The System Has Failed

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The System Has Failed
Studio album by Megadeth
Released September 14, 2004 (2004-09-14)
Recorded Oceanway and Emerald Entertainment in Nashville, Tennessee; additional recording at Phase Four Studios in Tempe, Arizona
Genre Heavy metal, thrash metal
Length 48:24
Label Sanctuary
Producer Dave Mustaine, Jeff Balding
Megadeth chronology
  • The System Has Failed
  • (2004)
Alternative cover

The System Has Failed is the tenth studio album by American thrash metal band Megadeth. Released on September 14, 2004, it was the band's second and final studio album distributed by Sanctuary Records. The System Has Failed was the first of three Megadeth records not to include original bassist and co-founder David Ellefson. Instead, the album features session players, including former Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland on lead guitar. However, Poland only provided lead guitar parts and solos on a contractual basis and did not rejoin the band.

The System Has Failed received positive reception from critics and managed to debut at number 18 on the Billboard 200. The album was generally thought of as being a return to form for the band, after the release of more commercially accessible albums through the 1990s. "Die Dead Enough" and "Of Mice and Men" were released as singles.

Background and production[edit]

In 2002, Dave Mustaine announced that he was disbanding Megadeth due to an arm injury that rendered him unable to play guitar.[1] In a statement published on April 3, 2004, he stated: "My doctors tell me it will take about a year to make as complete a recovery as I can, and even then, we don't know how complete that is going to be. I am working hard with a great team of doctors and physical therapists daily, and God willing, someday I hope to play guitar again".[2] Mustaine subsequently recovered following months of physical therapy.[3]

The album was recorded at Oceanway and Emerald Entertainment in Nashville, Tennessee and at Phase Four Studios in Tempe, Arizona.[4] In a promotional statement from Megadeth's then-label Sanctuary Records, Mustaine clarified that recording the album had been "liberating", due to having more control over the record than he had had since the first two Megadeth records. Mustaine also noted that he initially took a casual approach to the album, starting out working three hours a night, four days a week.[5]

Originally intended to be a solo debut by Dave Mustaine, the record was re-branded with the Megadeth name as a result of contractual obligations owed to Mustaine's publishing company.[6] Mustaine co-produced the record with Jeff Balding, who had previously engineered Cryptic Writings and Risk.[5] Upon restarting Megadeth, Mustaine contacted bassist and founding member David Ellefson about resuming bass guitar duties for the band. Those efforts were ultimately fruitless, however. Ellefson claimed that Mustaine was not financially willing to pick up "where it was when [the band] broke up" and so he did not return as Megadeth's bass player.[7]


The cover art was designed by Mike Learn,[8] and features Vic Rattlehead at a podium in front of the United States Supreme Court building selling a not-guilty verdict to then U.S. President George W. Bush. Saluting is Hillary Clinton, next to former President Bill Clinton. Behind President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney holds a briefcase labeled "plan B". Behind Cheney are several other Bush Administration officials: Then National Security Advisor (and later Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Attorney General John Ashcroft. The $100 bills on the cover depict Vic Rattlehead's face rather than that of Benjamin Franklin.[8]

Release and promotion[edit]

The System Has Failed was released on September 14, 2004 through Sanctuary Records.[9] Three days previously, on September 11, the album was made available for streaming on the VH1 website.[10] The album debuted at number 18 on the Billboard 200,[11] with 46,000 units sold in its first week.[12] By December 2005 The System Has Failed had sold 170,000 copies in the United States.[13] In addition, the album had managed to chart in the top 20 in several other countries, including Canada, Finland and Sweden, as well.[11]

Still needing a band with whom to tour, Mustaine hired longtime drummer Nick Menza, and newcomers James MacDonough (bass) and Glen Drover (guitar). However, just five days before the tour was to start, Menza was sent home.[14] His place would be filled by Shawn Drover, brother of then-recently hired guitarist Glen Drover. The album's promotional tour, the Blackmail the Universe Tour, launched on October 23, 2004 in Reno, Nevada[11] and featured Earshot as the supporting act.[15] This tour would also spawn the That One Night: Live in Buenos Aires double live album, released in 2007.

