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The World Needs A Hero

Sanctuary (2001)
Rating: 7/10

Having replaced Marty Friedman with former Savatage axeman Al Pitrelli, Megadeth return with their ninth album (their first for new label, Sanctuary Records), a slightly harder-edged opus featuring 12 distinctive progressive metal numbers, but still lacking the menace of the band’s earlier work.

Even so, The World Needs A Hero is a more accomplished effort than their previous offering, 1999’s Risk. Mind you, whatever Dave Mustaine puts his voice to will always sound more sneering, but there is still something lightweight and lukewarm about this record, despite the fusion of complex solos and intricate dynamics, given extra beef by that classic David Ellefson bass.

Album opener ‘Disconnect’ never shifts out of its gears of comfort; it’s a mild plodder only brought to life by the sharp guitar solo just over three minutes in. Jimmy DeGrasso’s jarring drums open the title track, but I’m still left underwhelmed as Mustaine narrates over a non-threatening riff and tumbling bass. Chorus-wise ‘The World Needs A Hero’ is a streetwise sneer over a lukewarm riff, but this is something I’ve been accustomed to over the years. In fact, I feel almost disloyal as I create a huge wall between the 80s and early-90s Megadeth recordings and anything after. The same could also be said for the works of Slayer, Anthrax and most certainly Metallica, whose albums post-…And Justice For All (1988) are just not worthy in my books.

With The World Needs A Hero, once again I find myself blaming the era in question, holding it responsible for such poor offerings from what were once great thrash bands. ‘Moto Psycho’, ‘1000 Times Goodbye’ and ‘Burning Bridges’ are all half-decent songs, but shall forever remain in the shadow of those late-80s and early-90s classics which made Megadeth such a formidable band.

It’s as if something is missing throughout the record, the four-piece never once raising the bar to anything resembling the thrash cauldron we’d become used to as headbangers in the 80s. Maybe Megadeth, just like Metallica, Anthrax, and less so Slayer, are catering for new audiences with their polished sound and more accessible grooves.

Lyrically, the band are still able to shift between emotions, ‘Promises’ being a prime example of more subtle explorations with the addition of sweeping strings. ‘Recipe For Hate… Warhorse’ is the closest we get to old school Megadeth, but once again it’s a track that fails to shift into top gear despite some killer guitars three-quarters in. The same could also be said for the simmering sneer of ‘Losing My Senses’, which takes an age to get going but then never reaches its full potential.

My favourite track on the opus is the out of place ‘Return To Hangar’, clearly a sequel to the classic ‘Hangar 18’ which appeared on the immense Rust In Peace (1990). This is Megadeth approaching full throttle, despite its varying steals from the original.

Megadeth are clearly opting for melody over aggression, but time and time again I feel that they are straining at the leash, existing merely as a cold steel metal band, but one which lacks the weight or aggression we’ve become accustomed to. Yet when the band do – albeit rarely – break into thrash mode (just check the crunching riffs and rattling drums three minutes into ‘Return To Hangar’) it seems to be oh so fleeting before a return to milder climes.

There’s no doubting the intelligence of the Megadeth machine, album closer ‘When’ a nine-minute work of genius, but I’ll always refer back to those classic days. Sure, the kids of today may say, “Get over it, those times have gone”, and maybe they are right, but all the while nostalgia rewards more than modern. I’m inclined to dive back to those early albums because for me, that’s where Megadeth is really at.

Neil Arnold

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