Review Summary: Just.. no...
Megadeth's legacy needs no introduction. A band that put out such thrash classics as Rust In Peace and the immortal Peace Sells surely could not sink into an abyss of mediocre to crap albums, could they? Well, actually, they can. Megadeth proved it with their middle of the road commercial rock attempt, Risk, and their completely lacklustre attempt at a return to form with The World Needs A Hero, the low point of their discography.
In 2004, Megadeth released The System Has Failed. This album was supposedly there comeback, and had initially been intended to be a solo album by Dave Mustaine. However, due to contract obligations, Megadeth had to reform to release this. Supposedly. In reality, all that happened was that Dave got together a group of session musicians including former Megadeth lead guitarist Chris Poland, and used them to release his solo project under the Megadeth banner.
Musically, this album is a combination of all their previous body of work, taking some elements from each. It includes some thrash elements, although rarely, it includes the soaring choruses of the Youthanasia/Cryptic Writings era, and the commercial friendly structures of Risk. The resulting album is a 12 track, 48 minutes affair that is severely unbalanced and contains a number of glaring flaws.
The first would be the lack of riffs on display here. Megadeth are not a band known for slacking in the guitar department, so this should not have been tolerated. How can Dave go from writing shred-fests Good Mourning Black Friday and Poison Was The Cure to releasing 2-riff songs that follow the traditional verse-chorus structures that bore the ***ing life out of the listener.
The main deviation from the verse-chorus format would be Blackmail The Universe, the opener. This has a number of slight changes in tempo, and a few nice riffs to propel it forward, with several well constructed solos to boot. This really is one of the best songs on the album, and is actually rather interesting to listen. However, this leads me into another one of the flaws of the album.
This song, and many of the others, are too ***ing long. Knock a minute off some of them, or, in the case of a couple of songs, knock two minutes off, and they would be fine. The riffs would not get tiring, the song overall would not feel like a marathon to get through. The songs that would benefit from this are Blackmail the Universe, The Scorpion, Tears In A Vial, Something That I'm Not and Truth Be Told. The only song that is over 4 minutes that manages to make full use of that time is Of Mice And Men.
Of Mice And Men is my personal highlight of the album. It is a good song, i enjoy the vocals greatly from Dave Mustaine, and it never sounds forced. However, on this song it is the lyrics that make it as good as it is. The lyrics deal with Dave Mustaine's faults to date, and are emotionally written. His voice complements these lyrics perfectly. There is literally nothing wrong with this song in my opinion.
I Know Jack is a song that should just have been plain cut from this album. At fourty seconds long, with no real vocals to it, just some drumming and one long solo, it is nothing more than a distraction from the album as a whole. This song is a poor attempt to display Megadeth's shredding power alone, instead of using the whole band to full effect. Endgame would later prove that a wankery session could take place in Dialectic Chaos, without resorting to being grindcore length.
The real problem with this album becomes apparent after around five tracks. The band is trying too hard. This is one of the real problems with The World Needs A Hero as well, and they failed to fix it on here. Both albums show a band known for their ingenious thrash attempts that had dropped off the radar with mediocre releases, that just wanted to return to that style and mimic it. And they both fail. The System Has Failed really has got some great moments on it, but they are underpinned by the fact that much of the album just reeks of them trying too ***ing hard.
Overall, this is probably tied with The World Needs A Hero as my least favourite Megadeth album. However, it is not utterly abyssmal. In fact, there are three great tracks, Blackmail The Universe, Of Mice and Men and Die Dead Enough. But the ratio of *** to great songs is far too one-sided for this to be considered a good Megadeth album. Megadeth are a band that it is impossible to accept mediocrity from, and this album just shows why. 2/5