Posts Tagged ‘ Dave Mustaine ’

Album of the Week 26-2019: Megadeth – The System Has Failed


Originally devised as a Dave Mustaine solo album, ‘The System Has Failed’ eventually became Megadeth’s comeback on multiple levels. Not only did it feature Mustaine returning to activity after an intense arm injury sidelined him for at least a year and a half; it is also more or less unequivocally seen as the first great Megadeth album since 1992’s ‘Countdown To Extinction’. Personally, I think that seriously sells ‘Cryptic Writings’ short, but it is a fact that ‘The System Has Failed’ is the best thing Mustaine had released in a long time and still stands as the best 21st century Megadeth record.

Despite bearing the Megadeth name, calling ‘The System Has Failed’ a Mustaine solo record is not a stretch. This is the first Megadeth album that does not feature bassist David Ellefson and all the compositions are solely credited to Mustaine. In addition, the album was recorded with a lot of session musicians, though there is a consistent core of bassist Jimmie Lee Sloas, Zappa drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and – perhaps most surprisingly – lead guitarist Chris Poland, who played on the first two Megadeth records. Mustaine being who he is, however, this sounds like a reinvigorated version of Megadeth, with a few exceptions.

In a way, ‘The System Has Failed’ sounds like an anthology of all of Mustaine’s songwriting tropes. The riffy opening track ‘Blackmail The Universe’ bears a passing resemblance to ‘Set The World Afire’, the intricate, yet aggressive speed metal of ‘Kick The Chair’ is highly reminiscent of ‘Take No Prisoners’ and the rocking ‘Something That I’m Not’ feels like an improved version of ‘Architecture Of Aggression’ at times. The nostalgic heavy metal of the surprisingly melodic ‘Back In The Day’ doesn’t necessarily sound like any previous Megadeth tracks, but does highlight Mustaine’s love for the NWOBHM movement prominently.

That does not mean that Mustaine is going through the motions here. ‘The Scorpion’ is one of his most experimental tracks to date, marrying the atmosphere of OverKill’s latter day midtempo tracks with a progressive, at times almost symphonic arrangement effectively. Even better is the following ‘Tears In A Vial’, an epic heavy metal track with a dramatic feel that has familiar sections, but also a bit of a fresh approach. The melancholic and melodic majesty in the chorus of ‘Die Dead Enough’ may be more controversial, as Megadeth’s hardcore fans prefer the band less chorus-driven, but it’s an extremely well-written song that works very well within the context of the album.

Ultimately, the only problem with ‘The System Has Failed’ is that it ends relatively weakly – like most Megadeth albums. ‘Of Mice And Men’ is good enough, though a bit preachy, and ‘Truth Be Told’ has a bunch of cool ideas that don’t really transition into each other all that well, but listeners will eventually mainly remember the album for its first eight tracks. Those feature all the tight riffs, wild lead guitar parts and snarling lead vocals one has come to expect from Mustaine. Compared to the rest of their discography, it would fit nicely between ‘Rust In Peace’ and ‘Countdown To Extinction’, as it is more streamlined than the former, but infinitely more metal than the latter.

Recommended tracks: ‘Kick The Chair’, ‘Tears In A Vial’, ‘The Scorpion’, ‘Back In The Day’

Vegetation-based names in Gitarist


No, seriously. The bands I have interviewed for this issue of Gitarist are named Black Stone Cherry – about their surprisingly good new record ‘Kentucky’ – and Mandrake’s Monster. So apparently, I was attracted to plants this month. Both interviews were pleasant meetings and if you haven’t heard of Mandrake’s Monster, be sure to check them out live, because their as of yet unreleased new material is incredible. It’s a bold step to go that heavy and that poppy at the same time, but they blew me away at Eurosonic Noorderslag. Speaking of which: there’s a photo spread of the shots I took at that festival in the new Gitarist as well.

As if that wasn’t enough already, there is an extensive article on Megadeth’s fantastic new album ‘Dystopia’ in which both band leader Dave Mustaine and new guitarist Kiko Loureiro – who is also half of the guitar duo in one of my favorite Power Metal bands: Angra – are interviewed. The other large specials are about the guitarists who worked with David Bowie – despite my intense dislike for his music, the article is very interesting – and the NAMM Show, where my colleagues have had a first look at many interesting instruments, amplifiers and peripheral equipment for the rest of the year. Alice Cooper’s guitarist Nita Strauss speaks with us in the wake of her first clinic, there’s the amazing Robert Cray, there’s loads of gear reviews… Plenty of fun for the guitar geek.

This issue should be in stores throughout Holland and Belgium from today. Get it while it still has that great new magazine smell!

Album of the Week 03-2016: Megadeth – Dystopia


So you’re Dave Mustaine and you’ve just released the biggest piece of shit you’ll ever release. Yes, I think ‘Super Collider’ is worse than ‘Risk’. What will be your next step? Record an album that’s easily your best in over a decade of course. One has to admire his resilience; Mustaine has had enough misfortune to make any ordinary musician quit five times, but his determination always forces him to get back up when he’s down. This time, the result is ‘Dystopia’, a sharp, fierce blend of Thrash Metal and traditional Heavy Metal with spectacular guitar work. In deed: the mark of a great Megadeth record.

