Megadeth returns in force with 'The World Needs a Hero'
"What the world needs is an enema but there are too many assholes in the world to choose from to know where to put the hose, so a hero would be my second choice" says the Megadeth founder Dave Mustaine. To the casual reader, this might seem like utter b.s., just another no talent guy trying to lead a crusade and not really qualified to be writing a major music album. To those same people, that statement about the founder's new album title would cause a scowl at the least and perhaps a gesture of more profound disgust. But to those of us initiated into the heavy metal fraternity who are somewhat familiar with the founder, this just made us kick back and grin our best 100-megawatt smile.
And so this is how Mustaine, the founder and musical genius behind Megadeth, feels about the bands new album, "The World Needs a Hero," released on Sanctuary Records this past Tuesday. Once again, the brash frontman has flipped the bird at his critics and detractors and this time the music completely backs him up.
Megadeth's previous release, "Risk," is an experimental album that utilized a lot of gadgetry that the band had shied away from for years. Lead guitarist MartyFriedman's solos relied mainly on heavy processor usage and loop techniques. The album reached a new fan base, reaching No. 16 on the Billboard charts, but it drove away a vast segment of hardcore, old-school Megadeth fans who longed for the days of "Rust in Peace" and a return to the old days of straight ahead, ass-kicking metal. This album is Mustaine's answer to those fans, but more importantly is proof to himself that he can still make this kind of music, and make it better than so many others.
Marty has left the band and has been replaced by Al Pitrelli. Though his name is not familiar to many a metal fan, Pitrelli was the one of the men behind the cool guitar solo in Alice Cooper's "Feed My Frankenstein" from "Wayne's World." Combined with former band mate Jimmy Degrasso, Megadeth's drummer since taking over for the legendary Nick Menza prior to "Risk," Pitrelli is set to do amazing work with his new mates. His work on the album should leave no doubt that his name should be included with the likes of Kirk Hammett, Steve Vai, and Slash.
"The World Needs a Hero" begins with a full on rocker that speaks to the loss of humanity that we have suffered as a result of the Internet. "Disconnect" is not an overly complex song, with low key solos by Mustaine and Pitrelli that fill in nicely and give an overall solid feel to the song. The one brief shred solo by Mustaine is done on top of the catchy rhythm lines and doesn't come off as a show-off showcase. The reduced clutter of complex twin guitar parts highlights the "new" style right off the bat, and works to the advantage of the song as it is far more memorable with its steady musical build up from a simple single guitar opening.
Next up is the title track, "The World Needs a Hero." Though it will irritate many a casual fan as it showcases Mustaine chanting rather than singing, much like the opening to "Prince of Darkness" off of "Risk," the lyrics are Mustaine's typical go-for-broke, let's stick it to 'em style. The song runs through a sort of inner monologue with a national leader, hurling jabs at such figures with such phrases as "not that I would ever lie but I have no choice." The repetition of the title is catchy and is Dave's personal message in the album.
For those who don't find enough classic Megadeth in this song, get ready for some classic fun with "Moto Psycho." The third track, dealing with aggressive driving and road rage, is the big single off of the album and deals a straight ahead blow of driving rock force. The chorus is undeniably catchy and hearkens back to the days of "Psychotron" off of 1992's "Countdown to Extinction."
For all of you who hate the wonderful people who nearly kill you on the road and never seem to get caught, this track is for you. "Move it or lose it baby, going nowhere, 100 miles an hour," belts the chorus. We all know how that feels.
Next up is my favorite song on the album. Beginning with a pounding bass drum and truly catchy guitar riff, "1000 Times Goodbye" is the story of a long relationship that is just ending. The song is both heartfelt and poignant while still holding true to Mustaine's classic sense of sarcasm and irony. It has the feel of "Trust," the best song off of 1997's "Cryptic Writings" and one of the bands most popular anthems, although "1000 Times Goodbye" doesn't have quite as memorable a baseline or guitar work.
The prebridge lets us see Mustaine's pain ("Drifting alone in a sea of agony") while the bridge lets us into a rare admittance of guilt ("I did no right you did no wrong") while noting that as much as he regrets the loss, he won't take his girl back should she ever desire it. Snippets of phone conversation with the ex are spliced in over little solos by Pitrelli and show the stereotypical break up routine ("I just don't feel the same anymore," "It's not as good as it used to be").
Then you get hit with the chorus that brings you back to the painful reality of the situation ("The thought never crossed my mind that this would be my last goodbye"). As the song winds down, Mustaine lets out the primal frustration at the end of one of the conversations that everyone ever faced with this situation wants to utter: "You know what? You suck!"
The song comes to a close with an extended series of comments by the ex-girlfriend that are drawn straight from a movie-style breakup scene ("You'll always have a special place in my heart") with the repetition of the title in between. The song closes with the girl saying "I love you like you're my brother" and the guy hanging up. Come on, who else has the guts to put this classic scenario into music? And who can't identify?
The album then launches into an old style metal rush with "Burning Bridges", a complex song with the intricate time signature changes that once made the band famous on 1990's "Rust in Peace" combined with some dazzling guitar work from Mustaine and Pitrelli while Degrasso drives the song like a taskmaster from the rowing scene in "Ben-Hur" hyped up on speed.
