The Megadeth album that almost wasn't.
Late 2001, Dave Mustaine was admitted to the hospital to have a kidney stone removed. The pain meds he was administered triggered a relapse. While rehabbing at the La Hacienda Treatment Center in Texas, Dave took a seat and fell asleep, his left arm hanging over the back of the chair. Upon awaking two hours later, he felt numbness in his left hand. The sustained awkward positioning of his left arm had compressed the radial nerve, leaving him unable to grab objects with his left hand or make a fist. Doctors told Dave that while significant recovery was possible with enough time and effort, his career was all but over.
One of the most beloved and influential bands in metal history, ended by "sleeping in a chair funny"? (I thought going on the DL because of "injuries sustained by sneezing" was bad!) That could have been the case, if Mustaine hadn't thrown himself into physical therapy and weight training. Thirteen months after the initial injury, he was able to play his guitar again, if not precisely ready to rock large crowds once more. Slowly and surely, he was on his way to defying each and every odd.
When Mustaine was able and willing to make music again, he set his sights on a solo release, but Sanctuary Records pointed out that he was obligated to deliver a record under the name "Megadeth." So Dave reached out to the classic Rust In Peace lineup, but negotiations with each former member fell through, including Dave Ellefson, who you will recall has been Megadeth's bass-man since the beginning. Things went so disastrously wrong between the two Dave's that two months before the release of The System Has Failed, Ellefson sued Mustaine in federal court for fifteen million bucks, alleging delinquent profits. Mustaine, never one to be out cock-headed, countersued. Neither man got shit.
So, roll call!
Dave Mustaine--vocals, guitar
Chris Poland--guitar (in a minor coup, Dave was able to convince his original P.I.C. to contribute solos to the album)
"Blackmail the Universe"--A female newscaster informs us that the President's plane has been shot down "somewhere over the Middle East," and the U.S. is officially at DEFCON 3. Bitch, hush! Dave and the session guys are doing a really decent "Polaris" cover!
"Die Dead Enough"--Spoken-word dramatics aside, I really liked the first song. The riff was tight and chunky with some agreeable mood shifts so of course the next song will have none of that. It's a bird! It's a plane! It needs to drop out of the sky and die already!
"Kick the Chair"--Everything about this indictment of the U.S. justice system is subtle as an awl to the eyeball. The first fifty seconds--basically, before Dave speaks up--just never stop chopping my throat.
One nation, at a time, indecisive, with liberty and justice controlled by an elite few, that if we wanted to rise up and overthrow, we could.
"The Scorpion"--I imagine this is how fucking with a condom on feels.
I've been scared of scorpions ever since Diamonds Are Forever. (Didn't give me a phobia of gay guys with ugly haircuts, though.) Oh wait, the scorpion here is a metaphor.
"Tears In a Vial"--"I just don't care/I just didn't care." You fuckernutter, you sound like you don't care still. More of the dull-faced and mid-paced old-man metal I've come to expect. The difference between 1986 Megadeth and the 2004 version is the difference between second and third degree burns--blazing and blistered vs. dull and leathery.
"I Know Jack"--A spider's spit of an instrumental that features U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentson's famous takedown of Dan Quayle in the 1988 Vice Presidential debates. Could have easily sustained a proper song, but wasn't even given the chance.
"Back in the Day"--Good thing I'm not an arachnophobe.
Salute to the good ol' times that actually were, least if we concentrate solely on the artifacts. Not the photos, not the interviews, not the conspicuous consumption, but just the music.
"Something That I'm Not"--Rock; no real roll. Naturally, I began to doze off. Thankfully a friend nudged me and proclaimed, "Jenn, this is about Metallica! Dave was really mad about being including in their documentary and he's going at Lars, it's great!"
So I listened again.
The music is uninspired, but like any good overly emotional boulder-boaster, I love me some pointless verbal sniping. Especially when the word "enissophobia" (the fear of criticism) is used. Dude, that seriously took the song from a zero to a one. Woulda been 2.5 if Dave had used the same fiercely pissed voice as on "Liar." It's hard to argue with the righteousness of his attacks--Metallica are isolated egomaniacal backstabbing opportunists who make garbage music--but you can definitely beef with the ballistics.
"Truth Be Told"--Then again...music doesn't lie, but it can't tell the whole truth.
"Of Mice and Men"--My main criticism of this song is the very same one I leveled towards Steinbeck's novel: needs less of the lumbering retard.
"Shadow of Deth"--That willful misspelling is cool as Fonzie's jacket. Which is in the Smithsonian. Which is in Washington D.C. President lives there. One nation under God. You might recognize God from such books as the Bible. Which features the Psalms, including the ever-popular Psalm 23, which many people quote to sound profoundly brave. Aware of the verse's ubiquity, Dave adds a vocal effect that makes him sound like a character from a Lord of the Rings parody.
I can fathom a supreme energy that is without identifiable form, which creates, sustains and ends all life, easier than I can fathom a forthcoming Megadeth album that will contain two consecutive listenable songs.
"My Kingdom"--Halfway through, trips, falls and lands on a good song. What is with this fear of speed? Is it because it reminds Dave of his demons? Is the drummer that inept?
Two songs near the beginning dared to Irish up my coffee, and I thought as I sipped, shiiit, maybe Dave is rising up like a phoenix (from Arizona!) and Megadeth are a fucking force once again. Nope! I have nothing for The System Has Failed but high derision and low praise. And I'm all out of low praise.