Album: Megadeth: The System Has Failed|
Street Date: September 14th, 2004
Reviewed by: Paul
A severe turn for the worse following their The World Needs Hero world tour involving Megadeth front man, Dave Mustaine’s, arm led to the disbanding of the thrash metal powerhouse. However, 2004 brought about a return to form for the band after intense physical therapy brought Mustaine back to the axe and leading the juggernaut into the studio to record their supposed, last album.
The System Has Failed is an album that puts certain, older metal acts to shame when compared to their most recent releases. This album is full of fast, furious riffs, the trademark Mustaine snarls, and a flashback to the lyrical style of their first two releases, Killing Is My Business…And Business Is Good and Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?.
The album is not only a return to classic metal, but also brings about the return of a political Vic Rattlehead (Megadeth’s mascot).
1. Blackmail The Universe - This is a very strong opening track with blazing double pedal bassdrum, insane guitar riffs with a political motivation. Easily the fastest song Megadeth has done in the last 10 years, the instrumentation is tight, clear, and easy to hear while remaining that “wall of sound” that a lot of people are used to from metal bands.
2. Die Dead Enough - Probably the most radio friendly track on the album, it still stands out as being a well written song. Originally intended to be put on the Tomb Raider 2 soundtrack, Mustaine sings of the feeling you get when everything you do isn’t enough for yourself.
3. Kick The Chair - Another true metal song at heart, this song’s disjointed riffs and clever lyrics are a fantastic addition to this album, but is able to maintain an appeal to the casual audience. A Seattle radio station ran this song on their nightly “Battle of the Bands” type program. It won for 9 nights in a row before the radio station decided to the retire the song as a champion. Again, political in nature, this song speaks to the justice system, or lack thereof, and the atrocities that happen in courts when money is involved (read: Michael Jackson).
4. The Scorpion - There’s a fable from some time ago that speaks of a scorpion and a fox that meet at the riverside. The scorpion asks the fox for a ride across the river, the fox refuses stating that the scorpion will sting the fox and kill him. The scorpion responds, saying that if he stings the fox while crossing, they will both surely die. The fox agrees and lets the scorpion crawl onto his back. Halfway across the river, the scorpion stings the fox. As they are both drowning the fox asks why the scorpion stung him, the scorpion responds, “I’m a scorpion, it’s in my nature.” That fable is the basis of this song, except Mustaine uses the scorpion as a metaphor for human nature. This song starts off great, good rhythm, good tempo, solid guitars, but quickly becomes old as it drones on for over six minutes without any real change in structure. The song is still fantastic, and I enjoy it immensely, but it would be better with some variety, or possibly by shortening it.
5. Tears In A Vial - The perfect cross between the power ballad and hard rock hit. The song laments Mustaine’s lost love, music, but rejoices a reunion to his true love, his family. Obviously written during his down time before the band was resurrected, this song has catchy riffs, a great vocal melody and deep lyrics. Influences from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal can be heard here with the horse gallop, chugging guitar riffs. Probably my favorite track on the album.
6. I Know Jack - This is a short instrumental with samples that refer to knowing Jack Kennedy. The meaning behind this track is lost to me, but seems to have some relevance to Mustaine. It’s a good short instrumental, seems to be more of a build up, musically, to the next track.
7. Back In The Day - Mustaine seems to be speaking to the “Nu Metal” crowd here, stating that even if they are doing the same thing now that was done 20 years ago, they’ll never understand what it was like to be at the forefront of metal. The song has a little bit of everything for the metal fans, good solos, fast paced riffs, and even an arena rock style sing along section. Good track overall.
8. Something I’m Not - Old school Megadeth fans may find something enjoyable in this tune along the lines of Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? and Sweating Bullets. There’s a good dialog between guitar riff and vocals here where Mustaine sings about Lars Ulrich and company. Probably the most clever track on the album musically, Mustaine sings in his usual sarcastic tone “You didn’t make metal buddy/Metal made you.” Another favorite track off this album, it’s almost worth buying the album just for this track.
9. Truth Be Told - If ever there were a filler track, I believe this one is it. Although it is sound musically, it lacks any attention grabbers. Nevertheless, that does not make it a bad track, it’s not one that I skip on any listens.
10. Of Mice And Men - Probably the catchiest song on the album, this is definitely radio material, but I don’t think it was ever released as a single. There’s nothing technical about this track, or really amazing about it, however, it’s very easy to sing along to and will get stuck in your head. It’s another song that reminisces about Mustaine’s past, but does so more as a warning, making sure you live your life to the fullest.
11. Shadow of Deth - Another short, semi-instrumental track, it grooves along while someone, in a crusader style voice/accent recounts Psalms 23 by David. Again, this is more of a prelude to the next track.
12. My Kingdom - Although written from the eyes of a king, this song is about Mustaine abandoning the music he created. It’s a bit of boring closer, but still good. Nothing really stands out about this track aside from the fantastic interplay between Mustaine’s vocals and the rhythm section.
Overall, I found this to be the best metal release post 2000. Fantastic musicianship, good song writing, and a tried and true formula all worked well together to make Megadeth’s final album a great success.
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