The System Has Failed
Sanctuary Records, 2004
REVIEW BY: Paul Hanson
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/14/2004
Dave Mustaine has healed himself.
The often controversial guitarist/lead singer of Megadeth "retired" from the music industry because he slept on his hand wrong and sustained nerve damage. For a long time, it was questionable whether Mustaine, as a part of Megadeth, would ever share his unique vision of the world again. Thankfully, his hand healed and one of the greatest thrash guitarists has assembled a "band" that is going by the name Megadeth.
But this is not a band. This is drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, an amazing sticksman known more for his contributions in the jazz and fusion genre than metal, bassist Jimmie Lea Sloas, and a guest guitarist, former Megadeth lead guitarist Chris Poland, playing songs that Mustaine wrote. 100%. No outside contributions. The press kit outlines that he is proud of this achievement. This is the Megadeth CD that was conceived 100% in Mustaine's mnd. Formed in the depths of Mustaine's soul, this CD reveals a man who has seen it all, been through it all and come through to the other side alive. With a learned wisdom, Mustaine is unapologetic in many of his songs.
"Something That I'm Not" is a bullet aimed at the ever-elusive "you," a person that no singer ever seems to like. "You" hurt the singer, "you" are evil, etc. or "you" are gone from the singer's world. Mustaine sings "You said that nothing [would] come in-between us / the way of getting things we wanted down / Then enissophobia [according to http://psychology.about.com/cs/glossaries/g/Enosiophobia.htm, refers to an abnormal and persistent fear of having committed an unpardonable sin or of criticism] held you under its influence / until you compromised your style." So not only is Mustaine viciously peeved at "you," he is using $10 words to make his point. "Truth Be Told" brings us Mustaine's perspective on the world when he sings, "Before al Qaeda and Bin Laden / Long before Hitler and Hussein / Ever since the first murder was committed / The verdict's always been the same / Been the same, wrong! / The cursed future just repeats the past / There's hell to pay and stones to cast / So, there will be no peace, never be peace / Till the last truth be told by you and me."
When Mustaine isn't tackling global terrorism villains, he's singing about how the glory days of metal. Let's face it, depending upon your definition of the first modern thrash metal release, Mustaine's genre of thrash metal is at least 20 years old. Anthrax, Metallica, Slayer . . . all around for 20+ years. We grant Mustaine his reflective nature in "Back in the Day" when he sings, "Live to die and die to play / Every day and place / leave a path of meta l/ across the world from stage to stage" and, later, "In demin and leather / we were all part of one force / knocked rock and roll on its ass / and put metal on the course." Sure, Mustaine was in the first crop of heavy metal bands that came out in the early '80s.
Mustaine dwells on his past in "Of Mice and Men" when he sings, "Back when I was just seventeen / I thought that I knew everything / I could make it in this scene." He traces his journey through the age of 21 and then picks up his story at 25, and offers his opinion on the future "So live your life and live it well / There's not much left of me to tell / I just got back up each time I fell." Finally, Mustaine confronts his future. In the last verse of the last song on this CD, Mustaine sings, "I have lived through others for far too long / And carried my guilt, my causes, my sins / I hope in the hereafter when I owe no more to the future/ That I can be just a man."
Musically, this is a true return-to-form for Mustaine. The World Needs a Hero never got any airplay except for the awful "Moto Psycho" and even though "1000 Times Goodbye" kicked butt and should have been a follow-up single, that never materialized. I don't know if the radio stations got tired of playing their songs after Cryptic Writings ("Please! Mr. DJ, can you play "Trust" one more time today!"), but the band's airplay success went downhill.
In that respect, The System Has Failed will be unlikely to be a bona-fide radio success. "Die Dead Enough" has been played on my local rock stations, but I don't really hear the commercial success of Cryptic Writings on this CD. And that makes sense. This is a different Megadeth than the Cryptic Writings era. And I think it is for the better. This material is more aggressive, Mustaine's lyrics are more personal and more pointed, yielding his "go to hell" attitude with a fiery sword.