have a melody line in your metal song, make it a good one, not just something that fits with the weird lyrics you wrote. Some of the riffs in this song are good, the solos are good as well, but the whole thing drags because its needlessly mid-tempo.

The Right to Go Insane

Again, why isn't this song faster!? If you slowed down old thrash, the vocals would sound just as stupid as the verse in this song, and the riffs would be just as boring. The chorus is another weird pop hook. But once again, the solos are awesome, and they even pick up the tempo for the solo section!


Bottom line: if we couldn't get a good Megadeth record, this album should have been an instrumental shred record. Dave Mustaine is a fantastic guitar player, and Chris Broderick has the most raw talent of any guitarist they've had (but Marty is still the best). The leads on this record are great, and beyond the solos, the solo sections are usually the best parts of the songs.

The rest of the music, for the most part, is just weird, mashed together and seemingly uninspired. Dave was irreversably corrupted when he started working with producer Bud Prager (of Foreigner fame). With Bud's help Megadeth wrote some pretty catchy, but still kinda heavy, pop music. Now, Dave has categorically spurned all the work Prager did with the band. He is trying to "return to his roots" with bizarre results. His music is now a confused fusion of pop and metal that makes zero sense. It's not the pop metal of the 80's and its not the pop metal you hear now. It's just fucked.

Now, I have no doubt that Dave is fucking pumped that Megadeth is big again, but his music just isn't reflecting it. He says this is the "record of his life," but I just don't see it... at all. So far, he already wrote the record of his life in 1990. It seems like the majority of Megadeth fans don't see through the bullshit. New Megadeth just isn't very good. The newest records are mediocre at BEST. They're certainly not the kind of records people are still going to be talking about and listening to in 20 or 30 years.

The production bothers me a lot too. Andy Sneap produced the last two records and I know exactly his style. Add overdrive to just about everything and compress the shit out of the mix to trick people into thinking its heavy. Well, guess what, its working. The records sound heavy as shit, but they don't sound like Megadeth. It's bad enough that Dave is the only link to the early days of the band, but all trace of the Megadeth sound is pretty much gone. Their early records weren't necessarily mixed heavy, the music was heavy, the guitar tones were heavy, and Nick Menza destroyed the drum kit when he played. That's the Megadeth sound. Four dudes thrashing their fucking brains out, not a producer compressing their record until its flat as a pancake.

These last couple records are the worst Megadeth albums. Even Kill 'em All was a better Megadeth record than these two. Death Magnetic is WAY better. This is the first time Metallica has had a better record than Megadeth in 20 years. If you are thinking of getting this album, listen to it on their myspace first. I recommend waiting for the new Slayer record if you want something real.

Let's just remind ourselves of the good old days. Here's a video from the So Far... So Good... So What! days:



Saturday, September 5, 2009

A review! We're All Gonna Die! Kiss the Ground... Curse the Sky!



We're All Gonna Die is one of many bands I found through pandora.com, a great resource that I'll probably talk about in later posts. When I first heard them I was taken off guard by the almost radio rock quality of their big riffs and belted vocals. After a few minutes of listening to I am the Messiah, off their 2005 record The Wreck of the Minot, I was convinced this band was awesome.

Back in my pre-metal days growing up in the mid 90's, I listened to a lot of the "alternative" rock that was out there. I liked Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam, and, most of all, Soundgarden. We're All Gonna Die pretty much bridges the gap between my musical interests back then and now. Imagine if Soundgarden played in drop c, gained a few pounds and grew beards (I know Kim Thayil had one, but whatever). Singer/guitarist Jim Healey sometimes even sounds like Chris Cornell if you pitched his crazy wailing down an octave. For fans of 90's hard rock, the band's newest record, Kiss the Ground Curse the Sky (2008), is more than worth your time.

This is the Boston based band's third release since forming in 1998. Kiss the Ground... continues the trend of extremely heavy hard rock. The new album, however, is more mid-paced than the last release, and has more of a rock feel than a metal riffing feel. But while the riffs may be slower, the guitar tone is only more brutal. This album really takes it to the limit with bass frequencies. Its probably the most bass you can put on a guitar tone without completely mudding up your record. But somehow you can still hear the bass thundering away underneath the killer guitars. Admittedly, though, I turn up the treble just a little in my car. The record even has a few slow jams. They surprised me at first, but soon after I got into them. Just like the rest of the record, they're just awesome rock songs reminiscent of the 1990's.

The heavy tones throughout this record create a perfect backdrop for Healey's baritone bellowing. The vocals on this record really hold the songs together and keep them from potentially dragging the way a mid tempo rock song can. Another thing I realized after buying the record was the lack of autotune on the vocals. Healey goes ever so slightly south on a few notes, and it creates a really good natural feel to the whole record. Of course, the record doesn't need autotune at all, and even Healey's screams stay pretty tonal (kinda like Chris Cornell...).

Here's the bottom line: We're All Gonna Die is just a righteous hard rock/metal band that doesn't fuck around and writes really good songs. Their similarity to 90's rock is in no way some kind of retro revival (mark my words, the 90's are next), but is obviously totally organic since they started in 1998. So, check out some of their songs over at their myspace. If you like it, you can buy Kiss the Ground, Curse the Sky over at Underdogma. And if you don't have anything to do tonight (Sept. 5th), and you live in Maryland, they're playing in Frederick at Krug's Place for the Shod X fest. I can't go because I have to go roll burritos at Chipotle... dagger.