Like a bastard little brother, Megadeth has lurked in the shadow of the band singer/guitarist Dave Mustaine helped found in the early '80s. Both Metallica and Megadeth have experienced great success, but while Lars Ulrich, James Hetfield, et al., became a multiplatinum megalith whose songs are played during baseball games, Megadeth was merely a popular platinum act. Long a tighter, harder, more political, less prog-rock-influenced thrash metal act than Metallica, Megadeth was able to survive the mass extinction of metal in the wake of grunge and even make inroads to rock radio. But the move sapped the band of its rawer imprimatur, and eventually many of its hard-core fans.
So when Mustaine was diagnosed with radial neuropathy (strained nerves in his left arm and hand) in 2002 and broke up the band, there were no tears or gnashing of teeth. For two years, Mustaine rehabbed his arm, and has returned with The System Has Failed, featuring guitarist Chris Poland (whom he fired after the band's seminal 1986 release Peace Sells . . . But Who's Buying?). While still featuring some of the more radio-ready midtempo material of the '90s, the balance resurrects Megadeth's thrashier roots, making this the band's most ferocious sound in a dozen years. Welcome back!