The System Has Failed
Better, but not classic
As little as two years ago, Megadeth for all intents and purposes was laid to rest. Guitarist, vocalist and founder Dave Mustaine was forced into retirement after a devastating nerve damage accident to his arm, leading to the disbandment of Megadeth after some twenty years and nine studio releases to their name. Time, as they say, heals all wounds. And after a year of physical therapy, Mustaine once again turned towards making new music, and news soon emerged of a new Megadeth recording and the return of Mustaine at the helm.
Taking control of things, Mustaine enlisted the services of bassist Jimmie Sloas and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta to flesh out his musical ideas, while recruiting original guitarist Chris Poland (Who appeared on 1995's 'Killing Is My Business...And Business Is Good!', 1986's 'Peace Sells...But Who's Buying?' and who now leads jazz fusion act OHM) for the vast majority of the guitar leads to 'The System Has Failed'. While all this sounds like the perfect recipe for a classic Megadeth release (Especially after 2001's patchy 'The World Needs A Hero' and the disappointing live album 'Rude Awakening' in 2002), it's essentially a mixed bag of songs that seem to cover almost every facet of Mustaine's work from over the years.
The album is off to a flying start with the very 'Rust In Peace' thrash era sounding 'Blackmail The Universe'. The track opens up some fictional news footage reporting on the shooting down of Airforce One and the unknown whereabouts of the President, while musically the thrash soundtrack is enhanced by the savagery of Mustaine's vocals.
In stark contrast, the lead off single 'Die Dead Enough' could have easily have been lifted from 'Youthanasia' or 'Cryptic Writings' era Megadeth with heavy vocal harmonies and the hard rock/melodic thrash accompaniment, while the justice system observations in 'Kick The Chair' is as every bit old school as the opener (If a little familiar sounding to the 'Rust In Peace' material riff wise again).
It's from 'The Scorpion' onwards that the album takes on a dramatic turn for latter day Megadeth material. The song itself (Vaguely based around the theme of international political tensions) is quite melodic, and features some excellent guitar work from Poland, but differs a lot from the opening start to the album. 'Tears In A Vial' leans towards the 'Cryptic Writings' writing formula before picking up towards the end with some great heavy riffing, while the short instrumental/sample laden 'I Know Jack' seems to be a great build up with it's distinctive riffing and atmospheric climax, but inevitably goes nowhere (Which is both a shame and a waste).
The slightly thrashier 'Back In The Day' has a strong foundation with some solid riffs and excellent drumming, but is disappointing with it's clichéd lyrical content, while Mustaine's stab at Metallica (Ulrich in particular) in 'Something That I'm Not' and 'Truth Be Told' are very 'The World Needs A hero' sounding with it's simplistic song structures (The latter is really only saved by the shredding of Poland in the tail end of the song).
The semi-autobiographical 'Of Mice And Men' has potential, and while it's a little more memorable that 'Risk' material, it's definitely the filler on the album. The introduction piece 'Shadow Of Death' is a little too heavy on the cheese side of things with the recital of the Lord's Prayer, and while it's supposed to segue into 'My Kingdom Come', it's a very stilted move.
'My Kingdom Come' is as experimental as the album gets with its doom like riffing overtones and haunting keyboards, and while a small section picks up with some pace, it's overall a lacklustre ending for an otherwise inconsistent album. Most will point out all of the shortcomings of 'The System Has Failed' (The lack of thrash, clichéd lyrical content, the absence of classic 'Rust In Peace' line up, etc...), and in all honesty, the album only surpasses the releases beyond 1994's 'Youthanasia'.
It tends to stray in the consistency stakes (Each track sounds like it was written, recorded and produced on an individual basis), the bands lack of input is notable (They actually sound like studio musicians rather than Megadeth members) and Mustaine's single minded song writing is the albums undoing (Perhaps some input from the members and Poland himself may have given the album some cohesion and aggression). With thrash back in vogue, some will pick up on the return of Megadeth once again (With the help of the recent back catalogue re-masters), with the hope that the band is back with a vengeance.
The truth is that 'The System Has Failed' will unlikely generate any new fans, and will only please fans of the latter era Megadeth with this admittedly solid release.
(Sanctuary Records/B.M.G. Australia)
More from Megadeth
- Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good - The Final Kill [review]
- Dystopia [review]
- Super Collider [review]
- Countdown to Extinction (20th Anniversary Reissue) [review]
- Th1rt3en [review]
- Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? (25th Anniversary 2CD release) [review]
- Rust in Peace - Live (CD/DVD) [review]
- Endgame [review]
- Anthology: Set The World Afire [review]
- Warchest [review]
- United Abominations [review]
- Arsenal Of Megadeth (DVD) [review]
- Peace Sells... But Who's Buying? [review]