Megadeth - The System Has Failed Review
Posted by Liana Kerzner on 11.09.2004
Putting the 'Deth to rest.
Megadeth The System Has Failed
Let me start by saying a few things. First, I am glad that Mustaine was able to come back so well from a typically career-ending hand and arm injury and be able to play guitar at a level consistent with his previous prowess. Second, this album may be a lot of things, a personal triumph for Mustaine, who can now end this chapter in the manner he sees fit, the return of Chris Poland, an adventure in experimentalism (at least for the band), but one thing it is NOT is a Megadeth album.
I realize that Mustaine owns the name, but this album cannot be compared against previous offerings from the catalog of that band. For one thing, it contains songs culled from 150 previously existing songs, which calls some question about the quality of the songs, I suppose. For another thing, this album features a lot of touches that lead me to think that Mustaine probably just appropriated his solo album for this record, a solo disc which was allegedly in the creation stages when the brainstorm struck to have Megadeth return. Some of these touches are highly distracting, such as orchestra strikes, backing chorus vocals, skits and gross overproduction. At times, such as on the second song, it sounds like a fucking pop record.
Megadeth does not belong in that category or at least, it should not and that's the problem. There are only a few songs here that qualify as "Megadeth" songs, meaning that they fit in with the band's other songs. The first one, for sure, though I think it is a huge error to be as topical as Mustaine has become lyrically. It's fine for 2004 and maybe for the next couple of years, depending on who gets elected, to be doing this whole "Fuck Bush" schtick, but I think that introduces a devaluation effect to them once their relevancy to current times ceases. Kick The Chair is also reminiscent of vintage Megadeth.
Then, there are songs like Die Dead Enough, which comes fairly close to succeeding as a pop song, at least during the chorus. However, one thing that Megadeth as a band is not is a pop band. Mustaine cannot write a straightforward pop song, though he does get close at times here, and even if he ever somehow learns to do so, he will never be able to sing it, no matter how many layers of background vocals it's padded with. Then, songs like Back In The Day, which shall serve as one of retardation's finest moments lyrically, though the song itself is not bad, in fact, is mostly wrecked by the preponderance of such dunder-headed lyrical treatment. One of the biggest problems with this record is the backing vocals. Yes, Mustaine is a very weak vocalist, but all the endless vocal layering and padding is slathered on so sick it becomes distracting to the point that it actually detracts from otherwise interesting songs, like the The Scorpion.
The artwork is more of the usual Megadeth fare and that, at least, has remained true to the vision laid down over the years by the musical heavyweights. Again, it sees a highly politically charged vision, akin to that of Rust In Peace, still the band's climax and since System is to be the swan song for Megadeth, now eternally the band's climax. On the front cover, the Megadeth face motif rises above the skyline of Washington, D.C., while various politicians attempt to buy off the final verdict of their judgment, apparently during Armageddon. The front cover is then repeated in black and white on the inner pages of the booklet, which also features full lyrics and credits.
The 411: This album functions very well as a Dave Mustaine solo project, which is what I think it is, no matter the album title. It may say Megadeth and look like Megadeth, but Dave, I know Megadeth albums and this is no Megadeth album and if it is, it is a failure, as it functions very poorly as one, perhaps the worst since So Far...So Good...So What?. This is about half of an album, as half of it is executed very well and could easily stand side by side with some of the band's previous catalog, while some of it is pure dreck, sometimes even in the same song. It seems like Mustaine is going for everything, melodic rock and thrashier metal, all at once in the same album and the results are decidedly mixed. More consistency would have helped this album greatly, instead of being rushed to market, as it was. As a closing piece to a notorious career, if in fact, it does wind up being such a thing, it leaves much to be desired. Moderately recommended.