In 2002, Dave Mustaine disbanded Megadeth after suffering a nerve injury to his arm; at the time, he didn’t know whether he would ever be able to play at full capacity again. Two years later, his arm has healed, and it’s obvious from listening to the new album that he’s found renewed passion for his craft.
Simply put, The System Has Failed is a great album. And if the rumors are true that this is the last Megadeth album, then what an album to go out with. It’s definitely not Rust in Peace, so don’t expect that — Dave will never again write the kind of amazing riffs and crazy arrangements that permeated that album. But there’s plenty of meat here, and it’s signature Megadeth: tight, compact rhythms, awesome solos, and some melody interspersed here and there to make this a very eclectic, balanced and diverse album. Some songs sound like they could have been on Youthanasia or Cryptic Writings; some sound like they could have been on So Far So Good So What, or maybe Peace Sells. There’s a little something for everyone here.
Here’s a song by song breakdown:
1) Blackmail the Universe – 10/10. Fantastic song with some progressive influences. It took a while to grow on me, but that’s only because it doesn’t follow the typical verse/chorus/verse/chorus format in most rock. The arrangement is interesting, the musicianship is tight, and this is old-school Megadeth all the way — heavy as hell, and Dave and lead player Chris Poland shred on this one.
2) Die Dead Enough – 8/10. This is the “radio song.” The music isn’t as complex or interesting as most on the album, but the melodies are catchy. You’ll find yourself singing this one to yourself.
3) Kick the Chair – 10/10. Another old-school song; this one just shreds. Some off-kilter melodies at the beginning, and then Dave and Chris trade off solos at the end. Just like the good ol’ days. Heavy thrash song here.
4) The Scorpion – 9/10. This one has some really nice melody, especially in the chorus, but it’s also heavy and features some nice Poland solos. Has a borderline “epic” feel to it, and there’s some crunchy, interesting palm-muting riffage behind the chorus.
5) Tears in a Vial – 8/10. Not the heaviest song, but again, the melody is addicting here, and the solos are great as always. Sounds like a song that could have been on Cryptic Writings.
6) I Know Jack – 9/10. The only reason this song doesn’t get a 10 is because it’s only 40 seconds long. It’s kind of an instrumental; no Dave vocals here, just some clips from a famous political debate. See if you can hear it.
7) Back in the Day – 10/10. Another fantastic song. Very fast. There’s less melody in this song, but that would appeal more to old-school fans. It also seems like there’s a bit of an Iron Maiden influence in this song, especially with the galloping riffs at the end. Great riffs, solos, and flow. Great song.
Something That I’m Not – 9/10. Didn’t like this one all that much at first, but then it grew on me. Not really fast, but it has some heavy riffs, and the lyrics are hilarious: they’re quite obviously about Lars Ulrich of Metallica. A hidden gem here.
9) Truth Be Told – 6/10. Not one of the strongest offerings here. The end is cool, with some decent shredding and solos, but the beginning seems disjointed, and the first half melody doesn’t quite catch. The second half of the song salvages it, though.
10) Of Mice and Men – 9/10. This is another one that had to grow on me. Has kind of a Crypic Writings feel, and at first I didn’t like the main melody in the chorus, but it grew on me over time. This song actually has some personal lyrics from Dave that border on uplifting. Solid song.
11) Shadow of Deth – 9/10. Just like “I Know Jack,” this one only gets a nine because it’s so short. Awesome harmonizing guitars throughout. This one is another quasi-intrumental; there are clips of someone speaking (can’t tell if it’s Dave or not), but the music is the highlight here.
12) My Kingdom – 7/10. One of the weaker offerings here, but it’s starting to grow on me. It has a talking-style verse that didn’t sound quite right at first, but there’s decent chug throughout.
If you’re a Megadeth fan, new-school or old-school, I definitely recomment you give this album a shot. The lyrics range from personal to political, and the music draws on all eras of the band while introducing some new ideas and innovation. Terrific effort by Mustaine. Can’t wait to see the new lineup on tour.