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Megadeth - The System Has Failed
A glorious tangle of So Far, So Good, Rust In Peace, Countdown and Youthanasia, The System Has Failed marks the killer return of everything you loved about Dave. Man, and that above list includes another gem, the fact that Dave has rounded off the post-Rust signature hi-fi sound for a warmer, fatter, yet still clean metal vibe. But System still thrashes (politely), with many tracks turning fast at the Mega-appointed time, Dave riffing all over the place, sneering bravely politically, and offering vocal melodies that are rich, complex, and again, of a type only Dave would attempt (see 'Die Dead Enough' and the very weird and irresistible 'The Scorpion'). Then there's anthem to metal 'Back In The Day' which is fresh territory for Dave triumphantly conquered, Mustaine writing a quick, melodic retro rocker that is effortless stadium-grade metal with a wink to the NWOBHM. It's a pity the line-up for the record betrays a bit of a studio job, because what this "band" achieves is a seamless, groovy chemistry, on a record that is sequenced for maximum enjoyment, Dave offering a tight, focused collection around a variety of the band's celebrated themes, each song ambitious and meaty (and even epic), even the odd mellow bit containing extra textures such as strings. There's much on here to be happy about, even a laid-back rocker like 'Of Mice And Men' catching a wave as Dave serves up another self-deprecating and autobiographical number, helping turn System into another chapter of what is really an audio book charting a life that cracks us up as much as it riles.
Shadows Fall - The War Within
Perhaps as a thrown gauntlet to Metallica, Shadows Fall open with a few very quiet acoustic licks before blasting into their locked-up and celebrated thrash madness, a patented sound that has netted them surprises SoundScans of 100,000 for their previous The Art Of Balance album. No compromise to success here though, unless you think the tightest, highest fidelity for a New Wave Of American Metal album yet is considered the fruits of fame. Seriously, the guitars on this are hard charging but pin-pointed in their attack, the drums pitter-patter somewhere between Fear Factory (a lot of Raymond Herrera-type patterns here) and Machine Head, and all told, parts zip closed before a new one opens. But man, The War Within is both heavy and fast. Twin leads are way more In Flames than Maiden, and clean vocals are kept to a minimum. What leaps from the mix is the Pantera-esque adherence to rhythm, and the fact that grooves (see 'Enlightened By The Cold' and 'Act Of Contrition') can be so passionate at these synchronized levels. And you want guitars? Check out the heroic riffing that opens 'What Drives The Weak' which also includes one of the coolest brief intro axe solos I've heard in years. Bottom line: Shadows Fall have run the hell the other direction of sell out, leaving geycore and its very melodic, high-in-quantity clean vocals to those who want it: the young and feminine of both sexes. Yet nor have Shadows Fall created anything as brave and lofty as say, Dillinger Escape Plan. Nay, The War Within is an obstinate re-staking of turf Shadows Fall planted itself, the band's sound toned and honed but not radically reconstituted.
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