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Back in the Day

Worth revisiting: MEGADETH, "The System Has Failed"


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By Ben Apatoff

It doesn't entitle DAVE MUSTAINE to act like the self-centered baby he apparently is, but Endgame is MEGADETH's best record in ages and a sure bet for my year-end top ten. But most of the Endgame raves I'm hearing, while deserved, just confirm that most people have forgotten that The System Has Failed was Megadeth's first great comeback.

Dave Mustaine had a lot to be angry about in 2004. Struggling with a debilitating arm injury, tangled in a lawsuit with his longtime bassist, fresh out of rehab and up shit's creek without a label, it looked like Megadeth's bitter 2002 breakup was for the long run. Factor in an unconvincing shot at recapturing Megadeth's thrash roots (The World Needs a Hero) and a much ridiculed appearance in Some Kind of Monster, and Mustaine seemed like the punchline at the end of a once-great metal band.

The System Has Failed sounds like Dave Mustaine ensuring that he'd never be counted out again. Enlisting some top studio musicians (including FRANK ZAPPA drummer VINNIE COLAIUTA and early Megadeth guitarist CHRIS POLAND,) Mustaine held onto the Megadeth name and earned it by making a genuinely great metal album. "Kick the Chair" hits with the urgency of RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, blasting a perfect shout-along chorus and a viciousness that had been in hiding on Megadeth's previous few albums. The super-melodic "The Scorpion" and "Back in the Day" are terrific gateway metal, radio-friendly without sounding toothless, and single "Of Mice and Men" deserved to be a hit. Of course, there's still plenty of bitterness–it's hard to imagine the stomping "Something I'm Not" and maybe even "The Scorpion" being about anything other than METALLICA. But if Mustaine is going to remain the most venomous mouth in metal, let him keep spewing out awesome music like this.

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