Maybe it’s the new lineup. The Daves (Mustaine and bassist Ellefson) have enlisted the help of Angra guitarist Kiko Loureiro and Lamb Of God drummer Chris Adler this time. The former is a master of his craft who luckily gets enough room to display his talent and the latter simply sounds better than he ever has. The drum sound helps, but I think his parts are infinitely more interesting than what he does in his main band. Maybe these two guys were just wat Mustaine needed to write another scorching Metal record.

Then again, the songwriting is cranked up a notch as well. Occasionally, you can hear that Mustaine had a little trouble coming up with an ending for a few songs, but after a song and a half, you’ll have heard more good stuff than on all of ‘Super Collider’. The first two songs are among the album’s best anyway: opening track ‘The Threat Is Real’ is nice and Thrashy, while the title track has a passing nod to ‘Hangar 18’ with its highly melodic midtempo main riff – well, midtempo by Megadeth standards – and the sudden tempo change for an amazing guitar solo section near the end.

Standing out for me is ‘Poisonous Shadows’. With its dark, brooding nature, vaguely Arabian-sounding string section and amazing chorus, it shows that Mustaine can write an excellent catchy track if he really puts his effort into it. Furthermore, the high octane instrumental ‘Conquer Or Die!’ is a showcase for Loureiro’s skills on the electric as well as the nylon string acoustic guitar, ‘Fatal Illusion’ and ‘Lying In State’ are delightfully aggressive and the slower tempo makes ‘Post American World’ a perfect vehicle for a darker, more threatening take on the band’s sound.

While ‘Dystopia’ may not be the big return to the ‘Rust In Peace’ brand of Speed Metal some people may have been hoping for, I think it’s excellent at finding the middle ground between Heavy and Thrash Metal, which is exactly what made 2004’s ‘The System Has Failed’ such an awesome record as well. Mustaine’s lyrical views may be a tad far-fetched every now and then, but I’ll take a Mustaine I disagree with politically over the insipid drivel that dominated the previous record any day. At least this Mustaine sounds inspired, vicious and aggressive. And let’s face it: isn’t that how any fan of his work would want him to sound?

Recommended tracks: ‘Poisonous Shadows’, ‘Dystopia’, ‘The Threat Is Real’

The Shorties: this month’s new DVD’s

So many new high profile music DVD’s these last few weeks. It’s quite obvious that holiday season is coming up. To help you decide which ones to buy and which ones to avoid, I’ll try and serve you with a few short reviews.


Deep Purple – Perfect Strangers Live

‘Perfect Strangers’ was the very decent comeback of Deep Purple’s famous Mark II lineup, with Ian Gillan singing and Ritchie Blackmore playing guitar. This recording from the tour to promote that album proves that this lineup still had its chops back then. This was before Gillan’s vocal deterioration and all of the ‘Perfect Strangers’ highlights are on here. Except for ‘Wasted Sunsets’. Classic work like ‘Strange Kind Of Woman’ and ‘Speed King’ sounds very good too. It looks like not much has been done to upgrade the picture quality, but the music and the audio is just fine.


Peter Gabriel – Live In Athens 1987

‘So’ catapulted Peter Gabriel from underground favorite to mainstream hero. This enabled him to take his music to bigger audiences and have more opportunities to film gigs. It may be caused by Gabriel’s fascination with modern technique, but the picture quality on ‘Live In Athens’ is ridiculously good for a 1987 concert. In addition, he is backed by his best band yet, playing fantastic versions of songs like ‘Intruder’, ‘The Family And The Fishing Net’, ‘No Self Control’ and basically all the ‘So’ highlights. Obligatory counterpiece to ‘So’.


Steve Hackett – Genesis Revisited: Live At Hammersmith

Another former Genesis musician who became a hero of his own field. Steve Hackett is easily one of my favorite guitarists. I love his beautiful tone and tasteful melodies. His second collection of Genesis reworkings was a success and the tour that followed had him and his fantastic backing band (including Gabriel and Collins soundalike Nad Sylvan on vocals) playing Genesis songs only. Fantastic renditions of the best Genesis songs are a result, on this best looking DVD Steve Hackett has done so far. Highlight: Hackett doing a non-competitive and utterly beautiful solo duel with Marillion guitarist Steve Rothery on ‘The Lamia’.


Marillion – Brave Live 2013

It’s one of my favorite Prog albums – and certainly the finest Prog record released in the nineties – performed in it’s entirity. What can go wrong? Especially with this crisp and clear image and sound quality even if you purchase “only” the DVD instead of the BluRay. The band is in fantastic shape, the encores contain some incredible performances of non-‘Brave’ songs, Steve Hogarth sings the material surprisingly well despite the passing of almost two decades. A must for anyone into Progressive Rock.


