As well as dropping the well-publicised 35th anniversary Warheads on Foreheads compilation, Megadeth have also announced the re-release of latter-day albums The World Needs A Hero and The System Has Failed via BMG. While the “best of” set very much focuses on the first half of the band’s existence, these are two albums which often get overlooked. With the release announcement, I thought I’d turn back the clock and give them a listen for the first time in a while.
The World Needs A Hero is their ninth album and was originally released in 2001. This new version has been completely remastered by Ted Jensen, who’s worked with the likes of GN’R, Machine Head, Trivium and Mastodon. The CD and digital versions come with a bonus track which sadly doesn’t make it onto the vinyl release. However, if you get the big plastic disc, it’s the first time the album’s been available on that format in 18 years.
It’s fair to say that until the most recent release, Dystopia, Megadeth had become more of a hard-rock-with-an-edge act than the thrash titans they were in days of old. That’s not to say the music wasn’t good, it was just often disappointing to get an album expecting a frenetic riff-fest and instead getting a mainstream metal album. Opener “Disconnect” is reminiscent of this, a good track but a head nodder rather than a head banger. The title track and “Moto Psycho” are similar, owing more to the likes of “Sweating Bullets” and “Psychotron” than their faster peers.
In fact, as the album progresses you do get a Youthanasia kind of feeling, and the best tracks are the ones where the band don’t try too hard to be heavy. “1000 Times Goodbye” and the very gentle “Promises” at least push Megadeth’s boundaries.
“Recipe For Hate” at least starts well, in an absolute blinding flurry and includes the fastest guitars and drumming on the album, but still sandwiched between some slower, more stilted moments. If earlier tracks carry a vague odour of “Sweating Bullets”, the opening of “Dread & The Fugitive Mind” (the first single off the album, if my memory serves) would be labelled a rip-off if another band had recorded it. Mustaine’s spat-out spoken lyrics are more than familiar to those who know the old classic… but they’re wrapped inside a track which is definitely an album highlight.
“Silent Scorn” is just weird (Megadeth meets Ennio Morricone?), and while “Return Hangar” is a nice sequel lyric-wise to the legendary classic, it just never hits the original’s blistering pace and hair-raising riffage.
The bonus track is a live version of “Coming Home”, another of Megadeth’s lighter songs… and it’s a good one. Again, something unexpected with the clean guitars and Mustaine actually attempting to sing it’s evidence that when they do try something wildly different it can very much pan out positively.
The System Has Failed definitely tries to redress the “too slow and plodding” nature of the previous album from the off. Released three years after …Hero, the band seemed to listen to the criticism and made attempts to give the fans what they wanted. Fast fingered flurries in opening song “Blackmail the Universe” certainly showed what they were aiming for while “Die Dead Enough”, though slower, certainly brings back the catchier riffs and singalong choruses that the band were chucking out for fun post-Rust in Peace.
“Kick The Chair” and “The Scorpion” as a similar pairing, staccato rhythms being one thing that joins them together but otherwise they’re poles apart. Both are still better than most of the tracks on the previous album, and I actually think I’ve heard all four of the opening songs played live at some point – I can’t say the same for so many songs from Hero. “The Scorpion” has a hell of a chorus – definitely one I’d not complain were it on a future setlist.
It takes until “Of Mice And Men” before we get back to a really good track, though, with the intervening songs never quite hitting the grade. They’re OK… just not brilliant. “My Kingdom” is nice and heavy, and not a bad way to finish the album, wrapping it up almost as well as it began.
The bonus songs on this release are live renditions of “Time Use The Man” and “The Conjuring”. The former isn’t bad, but the latter steals the show and is the best song on the album overall. But it is originally from Peace Sells… so that’s bound to be the case.
Production is good across the two and though I couldn’t hear any major differences compared to my older CDs, the sound definitely seems a bit meatier with the bass guitar clearer in the mix in many places. It’s not an unpleasant remaster like the poor Killing Is My Business and bloody awful Rust in Peace ones of 2002. Overall, these are both decent albums and System the better, being Megadeth’s first step towards reclaiming earlier glory.
Both albums are released on February 15th