Megadeth’s album-to-album style is a hard one to pin down. No two albums are quite the same, ranging from the jazz-influenced thrash metal found in early albums to the nearly pop-rock sound of 1999’s Risk. But with their 12th studio album Endgame, Dave Mustaine (guitar, vocals) and his crew offer 11 tracks in a panoply of styles so any Megadeth, hard rock or heavy metal fan should find something they like.

Endgame kicks off with two of the most powerful songs on the album. First is “Dialectic Chaos,” a pounding 6/8-time instrumental that hearkens back to “Into The Lungs of Hell,” the opening track off of Megadeth’s 1988 release So Far, So Good… So What! And then comes “This Day We Fight,” a straightforward thrasher inspired by Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” that is as heavy as anything Megadeth has ever recorded. Songs like “Bodies” and “Bite The Hand” straddle the line between the band’s slower, more melodic ’90s offerings and the vicious solo sections of their earlier albums.

Endgame, however, is far from flawless. The third track, “44 Minutes,” chugs along slowly and feels as though it’s building up to a climax that never arrives. This is exacerbated by being placed right after the album’s fierce two opening tracks. The album sadly closes with two of its more forgettable songs, though the finale is capped off by a raging solo section that keeps the album from falling apart at the end.

Bassist James LoMenzo and drummer Sean Drover return from 2007’s United Abominations and continue to serve as a solid rhythm section. The real standout is new lead guitarist Chris Broderick (ex-Jag Panzer), who joined the band in early 2008. Broderick’s solos on Endgame tend to find the sweet spot between technicality and memorability that is too often ignored by metal lead guitarists.

Frontman and last remaining original member Mustaine provides tight rhythm guitar work and his recognizable style of pentatonic solos throughout the album. Mustaine’s voice continues to improve as it matures, with arguably the best vocal work on a Megadeth album to date. However, he sounds out of place during the opening and closing sections of “The Hardest Part Of Letting Go…Sealed With A Kiss,” a half-ballad he doesn’t quite have the voice for.

Lyrically, the album covers a variety of topics. Mustaine lives up to his reputation for writing politically-charged lyrics with songs like “Bite The Hand,” a snarling critique of Wall Street and the FDIC, and the title track, which condemns a bill signed by former President George W. Bush that would allow U.S. Citizens to be imprisoned in detention camps. The lyrics also cover some less serious topics, like in “1,320,” an ode to drag racing that also serves as a vehicle for dueling guitar solos between Mustaine and Broderick. Lyrically, the low point on the album is the decidedly unintelligent “Headcrusher,” which details the medieval torture device of the same name. On the whole, the album manages to be slightly more cerebral than your standard metal fare.

Endgame comes together quite well, and is easily Megadeth’s best album in 15 years. Thrash metal purists may be disappointed by some of the songs’ lagging tempos mid-album, but the overall package has something for every heavy metal fan to enjoy.

4 stars out of 5.

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