The System Has Failed

Sanctuary Records

For the remaining listeners who still give a shit, releasing a string of poorly received albums will lower expectations to the point where even a few strong tracks will be a pleasant surprise. Despite the repeatedly disappointed core of Megadeth fans who gave up on the idea that Mustaine had any fire left, or that he could rally the troops again after an injury-related layoff, the band still has expectations to meet, mainly due to Mustaine’s continued rambling about past mistakes and a return to form.

On the surface, The System Has Failed comes off as primeval Megadeth: politically slanted, bottom heavy and endlessly bred as the second coming of Rust in Peace. But it’s not. And besides, wasn’t the last album supposed to be? The good news is, it’s not as bad as any of the watered-down disappointments of the ’90s. The System Has Failed is crudely produced, partially aggressive and musically ambitious, making for a respectable, if incomplete, return to form. Original guitarist Chris Poland returns to lend a chord to riff-heavy nostalgia trips like “Blackmail The Universe,” “Kick The Chair” and “Back In The Day.” These three will stand out as the immediate favorites for die-hards. “Die Dead Enough,” a vindictive sounding first single, offsets a cranky verse with a strong finish.

Save for the recruitment of Poland, Mustaine’s latest lineup features a number of studio add-ons with a strong rhythm section and non-traditional metal elements. If this album does bear resemblance to Rust in Peace, one must scratch through the surface to get there. The songs are usually slow-moving and mid-tempo, but benefit from stronger dynamics and intensity. Just when you think you’ve heard another “A Tout Le Monde” or “Trust” tugging at your heartstrings, they grip the picks firmly and make like hungry upstarts shredding, soloing and pitching unforeseen time shifts.

Mustaine claims this to be the last album and tour, and if it is, he could have done worse — leaving the scene with The World Needs A Hero for starters. The System… is tight sounding, but shifts aimlessly throughout; it starts strong, aggressive and accelerated but inexplicably limps to a finish, trudging through the mud of mediocrity. The songs are catchy and more memorable than in the past, but ignition fails for stillness and simplicity in many cases.

It is a “metal” record, however, greatly aided by a bulky production and battle-hardened playing that recalls the power of the So Far, So Good, So What… era. The System Has Failed is thus a potential swan song that soars briefly to accommodate expectations, but is still satisfied to cruise at a minimal altitude to insure a safe landing.


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