01. Identity
02. The Hurt Plains
03. Endgame I
04. Sertaline
05. Endgame II
06. The Demon Mine
07. Synesthete
08. Hindsight
09. Phoenix Tears
10. Liar's League

RATING: 6.5/10

Don't call Andrew Staehling a control freak. He just happens to know what's best for his "band" SOULSCAR. On "Endgame", the project's third full-length release, Staehling contributes vocals, guitars, bass and keys, not to mention producing the album. Although other musicians do contribute vocals and solos on the album, "Endgame" is unquestionably Staehling's baby. As it turns out, the man does a fine job of constructing a strong collection of melodic death/thrash that owes a great deal to the Swedish masters, including bits of old DARK TRANQUILITY.

Loads of crunchy guitar riffs, harmonies, and soaring solos mesh well with catchy songwriting. Much of it is of the up-tempo and thrashy variety, as demonstrated by songs like "Identity", "The Hurt Plains", and the intense "Liar's League". A smattering of keyboards are found at various points along the way and work to accent the tracks without interfering with the tough riffing. It is a tad odd that the album boasts no less than three instrumental tracks ("Sertaline", which features effective keys, "Synesthete", and "Phoenix Tears"), but all are enjoyable and fit nicely within the album's larger framework. The guy does have a knack for balancing the aforementioned riff crunch with tuneful leads; there is a certain flow to the songs that is missing from some of the band's contemporaries. On the downside, the female vocals of Alexandra Staehling on "Endgame I", "Endgame II", and "Hindsight" are ill fitting, both from the standpoint of arrangement context and delivery. In fact, the female vocal parts on "Hindsight" are uncomfortably awkward.

On the whole, "Endgame" sounds surprisingly fresh, considering the throngs of competitors continuing to ride the Swedish melodic death/thrash wave. The guitar work alone (including the rich tone) is enough to warrant a listen. If you can get past the momentum-killing vocals of Alexandra on the above-mentioned tracks, you'll find "Endgame" a pleasing experience.


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