Megadeth - The system has failed 3.5/5

Reviewed: 11-12-04


1. Blackmail the universe
2. Die dead enough
3. Kick the chair
4. The scorpion
5. Tears in a vial
6. I know Jack
7. Back in the day
8. Something that I'm not
9. Truth be told
10. Of mice and men
11. Shadow of deth
12. My kingdom

Like many people, I had long ago written off Megadeth as a band that had completely lost the plot. Their mid-to-late 90s and early 2000s output (i.e., everything after 1994's 'Youthanasia') was tepid at best, dismal at worst. For every "Fight for freedom" or "Dread and the fugitive mind" bone tossed to appease the loyal, long-suffering fanbase, there were 2 or 3 cringe-inducers ("Crush 'em" and "Almost honest" come to mind) that simply had no business appearing on a CD embossed with the once-sacrosanct Megadeth logo.

When the metal media marketing hype machine began trumpeting 'The system has failed' as a devastating return to 'Rust in peace'-era form, I was skeptical. After all, we'd been fed this same line once before, in conjunction with 2001's 'The world needs a hero' fiasco. I'd believed it, and lived to regret my blind faith that Dave Mustaine would not let me down. Well, fool me once, shame on you, but fool me twice? I had no intention of being a sucker bet yet again. But when trusted friends began singing the praises of this CD, I succumbed. My neck muscles are ever so glad that I did, because Davey and the boys have forged a CD chock-full of headbanger's delight moments, including a couple of tracks ("Blackmail the universe" and "Kick the chair") so laden with twisted riffage, snarling aggression, lyrics dripping equal parts venom and bile, and an all-out evil thrash vibe that they could have nestled comfortably alongside the likes of "Take no prisoners" and "Devil's island" in Deth's back catalogue. I would have been satisfied with this CD even if these 2 monstrous tracks were surrounded by 40 minutes of recorded silence.

For better or worse, however, there is far more to 'The system has failed' than just the 2 aforementioned ass-kickers. The other material is a bit more hit-and-miss. On the plus side, the CD contains the old-school Maidenish "Back in the day" (replete with chest-thumping "metal-is-the-message" lyrics that I never imagined Mustaine could pen now), the biting, spiraling "The scorpion", and the exhilarating roller-coaster "Truth be told". Decidedly less interesting are the too commercial "Die dead enough" (put "Crush 'em" and "Angry again" in a blender, and there ya go), the whiny, repetitive anti-Lars Ulrich rant "Something that I'm not", and the 2 semi-instrumental tracks that reek of filler.

Add it all up, and what do you get? A worthy, albeit not sensational, comeback CD from a long-dormant voice in American metal. In an era where so many once-revered acts have strayed from the path of righteous, powerful and undiluted heavy metal, it is comforting to see an act of Megadeth's stature seize the torch and raise it high. This CD may not be Dave Mustaine's 'Accident of birth', but it certainly comes close.




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