MEGADETH – The World Needs A Hero / The System Has Failed
March 29, 2019, a month ago
(BMG / Sanctuary)
I always enjoy when a band decides to reissue material that wasn’t exactly the most popular and that’s the case with these new reissues featuring probably the most overlooked albums from Megadeth. This era was a weird time for the band – 2001’s The World Needs A Hero began a new era without longtime guitarist Marty Friedman and they were trying to recover from the commercial failure and aptly-titled Risk. 2004’s The System Has Failed was intended to be a Dave Mustaine solo album, but the label (Sanctuary) would have none of it, and so it became a Megadeth record and it would be most notable due to the presence of former guitarist Chris Poland and the absence of bassist David Ellefson. When revisiting these albums one aspect is clear – I would love to hear some of these songs live again.
The World Needs A Hero is a wonky album and considering Mustaine was out for blood and vengeance after the Risk debacle, it’s funny the record begins with the subdued, mid-paced stomper, “Disconnect”. New guitarist and Savatage member Al Pitrelli fits in seamlessly with the rest of the unit – Jimmy DeGrasso (drums), Ellefson (bass), and Mustaine. While the red-haired mainman has never been considered a great singer, he had a nice period (’97-’04) where he actually sang well and he performed exceptionally well on Risk. This one is no exception as Dave belts out the notes with supreme confidence and vigor and delivers an emotional tune on the underrated ballad “Promises”.
The tempos buzz along on the politically charged title track and the grooving “Moto Psycho”, while guitar theatrics are shown on the impressive “Burning Bridges”. Most known however, is the “Hangar 18” sequel “Return To Hangar” and glides along at a similar pace as the hallowed original and actually proves to be a worthy follow-up. Dave goes into another failed relationship tirade on “1000 Times Goodbye”, and goes philosophical on life with “Losing My Senses”, which sounds like a remnant from the late-‘90s era. Dave really brings out the corkers with the pummeling “Dread And The Fugitive Mind”, the unique “Recipe For Hate…Warhorse” (which possesses a vibe similar to “Sweating Bullets” before erupting to real headbanger), and the closer “When”, a love note to Diamond Head with the riff basically being a rip-off of “Am I Evil?” and also the longest Deth song, clocking in at over 9 minutes. The digipak bonus track was originally featured on the Japanese release, and it’s the sentimental, short ballad, “Coming Home”.
Now, I admit The System Has Failed has nostalgic value for me. I was just getting into Megadeth as a teenager when this came out, along with all the remixed and remastered albums from the Capitol Records era. Also, if anyone remembers, there was the weirdest tie-in with this album when Mr. Mustaine appeared on an episode of the Cartoon Network series, Duck Dodgers, and Megadeth performed the nostalgic penned “Back In The Day”. Really strange, but also really cool.
Most of the complaints center on too many spoken word parts and the back-half of the album being weak and those are very valid criticisms, but this is also the most underrated record in their discography. It’s like Dave was all about constructing melodic, thrashy, complete songs, without being concerned about how many incoherent solos to thrown in. “Kick The Chair” remains the most underappreciated track in the Mega catalogue as it’s one of the fiercest thrashers Dave has ever written. What a welcome it is to hear Chris Poland tear the strings on the entrancing stunner “The Scorpion”, sterling opener “Blackmail The Universe”, and maybe Dave’s best relationship scorned song, “Tears In A Vial”. There’s some odd moments like the extremely short “I Know Jack” and Dave showing his reinvigorated faith with “Shadow Of Deth”; the lyrics being taken from Psalm 23, but they all add to the charm of the record. Yes, the second half of the record drags down a little bit, but I really dig the groove to “Something That I’m Not” (apparently written about Lars Ulrich), and the crunchy closer, “My Kingdom”, ends the proceedings on a brooding high note. Two live tracks are added as bonuses – “Time / Use The Man”, which is acoustically done and showcases just how far as a singer Mustaine had come, and the classic “ The Conjuring”.
Available on digipak and vinyl, I was disappointed that the booklets are just reprints from the original CD releases and don’t feature any linear notes from Dave giving a background on this unique era of the band. Recommended for the newer and older fans, a breath of life has been given to these records and deservedly so, especially for The System Has Failed, as that one definitely is worthy of recognition.