Next up is what proves to be one of the most controversial songs on the album, "Promises." Mustaine describes it as a "powerful ballad" rather than a power ballad, a phrase that conjures up vile images of bands like Whitesnake and Poison and makes devout metalheads run to worship the porcelain god.
"Promises" is a ballad, it's true, but it isn't the sappy mush that those 80's hair bands forced us to listen to, nor any of the pop junk that gets rammed down our collective throat by VH1. It is backed by a gorgeous string arrangement that frames the song wonderfully, and makes it a treat to any Megadeth fan who is a general lover of music.
"Recipe for hate warhorse" is a pure thrash metal song that is longer and more aggressive than most of this album and reminds one of the good old days of "Rust in Peace" and even back so far as "Peace Sells But Who's Buying?" The lyrics address the frightening scenario of modern times with violence hurtling out of control and people turning into vengeant maniacs. It also has the feel of a classic Megadeth song as it's essentially split into two portions much like 'Deth classics such as "Rust in Peace Polaris" and "Holy Wars The Punishment Due."
Next up is the only song that could be called filler. "Losing My Senses" is not experimental enough for Megadeth to have been an outcast from the "Risk" sessions, but it's not a pure enough metal song to be a true grass roots style song for this album. That being said, the song flows like "Breadline" off of "Risk" and will probably not receive much appreciation from the old school fans who know the ins and outs of "The Mechanix" by heart.
With the pure new stuff out of the way, it's now time for Mustaine to bring back all those who worshipped him in the good old days. To do this, he wrote a pair of quasi-sequels.
First up is "Dread and the Fugitive Mind," which is an answering call from nine years down the road to the paranoid claustrophobia of "Sweating Bullets," the brilliant internal insanity that Mustaine wove on "Countdown." He even went so far with "Dread" as to use the same introduction style that made "Sweating Bullets" such a cool song in the first place.
"Hello me ... Meet the real me and my misfit's way of life. A dark, black past is my most valued possession. Hindsight is always 20-20, but looking back it's still a bit fuzzy. Speak of mutually assured destruction? Nice story ... tell it to Reader's Digest!" screams the insane creature of 1992.
"Let me introduce myself, I'm a social disease. I've come for your wealth, leave you on your knees. No time for feeling sorry, I got here on my own. I won't ask for mercy, I choose to walk alone" answers Vic, the band's long time mascot from 2001.
The song has been refreshed and is considerably heavier yet equally thrashy and it fits beautifully with the rest of the album. Having conjured up a reply to a classic, Mustaine next added a beautiful lament to set up the unbelievable finales on the album. "Silent Scorn" features a gorgeous minute and a half solo from Mustaine over a rhythmic pattern of drum rolls from Degrasso and a mournful trumpet part. The whole song acts like a wail, a primal cry for the return of a loved one, if you will, and that's precisely what it is.
"Silent Scorn" rolls into the song that may be the clincher for this album reaching the upper pantheon of metal albums, "Return to Hangar." On the glorious "Rust" album, there was a legendary song named "Hangar 18" about the famed Hangar at Area 51 that was home to the crashed aliens that the U.S. government was thought to be hiding. For years the fans had clamored for another commentary about the world's greatest oxymoron: military intelligence. Now they have it.
"Return to Hangar" is done in the same style, hard and fast with great solos, and the new version even keeps the lyrical format the same, complete with some lines from the first including the chorus. The only thing I felt that was lacking was that the song was too short, with only two verses. Had Mustaine made another four verse epic, I not only would have been sated, but I might have dropped to my knees in thanks. Instead, I am merely happy beyond belief, but not at the point of genuflection that I might have been brought to.
The album closer, "When," is a classic metal treat, with a walk through the classics. The opening is a call out to the opening of Metallica's "Call of Ktulu" with a heavy distortion riff in place of the Cliff Burton bass fill. From then on, the music continues similarly while Mustaine chants a haunting Armageddon"style prophecy.
After a brief fill solo by Mustaine and Degrasso, the second style shout out goes to Diamond Head, a member of the new wave of British heavy metal who basically created the 80's metal craze in America. This second section follows the musical design of DH's "Am I Evil?," a song made popular by Mettalica, and first played at live gigs while Mustaine was still Metallica's lead guitarist. Then a cool Pitrelli solo segues into a modified rendition of the closing minutes of Ktulu, finishing Mustaine's tribute to his metal roots, and appropriately closing the album in a way that true Megadeth fans will at once appreciate and understand.
This album is Megadeth's return to metal prominence through a stripped-down hard rock and metal style that showcases the talents of the band members without reducing itself to a pure guitar pyrotechnics album (Eddie Van Halen, listen up).
If you are an avid metal fan, buy this album now. If you are a Megadeth fan, buy this album now. If you in any way like stripped-down, hard and fast music that can both blow you away with musical genius and soothe a desire for poignant and aggressive lyrics, buy this album now. If you picked up "Risk" and enjoyed it for its lighter feel, buy this now and see if it takes you to a new appreciation of true metal. If you are a fan of pop, buy this album immediately and prepare for the loudest and most emphatic "I told you so" in the history of mankind.