Megadeth’s “return to form” still holds up 15 years on 8/10
This remastered reissue of Megadeth‘s tenth studio album, The System Has Failed, is certainly a fan pleaser as the album has been out of print on CD for 5 years and hasn’t been available on vinyl since it’s original release in 2004. Hailed as one of Megadeth’s best albums after Youthanasia, The System Has Failed is an album that is probably better now than it was then.
Following 1990’s Rust in Peace Dave Mustaine steered the band in a more radio friendly direction as he played keeping-up-with-Metallica in attempting to get a number one album. Countdown to Extinction hit number 2 on the album chart, the even more radio friendly Youthanasia got to number 4, Cryptic Writings hit 6 but didn’t receive the glowing praise Megadeth was used to although the singles taken from the album did incredibly well. Feeling his goal of topping his former bandmates was in sight, Mustaine took a big gamble with the musical direction of their next album which he appropriately named Risk. While the song Crush ‘Em got them mainstream attention, the album was generally panned which lead to Megadeth attempting to U-turn back to their more metal roots with The World Needs a Hero. While that album mixed radio friendly with a heavier Megadeth it was an odd creature as it was neither one thing or the other. Then disaster struck as Mustaine relapsed into drug addiction and lost the use of his left hand resulting in the band splitting.
After 2 years of intensive rehab on his arm and hand, Megadeth reformed but rather worryingly without founding member Dave Ellefson. Fears were allayed however as The System Has Failed was released in September 2004 and was heralded as a return to form with Megadeth finally getting back to their more aggressive style. The System Has Failed was a real Megadeth album rather than a band trying to be Megadeth.
From the get go Blackmail The Universe unleashes a Polaris style riff and it doesn’t take long before we get the classic Megadeth quick riff changes that was their signature for so long. The last minute is a reminder of how good this band can be. This new remastered version doesn’t dramatically change the album’s sound like the remix of Rust In Peace, instead amplifying the sound and correcting Mustaine’s vocals which originally sounded like they were recorded in a cave.
Kick The Chair is another song that feels like it could have been on Rust In Peace with it evoking memories of Take No Prisoners. Tears In A Vial, instrumental I Know Jack, Back In The Day, Something I’m Not, Shadow Of Deth and My Kingdom all hold up their part of the deal, sounding almost like So Far So Good…So What! era Megadeth. All of them bring a far more no nonsense approach musically, while not being far enough out there to alienate the fans they’d gained with their softer style.
For those who preferred Megadeth at the more radio friendly end of the spectrum, there is still plenty here with Die Dead Enough, Of Mice And Men, Truth Be Told and single The Scorpion bringing the big chorus.
This new release adds on two live songs – Time/Use The Man and The Conjuring. The first is okay but worth sticking with until it kicks up a gear, while The Conjuring is always a welcome listen. That bass!
The System Has Failed was a fairly historic moment for Megadeth as they re-established them self in their thrash origins while retaining a somewhat friendlier and more accessible sound than their earlier albums. It got somewhat lost in the shuffle back in 2004 as some of the heavy hitters of the new wave of metal bands all had releases out that year – Damageplan, Slipknot, Killswitch Engage, Lamb of God, Mastodon, Fear Factory, Rammstein and super group Velvet Revolver. However, 15 years on and it can proudly sit alongside the first six albums without a hint of the turmoil that it ended by forging a new leaner Megadeth machine. 8/10
The System Has Failed is released on February 15th and can be ordered via Amazon.