Two music videos were also made to help promote the album. The first was "Die Dead Enough",[16] which was directed by Thomas Mignone.[17] "Of Mice and Men" was selected as the second video from the album.[18] In this video, the then-new Megadeth lineup (Dave Mustaine, Shawn Drover, Glen Drover and James MacDonough) is shown performing. The majority of the video was shot on January 20, 2005 in Los Angeles. Many fans turned up to be in the video through a contest held by Sanctuary Records.[17] Another song, "Back in the Day" was featured in an episode of the Duck Dodgers TV series.[19] The episode that the song was featured in, "In Space, No One Can Hear You Rock", aired on November 4, 2005, after having been delayed a week.[20]


The lead single from The System Has Failed was "Die Dead Enough".[9][21] Mustaine wrote it when he was asked to write a song for the movie Tomb Raider II, but the proposed budget for recording was too low so the deal fell through.[22] Later on, the song was to be featured in the film Saw,[23] but ultimately was not for undisclosed reasons.[24] This was later followed by the release of "Of Mice and Men".[18] Additionally, "Kick the Chair" was released as a free promotional download via Megadeth's website in May 2004, several months prior to the album's release. This version of the song was described by Mustaine as being a final mix, but not the master that would appear on the record.[25] "Tears in a Vial" was written by Mustaine shortly after Megadeth disbanded in 2002 about a decision to trade success for happiness.[26] The next track on the album, "I Know Jack", is an instrumental featuring a sample of a sample of Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen's famous response to Indiana Senator Dan Quayle during a 1988 vice-presidential debate. "Shadow of Deth" consists of Mustaine reciting Psalm 23. The Latin phrase heard at the beginning of the track, "Auxilium meum a Domino," translates to "My help comes from the Lord."[27]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[28]
Blistering 8/10[29]
Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles 9/10[30]
Drowned in Sound 4/10[31]
Entertainment Weekly favorable[32]
KNAC 4/5 stars[33]
Metal Forces 8/10[34]
MusicOMH mixed[35]
Revolver 4/5 stars[36]
Rock Hard 8.5/10[37]

The System Has Failed has received mainly positive reviews from critics, some going so far to describe the album as a return to form for the band.[28][30] AllMusic reviewer Jason Birchmeier commented that Megadeth "hasn't sounded this vital since Countdown to Extinction, if not Rust in Peace" and called the album "damn near perfect". He also described "Kick the Chair" as a "shred-fest".[28] Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles reviewer Martin Popoff described the album as a mix of several previous records, and praised a number of the album's tracks. Popoff acknowledged the fact that Mustaine only used hired session players on the album was the album's only low point.[30] Jeff Kerby of KNAC gave a positive, if at times slightly sarcastic, review as well as a detailed track-by-track commentary.[33] Reviewer David E. Gehlke of Blistering gave the album a favorable review, saying that the record "comes across as a warm return, one that that fails to recapture thrash glory, but succeeds in being a solid, reliable metal album". In addition, Gehlke noted that Mustaine's vocals were "as strong as ever", but panned the album for the "lack of any thrash burners".[29] Neil Arnold of Metal Forces had a slightly different opinion; according to him, with this release Megadeth were "back on track, heading back to those thrashy frontiers". He also praised the album's front cover, which reminded him of "80s style of graphics".[34] Additionally, a positive review of the album was posted on Entertainment Weekly. Reviewer Nancy Miller called The System Has Failed Megadeth's best since 1990's Rust in Peace and praised Mustaine's collaboration with Poland, calling the result "Righteous!"[32]

In spite of a largely positive reception, not all reaction was completely positive. Tom Day of MusicOMH had a mixed reaction to the album. Day called "Die Dead Enough" a "slice of classic 'Deth", while noting its slightly more mainstream sound. Later in his review, however, he noted that with "Shadow of Deth", it seemed that Mustaine had run out of ideas on the album.[35] Nick Lancaster from Drowned in Sound also reacted unenthusiastically towards the album, saying "what we have here is a severe case of St. Anger syndrome". However, he added that "there are occasional moments of the old magic, but they're few and far between."[31]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Dave Mustaine

No. Title Length
1. "Blackmail the Universe"   4:33
2. "Die Dead Enough"   4:18
3. "Kick the Chair"   3:57
4. "The Scorpion"   5:59
5. "Tears in a Vial"   5:21
6. "I Know Jack"   0:40
7. "Back in the Day"   3:27
8. "Something That I'm Not"   5:07
9. "Truth Be Told"   5:40
10. "Of Mice and Men"   4:04
11. "Shadow of Deth" (lyrics: Psalm 23, credited to David) 2:15
12. "My Kingdom"   3:03
Total length:



Production and performance credits are adapted from the album liner notes.[4]