Megadeth – Countdown To Extinction: Live

Another album performed in its entirity. This one should be approached with a little more caution though; Megadeth lowered all the songs to a D-tuning, apparently to better facilitate Dave Mustaine’s voice. I don’t think anyone listens to Megadeth for his voice. Rather for his riffs. And it’s those riffs that get a whole different vibe because of the different tunings. Some of the songs are almost unrecognizable until the lyrics start, ‘Public Enemy No. 1’ in particular. The lighting is a bit dark too. However, the band plays extremely well. Like they always do.


Ted Nugent – Ultralive Ballistirock

Ladies and gentlemen, Derek St. Holmes is back! And his voice still is fantastic, which is somewhat remarkable as he is 60 years of age. This – along Uncle Ted’s fantastic backing band – accounts for some of the most incredible renditions of ‘Just What The Doctor Ordered’, ‘Turn It Up’, ‘Dog Eat Dog’, ‘Stormtroopin” and of course the legendary ‘Stranglehold’ we’ve heard in a long time. What can go wrong? Oh right, if Nugent’s right-wing pro-gun rants annoy you, avoid this like the plague. If you either agree with him or – like me – are able to see past this, this is a very worthy addition to your Bluesrock collection.


Testament – Dark Roots Of Thrash

Despite opening this show with the atrocious ‘Rise Up’, the song that strives for any worst lyrics award, ‘Dark Roots Of Thrash’ is a pretty entertaining DVD. Most of the rest is positive. The picture quality and editing is fantastic, Gene Hoglan is behind the drum kit, the band finally remembers they did an incredible album called ‘The Gathering’ about a decade and a half ago by playing four songs off of the album and Chuck Billy delivers a surprisingly great vocal performance. ‘Burnt Offerings’ alone would be worth the buy.


Devin Townsend – The Retinal Circus

‘By A Thread’ would be a better buy than this one. Townsend took things too far over the top here. The CD version is a little easier to digest, because it doesn’t have all the extremely long narrative parts that really disrupt the flow of the show. It doesn’t show the overblown stage show either. Having said that, this is still Devin Townsend, which means there’s a bunch of weirdly brilliant songs executed by a group of very capable musicians. It’s just that I’ve heard and seen them better.

Megadisappointment: ‘Super Collider’


My friend Tyler thought ‘Thirteen’ was a bad album. I disagree. His criticism that the album contained too many reworkings of older songs was justified, but at least there was quite some memorable stuff on the record. ‘Thirteen’ contained at least five songs I really liked. ‘Super Collider’ has one. And a couple I consider somewhat enjoyable. But a good album, this is not. I have no problem with Megadeth playing something closer to Hard Rock than Thrash Metal, but imagine ‘Youthanasia’ or ‘Cryptic Writings’ without the good ideas. That’s what ‘Super Collider’ is.

This album’s title track was the first thing that surfaced from the album and it’s easily one of the worst post ‘Risk’ songs by the band. But then again, Heavy Metal has never really been about the singles, has it? First single ‘Can I Play With Madness’ could never prepare the listener for the unbridled brilliance of Iron Maiden’s ‘Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son’ either. Sadly, ‘Super Collider’ is no ‘Seventh Son’. The songwriting is bland and I can only hope that this is a one-time mistake for Dave Mustaine.

Also, Mustaine was known for his sharp lyric writing in Megadeth’s heyday. Even though I didn’t always necessarily agree with his views, his lyrics had a conviction and an indispensable, clever wit. A lot of the lyrics on ‘Super Collider’ seem to have been written with a rhyming dictionary. The next person who rhymes “fire” with “desire”, I will slap in the face. In addition, it seems that these days, when Mustaine wants to make a point, he starts a spoken part. It’s a feature that dragged down the title track of ‘United Abominations’ six years ago and now mutilates the otherwise decent ‘Dance In The Rain’, which also features a pointless guest appearance by Disturbed frontman David Draiman doing his best to sound as much as Mustaine as possible. ‘Burn!’ is also marred by insipid lyrics and a horrible chorus. The verses are awesome though.

Maybe that’s the most frustrating aspect about ‘Super Collider’. It’s not like Mustaine lost it. Opening track ‘Kingmaker’ is an impressive Heavy Metal tune with a killer riff to boot. ‘Forget To Remember’ is a pretty good melodic Hardrock tune with possibly the best set of lyrics on the album and ‘Off The Edge’ and ‘Built For War’ would have been good with better words.

The album’s production is alright, just a torture to listen to on headphones. It’s got too much treble, accounting for a pretty restless listening experience. Also, closing an album with a cover (even when it’s a Thin Lizzy tune) has never been a good idea. You could try to get the edition with the bonus tracks, but those aren’t all that good either. Especially ‘All I Want’. It’s hard to believe that song has been written by the same man who gave us ‘Hangar 18’, ‘Tornado Of Souls’, ‘Skin O’ My Teeth’ or ‘Trust’.

With this lineup possibly being the strongest the band has had musically, I’m sure they’ll come up with something better after this. I’ll just listen to ‘Rust In Peace’, ‘Countdown To Extinction’, ‘Cryptic Writings’, ‘Endgame’ or ‘The System Has Failed’ in the meantime.

Recommended track: ‘Kingmaker’