“May I have your attention? MEGADETH-Air Flight 10 is now boarding.”
“Finally,” I mutter to myself after what seemed like an eternity pacing and unable to stay put in the uncomfortable plastic seat. Wiping my brow I mumble unintelligibly to myself, “It’s a miracle they’re going through with this after that horrible airline accident.” Shrugging off my worries, I proceed through the gate and after a short-while find myself seated comfortably in coach, strapping myself in and preparing for what could possibly be a quite bumpy ride.
A gentle rumble is felt as the aircraft begins to pick up speed down the runway, taking off when something unexpected washes over the passengers, “The hell is that?…My god. Riffs, holy-hell listen to the riffs!” Guitar-lines meld with beautiful leads as Dave’s vocals make their first appearance in “Blackmail The Universe.” “All right” I think to myself, my immediate worries being cast aside with one fell swoop. The gentle vibrations shaking my body begin to throw my head forward as I can do nothing to stop myself from involuntarily head-banging.
Soaring high the plane begins to gain altitude and the smiles on the passengers faces testify to utter satisfaction. “Whoa” my stomach nearly leaps out of my body as the large aircraft banks hard suddenly, colliding with some mild turbulence. My body begins to sweat lightly as I repeat to myself, “Nothing to worry about, this is completely normal.” I begin to choke on my words as “Die Dead Enough” kicks in, causing the plane to falter and begin losing altitude at an alarming rate.
Slicing through the clouds the nose of the airplane begins to level out as the descent slows. The screaming amongst the passengers begins to die down as our ears are elegantly caressed with the shrieking “Kick The Chair.” Sweat immediately dissipates as the plane gains more and more altitude but nothing could prepare anyone for what would happen next.
Before normality is re-attained my heart sinks, as a small explosion is heard outside the plane near the right wing. Swallowing hard I begin to pray as the familiar earthquake like jolting returns while the plane begins to tip nose down, heading straight for the Atlantic below. No “Kick The Chair” or “Blackmail The Universe” would save us as the aircraft ultimately plummets to its doom mid-flight. The System has truly failed.
Pardon the metaphor, but the above passage uniquely conveys the feelings this album has conjured within this reviewer. With MEGADETH’s 10th album we are greeted to the return of the mighty Dave Mustaine. We all thought it would be over, but beyond all odds he has returned. “The System Has Failed” is a solid release by any means and is a much anticipated slab of Heavy Metal, albeit with quite a few flaws. Dave Mustaine has blessed us with a decent album, but not a truly great record worthy of the MEGADETH name. Dave has stated that this was supposed to be a solo album but he had an obligation with the label to produce this so he slapped the MEGADETH label on it. At the core, this is where the album’s downfall originates.
When the album first kicks in it is in fact hard to keep your head still. Chris Poland’s chops are there as well as solid work by Dave himself. Vinnie Colaiuta is more than skilled behind the kit and treats us to some professional drumming throughout the album, although it is ultimately quite a forgettable performance due to the songs themselves. As I’ve stated above, “Blackmail The Universe” and “Kick The Chair” rock hard and see Dave in his heyday back in Hangar 13 with sick long hair and not knowing the meaning of the word “sober.” Unfortunately the rest of the album is lackluster with a capital L. I do not know what happened to Dave’s compositional skills but how can one go from doing a “Blackmail The Universe” to the abysmal radio-friendly “Die Dead Enough.” Since purchasing this album the day it was released I don’t think I’ve gotten through that track more than 4 or 5 times in as many as 30 listens. Every single other track besides the two thrashers are utterly forgettable and boring. The album simply cannot hold its momentum.
The riffs seem to be there and have some potential on tracks like “Something That I’m Not” and “Of Mice And Men” but they do not go anywhere. The album just seems way too safe and predictable and stirs little emotion in my opinion. Nearly all of the solos peppered throughout the album entertain but the riffs do not sustain them and they’re found lacking necessary life support. I have a hard time reading Dave and getting a feeling for the emotions he’s trying to convey. Certainly not aggression, for that is sorely lacked throughout the album. If he is trying to appeal to a sense of regret and sadness it was done much better by Mustaine’s former band on their latest release.
With that being said I must compliment Dave on giving us his least annoying vocal performance yet. I for one have come to enjoy his vocals on MEGADETH’s early material but I do remember them being something of a hurdle originally (much like Bobby Blitz of OVERKILL). They seem toned down a bit here as far as range goes but it does seem to be missing a certain spark of emotion. They present a sort of enigma to me as I can’t decide whether I like them better than Dave’s early work. They certainly should prove more accessible to a MEGADETH newcomer.
I hate to make a comparison which could prove unfair, but “TSHF” is overshadowed “St. Anger.” This is coming from someone who enjoys early MEGADETH much more than early METALLICA. This album simply does not make my neck sore and I do not wish to spend money on a disc in which I have to force myself to head-bang to. Mustaine does seem revitalized after the accident, which is good news for all of us, but he lacks anger. Poland should have kicked him in the balls before going in to record vocals. This album does not live up to the MEGADETH name and just does not possess balls to the wall Thrash which we know Dave is capable of (“Kick The Chair”).
Before I depart I also must ask, what the hell is up with “Shadow Of Deth.” Since when was it a good idea to have Arnold recite Psalm 23 over a tame electric-guitar riff. Arnold = governor NOT preacher.
“Truth be told - Hell's open for business now”
No Dave it’s not.
“The battle ain't over without spoils of war”
Sorry again Dave, but it is indeed over and you’ve lost to James and Co. (Online April 5, 2005)