Additional performers
  • Tim Akers – keyboards
  • Darien Bennett – voice of the General on "Blackmail the Universe"
  • Eric Darken – percussion
  • Michael Davis – sound effects
  • Lance Dean – additional vocals
  • Scott Harrison – additional vocals
  • Charlie Judge – keyboards
  • Celeste Amber Montague – voice of the Reporter on "Blackmail the Universe"
  • Justis Mustaine – background spoken part
  • Ralph Patlan – voice of the Politician on "Blackmail the Universe", additional vocals
  • Chris Rodriguezbackground vocals
  • Robert Venable – additional vocals
  • Jonathan Yudkin – strings, banjo
  • Produced and recorded by Jeff Balding and Dave Mustaine
  • Mixed by Jeff Balding
  • Assisted by David Bryant, Ralph Patlan, Scott Kidd, Jesse Amend, Lance Dean, and Jed Hackett
  • Additional recording by David Bryant, Jed Hackett, and John Saylor
  • Mastered by Adam Ayan
  • Digital editing by Mark Hagen and Jed Hackett
  • Production coordination by Mike "Frog" Griffith
  • Cover art by Mike Learn, based on a concept by Dave Mustaine
  • Design by t42design

Chart performance[edit]


  1. ^ "History (2002)". Retrieved December 30, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Injury Forces Mustaine To Disband Megadeth". Billboard. April 3, 2004. Retrieved October 17, 2013. 
  3. ^ "My Injury". Retrieved 6 October 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c The System Has Failed liner notes. Sanctuary Records. 2004. p. 15. 
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  15. ^ "Megadeth Kill The Charts With The System Has Failed, Earshot To Support On Tour". September 24, 2004. Retrieved 13 August 2012. 
  16. ^ "Megadeth: 'Die Dead Enough' Video To Air On 'Headbanger's Ball', Tour To Kick Off In San Diego - Sep. 11, 2004". Roadrunner Records. Retrieved 6 October 2012. 
  17. ^ a b "Megadeth: Win Chance To Appear In 'Of Mice And Men' Video – Jan. 15, 2005". Retrieved October 23, 2011. 
  18. ^ a b "Megadeth To Film 'Of Mice And Men' Video - Jan. 4, 2005". Roadrunner Records. Retrieved 6 October 2012. 
  19. ^ "Megadeth To Become 'Cartoon Legends' - Oct. 17, 2005". Roadrunner Records. Retrieved 6 October 2012. 
  20. ^ "Megadeth - Appearance On Duck Dodgers Cartoon Show Pushed Back". October 30, 2004. Retrieved 6 October 2012. 
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  24. ^ "Producer: Megadeth's 'Die Dead Enough' Not Featured In 'Saw' Movie – July 28, 2004". Roadrunner Records. July 28, 2004. Retrieved 13 August 2011. 
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  26. ^ "Tears in a Vial". The Scorpion - Retrieved 5 October 2012. 
  27. ^ "Scorpion". 24 March 2008. Retrieved 13 August 2011. 
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  30. ^ a b c Popoff, Martin. "Megadeth - The System Has Failed". Retrieved 14 August 2012. 
  31. ^ a b Lancaster, Nick (7 September 2004). "Megadeth - The System Has Failed". Drowned in Sound. Retrieved 28 August 2012. 
  32. ^ a b Miller, Nancy (17 September 2004). "The System Has Failed Review". Entertainment Weekly: 79. Retrieved 11 November 2012. 
  33. ^ a b Kerby, Jeff (14 September 2004). "Reviews: Megadeth - The System Has Failed". KNAC. Retrieved 15 August 2012. 
  34. ^ a b Arnold, Neil. "Megadeth: The System Has Failed". Metal Forces. Retrieved August 8, 2013. 
  35. ^ a b Day, Tom (13 September 2004). "Megadeth - The System Has Failed (Sanctuary)". MusicOMH. Retrieved 17 August 2012. 
  36. ^ "Megadeth: The System Has Failed". Revolver. Retrieved August 22, 2013. 
  37. ^ Stratmann, Holger. "Rock Hard". issue 209. Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  38. ^ a b "Megadeth - The System Has Failed". Hung Medien. Retrieved October 16, 2013. 
  39. ^ "Megadeth Enter The U.K. Top 100 – Sep. 20, 2004". Retrieved October 23, 2011. 
  40. ^ "Megadeth > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles". AllMusic. Macrovision. Retrieved January 5, 2009. 

External links[edit]