After a decade of futility and desperately bad albums you might have thought Dave Mustaine meant it in 2002 when he announced he was splitting Megadeth due to a potentially career ending arm injury. Not so fast. A mere two years later Mustaine and Megadeth are back with a new album The System Has Failed, albeit in altered form. Mustaine is the only full time member remaining from previous incarnations, with original guitarist Chris Poland guesting on the album, absent from the touring lineup, which contains nobody from the 1985-2002 years, not even bassist Dave Ellefson who very publicly fell out with Mustaine, taking him to court for his share of Megadeths profits. It all means nothing in the long term, as Mustaine has stated this is Megadeths last official stand.
Based on the weakness of The System Has Failed he should have let things lie. Mustaine has said many times latter day Megadeth (1992-2002) was watered down musically because of outside pressures to be more commercial. With Megadeths whole creative direction in his hands for System I expected a return to the rampaging thrash of Peace Sells or Rust In Peace, albums which made Mustaine a legend of the thrash scene, and metal in general. Then came 1992s Countdown To Extinction which abandoned thrash in favour of slower, traditional metal. Acceptable perhaps, but hardly palatable. By 1994s Youthanasia everyone expected Dave to have got that out of his system and return to speed metal. I know I did.
Youthanasia set the tone for a miserable decade from Megadeth from my personal viewpoint. Ill never forget sitting at home waiting for my brother to return home with the CD. When he arrived he had crashed his motorbike and was in severe physical discmofort, his knees bloodied. While he tended to his battered bike I sat through Youthanasias fifty minutes, left in a state of momentary shock. Not only had Megadeth left the thrash behind again, the album was even more commercial than its predecessor. We sat around disillusioned for days, trying to comprehend the sellout. After a while we gave up reasoning.
By 1997s Cryptic Writings shame it was truly over. A an ill advised mixture of old and new, it wasnt heavy, too many radio friendly pieces of fluff, and FFF was the worst thrasher ever. 1999s Risk was an abomination which I berated in this column, same for 2001s the World Needs A Hero. Mustaine lost his fire and has never regained it. I held out brief hope with System, especially when I heard an advance track, Kick The Chair, a competent 80s style thrash workout. Typically its the only one on the album. Dissecting System makes me physically ill to be honest. Mustaine had a chance for one more shot at glory, but instead continues to include keyboards amd sickly melodies aimed at radio. Its like being stuck in a 1997 timewarp.
He does try to recapture the glory days through tracks like Blackmail The Universe, Back In The Day and Truth Be Told, but its too late. Mustaine is too inconsistent in his approach to making albums. He fails to stick with one style throughout, making it a mish mash of ill conceived and lazy ideas. One second youre listening to the thrash of Kick The Chair, the next youre left sickened by the Risk style wimp rock of The Scorpion. Albums like Rust In Peace succeeded because they were heavy and fast throughout, sounding like one cohesive unit. This in comparison sounds like twenty different bands on twelve tracks. Even the thrash segment of Truth Be Told lacks force, miniscule opposed to Metallicas St Anger. Tears In A Vial even comes off as Dokken in the riff department, a crime to my ears.
Dave Mustaine is for my money the biggest waste of talent in metal history. What this man was capable of well never know, as he gave up on thrash so ignorantly after Rust In Peace. Instead he spent the best years of his career prodcing half baked melodic metal which did not suit his one time reputation as an untamable loudmouth. With all the weight off his back I expected something better than The System Has Failed, which is a continuation of the shambolic recordings 1992 onwards. He could have proved me wrong with one more display of spitfire riffing and dangerous tangents, but no. Like Pauly said to Henry in Goodfellas, now Ive got to turn my back.