Megadeth - The World Needs a Hero (2001)Release ID: 124
Megadeth took a huge risk (no pun intended) with 1999's 'Risk' album. In a bid to gain more mainstream success, the band shunned the thrash metal genre they'd popularized in the 80's and turned to a radio-friendly rock sound. It didn't pay off. Big time. Dave Mustaine and his crew had egg well and firmly on their faces, and nobody likes egg on their faces.
So by the time 2001 rolled around, the band had used up their one and only "gone back to their roots" cliché (every band that's been around long enough gets to do this at least once). The problem was, with 'Risks' massive failure behind them, and with rising tensions between artist and record label, this truly feels like a band, and in particular, a man (Mustaine), who is lacking enthusiasm and who's heart isn't in it.
For the record, I loved 'Risk'. Just saying.
With 'The World Needs a Hero', there's definitely a metal vibe again. But the music just seems pretty lifeless and rigid. The crunchy riffs are back, but everything seems so stoic. The spite and hatred of Megadeth's earlier days is long gone, having been replaced by some of the most mundane lyrics imaginable. While some of the songs are pretty decent, everything just seems so uninspired.
Guitar legend Marty Friedman, who left the band after the 'Risk' tour, has been replaced by Al Pitrelli of Savatage and Trans-Siberian Orchestra fame. This is actually really cool, because I love those bands, but unfortunately Pitrelli doesn't really have his own unique voice like his predecessor. And the interplay between Mustaine and Pitrelli doesn't produce anything noteworthy.
Still, this album does have its merits. '1000 Times Goodbye', 'Moto Psycho', 'Promises', 'Dread and the Fugitive Mind' and 'Disconnect' are all decent enough songs, but not really much to shout about if I'm honest. 'Return to Hanger', a sequel to one of their biggest hits, 'Hanger 18', serves as a weak attempt at capturing some of their thrash era glory, and things are capped off with 'When', a diabolical rip-off of the Diamond Head classic 'Am I Evil' (which is only a classic due to Mustaine's former band Metallica... the irony of it all).
Overall, this isn't a bad album, but it really sounds like a group that are burned out and in need of some new inspiration. While the world needs a hero, it feels like this band needs a break. And on that note...
1999’s “Risk” was unanimously regarded as a complete failure for Megadeth. 1997’s “Cryptic Writings” had started the alarm bells ringing but “Risk” well & truly justified those fears. It did include a few decent tracks that seemed to indicate that the band still had the ability to write a catchy song or two but the obvious attempts to tap into a more commercial market were a huge turnoff & the quality control seemed to have been pushed to one side for the time being. So it’s fair to say that my hopes for a turnaround with 2001’s “The World Needs A Hero” were not exactly high. Honestly I was just hoping for a return of the more tried & true heavy metal sound they’d been so successful with in the early to mid 90’s & that’s pretty much what they’ve tried to achieve here. Unfortunately I think it’s fair to say that the results are very mixed.
It becomes clear pretty quickly that the Megadeth we are hearing on “The World Needs A Hero” is one that is regretting the approach they took with their last album & the return to a heavier sound was certainly not unwelcome. Don’t get me wrong. There are still plenty of more commercially focused moments on this album but it’s clear that Megadeth were committed to using a predominantly heavy metal toolkit on this occasion. The album also features a more extensive use of guitar solos than we’ve heard on the previous couple of releases. I’ve always felt that the solos were an important part of the Megadeth arsenal & I’d been missing them a bit of late. The examples on display here are not quite as impressive as those we’ve heard from guys like Chris Poland or Marty Friedman over the years but they’re undoubtedly a step in the right direction.
The album gets off to a horrible start with the opening three tracks all falling well below the mark. In fact if you look at the album as a whole the amount of overall quality song-writing is very similar to “Risk”. There’s really only a few decent tracks here. “Recipe For Hate…Warhorse” is my personal favourite. The second half of this track is probably the closest Megadeth have come to their classic sound in many years. I also find “1000 Times Goodbye” & “Burning Bridges” to be pretty catchy & enjoyable. There is very little to be said for the rest though. “Promises” is arguably the worst track the band had recorded to that time while “Silent Scorn”, “Moto Psycho” & “The World Needs A Hero” are not much better. “Return To Hangar” is nothing more than an attempt to rehash past glories & the nine minute closer “When” is one of the most blatant rip-offs I’ve ever heard. It seems that the band have consciously tried to copy Diamond Head’s “Am I Evil?” to such an extent that it is easily apparent to even the most casual of metal fans.
While “The World Needs A Hero” might have sounded good in theory it’s execution was very ordinary & it has ended up being just as unsuccessful as its predecessor. I probably favour this one just slightly over “Risk” but there’s not much in it. These two albums seriously affected the interest the global metal market showed in Megadeth over the next couple of releases but on the positive side of things they could only improve.