Artist – Megadeth
Album – The System Has Failed
Year – 2004
Genre – Metal/Thrash Metal
This is the band that single handedly got me into metal music. Megadeth are known as one of the “big four” pioneers of thrash metal, and before you say it, yes I know they have tons of iconic songs I could have chosen first. Choosing the first Megadeth song to review is like choosing which of my children (if I had any) I liked the most. I chose “The Scorpion” off of their 2004 record The System Has Failed because this song is sinister, dark, and heavy, but it’s also a very relatable song with a message about betrayal that everyone can interpret to their own lives. It’s also a song that slows down the typical metal tempo and creates just as hard a song with added tricks and a killer melody.
It’s always nice to start with something different, and the opening riff of this song immediately catches you by surprise. It’s got that Arabian flair to it that makes it sound sinister and insidious, and makes you think of the titular animal crawling across your skin. Then we start to kick it into a higher gear. As the metronome ticks, the drum blasts in and the chugging guitar begins the verse.
As per usual, frontman Dave Mustaine is still his old, snarling self in this song. His trademark vocals are backed by that heavy rhythmic riff. The verses are good on their own with harmonies and simple melody, but they serve as the build up to the incredible chorus. Just for good measure to get you pumped up, Mustaine flexes his guitar muscles and blasts out solo after incredible solo, showing that even after all these years, he’s still got it.
This chorus hits like a ton of bricks. Mustaine actually gets quite melodic here, and his voice fits the aggressive, yet hooky melody perfectly. The subtle harmony is superb, and watch for the way he sings “I will treat you like a dog.” It’s the best part for sure, and really showcases his melding of snarl and singing. The melody is catchy as all hell and proves that metal choruses can just as easily stick in your head.
As the song builds, it only gets better. The solos get better, and the rest of the musicians, including Mustaine, seem to only build in their intensity from verse to chorus. By the end of the song, your hair should be a mess from headbanging, because the whole band just brings it on this one. The song ends with the final verse transitioning back to that uber cool riff, and some false political newscast samples, which is typical of Mustaine’s last few records.
Speaking of words in general, Mustaine may have had a political viewpoint for this song and for the record, but let’s take a closer look at the chorus:
As I climb onto your back, I will promise not to sting
I will tell you what you want to hear and not mean anything
Then I treat you like a dog, as I shoot my venom in
You pretend you didn’t know, that I am a scorpion
For those who didn’t know, the chorus is a retelling of the Aesop fable in which a frog agrees to carry a scorpion across a river who told him he wouldn’t sting him along the way. Half way across, the scorpion stings the frog and when the frog asks why it would do that, since they’ll both be dead, the scorpion replies “It’s in my nature.” I personally take this parable, particularly the way it’s phrased in the chorus, as a message of betrayal. Some people you will encounter in life and love will promise you one thing, and sometimes everything, and then take it all away on a whim, or completely betray you. Many times, we know the person is bad for us, but we’re so blinded by our goals and feelings that we totally disregard their “nature” as they sting us, and yet we still wonder why. For me, I take these words personally, but you certainly can see the nature of betrayal on a political level as well. That’s why this song is so well written. Its clever use of the fable as a means for showing the nature of trust and two-faced people works perfect with the insidious melody and aggressive nature of the track.
Megadeth’s “The Scorpion” wasn’t the most obvious choice for the band that introduced me to metal, but it deserves every ounce of praise it gets. Anyone who loves to rock, and anyone who’s looking for that metal song after a breakup or other such events needs to hear this song. But for you fans of classic Megadeth who are disappointed that I chose this song first…watch this space in the future. More ‘Deth is coming.
Thanks for reading everyone! Let’s all be scorpions and sting that follow button…or the like button…or the keys to type a comment…or the share button. Not each other though. That would be bad.