Megadeth – The System Has Failed
2004, Sanctuary Records
1. “Blackmail the Universe”
2. “Die Dead Enough”
3. “Kick the Chair”
4. “The Scorpion”
5. “Tears in a Vial”
6. “I Know Jack”
7. “Back in the Day”
8. “Something That I’m Not”
9. “Truth Be Told”
10. “Of Mice and Men”
11. “Shadow of Deth”
12. “My Kingdom”
Dave Mustaine – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Chris Poland – Lead Guitar
Jimmie Lee Sloas – Bass
Vinnie Colaiuta – Drums
Produced by Dave Mustaine and Jeff Balding
The System Has Failed is one of those situations where it was originally intended to be a solo album for Dave Mustaine but contractual obligations got in the way so it was released as a Megadeth album. This was a part of a very weird time in the band’s history. In 2002, Mustaine abruptly ended Megadeth, citing an arm injury that left him unable to play guitar. He was able to rehab himself to where he could play guitar again but instead of re-starting Megadeth, he set out to do a solo record and recruited ex-Megadeth lead guitar Chris Poland along with Jimmie Lee Sloas and Vinnie Colaiuta to do the session work. I know some people like to say Seventh Star isn’t a Black Sabbath release because that was recorded as Tony Iommi’s solo album but you don’t hear people saying that The System Has Failed is NOT Megadeth. When you’ve got Dave Mustaine playing/singing/writing a heavy metal album (not to mention original Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland contributing guitar solos) — that’s Megadeth. Unlike with Dave’s side-project MD.45, there was no attempt here, conscious or not, to not sound like Megadeth.
After the critical failure of 199’s Risk, Megadeth returned in 2001 with The World Needs A Hero, which was an honest attempt to right the ship and return Megadeth back to its metal roots. The System Has Failed is even faster and heavier and was pretty much well-received from everyone, including me. In fact, I was in love with this album when it first came out and it’s still one of my favorite Megadeth albums. It’s like Rust In Peace, Countdown to Extinction and Youthanasia all rolled into one. The album went a long way to restoring some of Dave and the band’s credibility in the realm of heavy metal. The band just gets heavier and faster from here into the 2010s and it wouldn’t be until 2013’s Super Collider that Mustaine took the foot off the gas pedal a bit.
This one is still a classic Megadeth album for me. There’s so many great tracks here. “Blackmail the Universe” is a powerful way to kick off the album. Nonstop aggression and then “Die Dead Enough” sounds like Youthanasia. “The Scorpion” is another great track and I love the lyrics. Then you’ve got “Back in the Day” which is a lyrical nod to old school metal. “My Kingdom” is the only true filler here.
Of course, Megadeth was back full-force on tour with this album but the official new Megadeth line-up was Dave Mustaine along with bassist James MacDonough, drummer Shawn Drover and drummer Shawn Drover. Mustaine had tried to recruit Nick Menza, Marty Friedman, Chris Poland and David Ellefson back into the group at various points before the tour kicked off. Nick signed on but was reportedly not up to performing and sent packing just 5 days before the tour started and no deals could be reached with the other three ex-bandmates.
Highlights: “Blackmail the Universe”, “Die Dead Enough”, “Kick the Chair”, “The Scorpion”, “Back in the Day”, “Something That I’m Not”, “Of Mice and Men”
Queensryche – Frequency Unknown
2013, Cleopatra Records/Deadline Music
3. “Give It to You”
5. “In the Hands of God”
6. “Running Backwards”
7. “Life Without You”
10. “The Weight of the World”
11. “I Don’t Believe in Love”
13. “Jet City Woman”
14. “Silent Lucidity”
Geoff Tate – Lead Vocals
Kelly Gray – Guitar (solo on Track 1)
Robert Sarzo – Guitar (solo on Track 3)
Rudy Sarzo – Bass (Tracks 1, 5, and 9)
Simon Wright – Drums (Tracks 1 and 5)
Randy Gane – Keyboards (Tracks 1, 5–6, and 8–10), Bass (Track 10)
Craig Locicero – Guitar (Tracks 1–10)
Jason Slater – Bass (Tracks 2–4, and 6–8), Keyboards (Tracks 7–8)
Martín Irigoyen – Guitar, Bass, Drums (Tracks 11–14)
Paul Bostaph – Drums (Tracks 6–9)
Evan Bautista – Drums (Tracks 2–4, and 10)
Jason Slater – Theremin (solo on Track 2)
Chris Cannella – Guitar (solo on Track 4)
Ty Tabor – Guitar (solo on Tracks 5 and 8)
K.K. Downing – Guitar (solo on Track 6)
Brad Gillis – Guitar (solo on Track 7)
Dave Meniketti – Guitar (solo on Track 9)
Chris Poland – Guitar (solo on Track 10)
Producer: Jason Slater
Even though I’ve always considered the band to be one of the more bland and boring rock/metal outfits out there, the story of Queensryche has become quite interesting over the last year. I’m certain more people are discussing Queensryche now more than they have in probably 10, 15 or 20 years. I know I am. If you want a good overview of what’s been happening and why there are two groups claiming to be Queensryche, check out this excellent article (which has been spotlighted and given the stamp of approval by the La Torre version of the band).
