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Megadeth - The System Has Failed Print E-mail
Tuesday, 14 September 2004


The System Has Failed
format: 16-bit Stereo CD
label: Sanctuary Records
release year: 2004
performance: 7
sound 6
reviewed by: Bryan Dailey

Image Metallica sold out long ago, but Megadeth sure didn’t. Lead by former Metallica lead guitarist Dave Mustaine, Megadeth has always played second fiddle to Metallica, who are now far and away the largest-selling metal band ever. Mustaine was a control freak in Metallica and his personality clashed with the rest of the band, so he got the boot even before their first album was released. They parted ways and Mustaine formed his own metal band in Megadeth, which since the mid-‘80s has been steadily cranking out metal music that is in no danger of finding its way into your mom or dad’s CD collection.

On the latest Megadeth album titled the System Has Failed, the 2004 line-up features Mustaine, along with Megadeth first-timers Glen Drover on guitar, Shawn Driver on drums and James MacDonough. MacDonough replaces David Ellefson, who had been Megadeth’s bassist since the inception of the band. This rapid turnover in personnel leads one to the conclusion that Mustaine has a band that plays for him rather than with him, as this band is really his outlet for expressing his own musical ideas. All songwriting credits go only to Mustaine, save the use of Psalm 23 from the Bible, where David gets a writing credit. If you are offended by the use of a Biblical verse on a heavy metal record, you aren’t going to love this latest effort from Megadeth, I’d guess.

The ultimate Megadeth album was the 1990 classic Rust In Peace and, although The System Has Failed does not hold a candle to this release, the new album harkens back to this era more so than some of the band’s more recent offerings. The songs are heavily political, as is the album’s cover art, featuring cartoon characters of famous political figures lined up to pay cash to a judge in order to be pardoned for wrongdoings. It’s obvious where Mustaine stands on his feelings about conservative politics and war and on this disc he gets to stand high on his soapbox on tracks like “Blackmail the Universe” and “Truth Be Told.” I have been to a Megadeth concert or two, however, and most of the fans look like they have never seen the inside of a library or ever tuned their televisions to a news channel, so the message might be lost on the meth-smoking hesher crowd. This doesn’t stop Mustaine from voicing his opinions anyway. Perhaps Mustaine is trying to appeal to the intellectual misfit who is sitting in his room, trying to figure out the world’s problems but wanting to listen to some progressive heavy metal while doing so.

Although not as hook-laden as some of the early ‘90s Megadeth songs like “Symphony of Destruction” or “Hanger 18,”the song “Dead Die Enough” has a big, multi-voice chorus that is the closest to a pop tune you’ll find on this new release. You’ll be transported back in time as you hear blistering lead guitar parts and crunchy syncopated riffs through the 12 songs on this CD. Moraine’s snarling high-pitched voice is unmistakable and sounds literally exactly the same as it did in 1990 and even before.

The biggest disappointment with The System Has Failed is its overly bright sound with fuzzy guitars that are less crunchy and more static-laden. Listen to the intro of “Kick the Chair,” for example, and imagine how cool the rapid-fire guitar part would sound if you could hear all the notes being played. The problem is that the overly distorted drum parts wash over the guitar line, making it sound sloppy and muddy. When Megadeth are at their best, the sound is tight and compressed and each note is distinguishable. On The System Has Failed, I think the recording studio’s mixing board was what was failing, as the production is sloppy and the songs often fall apart sonically with extremely intricate guitar riffs and lead parts mixing into a jumble of sound. It takes a careful ear to discern some of these parts, but compared to Metallica’s latest, the abomination of a recording called St. Anger, The System Has Failed is a 10 out of 10 in the sonic department. If Megadeth’s only goal was to make an album that sounded better than St. Anger, they succeeded, but if they wanted to make something that sounded better than their past recordings, you have to go back to the 1988 release of So Far, So Good … So What to find a record that sounds worse than the System Has Failed. It’s a pretty solid effort musically that was put together in a shoddy sonic package.

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