Well, as the world continues to wait for the Todd La Torre version of Queensryche to release their album, the Geoff Tate line-up has released their own album. Geoff Tate is probably one of the least popular guys in the world of rock & metal right now, so it’s no surprise the bashing started as soon as sound clips were released. But rightfully so. The production was pretty bad on the preview clips that were released. Some of those issues seem to have been corrected now that the album has been released but Cleopatra Records is now offering to send an even more recently remixed copy of the album to anyone to can provide them with proof of purchase of Frequency Unknown. They made this announcement just weeks after the album hit the shelves. It’s a head-scratcher. Why the label didn’t just wait and release a properly remixed album, I don’t know.
And just take a look at the limited involvement of the “band” and the long list of additional musicians. It’s a guitar solo-bonanza! They might as well be called “Geoff Tate’s Queensryche” or maybe “The Geoff Tate Group”, “Geoff Tate & Friends” or “Just Geoff”. There’s really no “band” here at all. The making of this album looks like a revolving door of musicians. Heck, this version of the band has already lost Glen Drover and Bobby Blotzer (they only participated in live shows before splitting)!
Okay, enough nitpicking. It’s the music that matters, right? Well, despite never really having any preference towards anything Queensryche and despite the fact that I agree Tate comes off like an arrogant jerk, this album is actually decent. I know Dedicated to Chaos tried to go some weird rock/pop/dance/whatever route and the band was properly trashed for doing so but Tate doesn’t go that route with the not-so-subtly titled Frequency Unknown (come on, it’s FU with a big fist coming at you on the cover… a message to Tate-haters and former band mates I’m sure). No, Frequency Unknown is a hard rock album with a modern sound. I’m okay with that. I think no matter what, Tate was going to lose. He’s getting bashed for sounding modern but if he tried to make an album with the classic Queensryche sound he would’ve gotten bashed for that as well. The closest he comes to his days of old is with “In the Hands of God” and “The Weight of the World”, I think.
“Cold” is a great modern sounding hard rock song. When it first became available, I wanted to be able to laugh at how bad it was and then continue on with my day, but it’s become one of my favorite songs of the year. I can’t stop playing it. Other songs like “Life Without You” and “Everything” remain highlights for me.
The only thing that truly weighs the album down are the four re-recording of a few Queensryche classics that are tacked on at the end. Tate has pointblank said he re-recorded them for the money because the label wanted these songs for licensing purposes. It’s only Tate and Martin Irigoyen on these songs. The sore spot here is Geoff’s voice. He sounds fine on the FU material, never going out of his weakening range but he just can’t hit the notes on these older songs. The music sounds fine to my casual Queensryche listening ears but I’ve read other reviews of die-hards picking apart Irigoyen’s musicianship. The production definitely lacking on these four songs.
Overall, Frequency Unknown had the recipe for a true disaster but Tate and his army of musicians pulled through and delivered a solid modern hard rock album. Just don’t expect much from the re-recordings.
Highlights: “Cold”, “Give It to You”, “In the Hands of God”, “Life Without You”, “Everything”, “The Weight of the World”
Megadeth – Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying? (1986, Capitol Records)
1. “Wake Up Dead” … 3:39
2. “The Conjuring” … 5:02
3. “Peace Sells” … 4:02
4. “Devil’s Island” … 5:04
5. “Good Mourning/Black Friday” … 6:39
6. “Bad Omen” … 4:03
7. “I Ain’t Superstitious” … 2:44
8. “My Last Words” … 4:48
Dave Mustaine – Lead Vocals, Guitar
Chris Poland – Guitar
Dave Ellefson – Bass, Backing Vocals
Gar Samuelson – Drums
Produced by: Dave Mustaine, Randy Burns, Andy Somers
Really strong album that is pointed to as one of the supreme thrash classics and is often mentioned as being better than perhaps Rust In Peace. That’s a debate I don’t care to get into because I’ve always enjoyed the more melodic side of Megadeth best (1992-onward) and for my money, Youthanasia is their best release.
Still, this is early angry Dave talking about politics, death and evil things all while and snarling and growling. You can’t go wrong with that, but it’s not an album I pull out to listen to much.
The album has a great closer with “My Last Words”, it’s definitely metal, but isn’t quite a heavy as the rest of the album. Given my Megadeth preferences, that’s probably why I like it so much.
I have the original CD pressing, but the album was remixed & remastered in 2004 by Dave himself and included remixed bonus tracks of “Wake Up Dead”, “The Conjuring”, “Peace Sells” and “Good Mourning/Black Friday”.
Highlights: “Wake Up Dead”, “Peace Sells”, “Good Mourning/Black Friday”, “I Ain’t Superstitious”, “My Last Words”