Starting things over at square one rarely results in a masterpiece being put together, and that is precisely what went on when this album was thrown together and released to the public. Mustaine had essentially lost his longest running axe partner and half of his rhythm section, not to mention that it had been going on 7 years since he’d put together an album that was 100% Metal, let alone Thrash Metal. In keeping with all of this, one shouldn’t approach “The World Needs A Hero” with high expectations. But even when canceling out the unrealistic hope of a return to “Rust In Peace”, especially considering that Marty Friedman is out of the picture, this album does leave a bit to be desired.
First to get the obvious out of the way, this is basically a Metal album, though there is some retention of Rock oriented influences as heard on “Cryptic Writings”. These tend to occur during the extended intros of certain songs, and in some isolated cases they take over the song entirely. Otherwise, what unfolds to the ears is something largely comparable to “Youthanasia”, though lacking a lot of the impressive hooks and often trying to merge some older Thrash elements into the mix. What results is an album that is just a tiny bit heavier than your average Heavy Metal album, and definitely a good bit more technical in the riff department.
There are many positive examples of songs that settle into a fairly older vain of MEGADETH, albeit ones that hearken to the early to mid-90s rather than the 80s. Songs such as the catchy and minimalist “Moto Psycho”, the mid-paced yet intricate “Disconnect”, and the heavier and riff happy “Burning Bridges”. These songs all carry elements of stronger moments heard on “Countdown To Extinction” and on the various non-album songs that floated around before and after “Youthanasia”. “Burning Bridges” actually turns into a Speed/Thrash song during the guitar solo, definitely reminiscent of “Fear His Name” off of OVERKILL’S “Taking Over”.
Unfortunately, there are also a fair share of flawed songs and also a few genuine throwaways. The title track “The World Needs A Hero” and “1000 Times Goodbye” both contain a fair share of solid riff work, but both are loaded with Mustaine’s odd narrative ramblings, which are actually the most overblown fits of sheer corniness he’s ever come up with. At times it almost sounds as if he came up with the verses of these songs via pure stream of consciousness. “Recipe For Hate...Warhorse” brings back memories of “Dawn Patrol”, as it spends more than 2 minutes riding a bass line and contains similarly rambling verses before it actually gets going. Once it does, it breaks out into a series of highly effective riffs and lead breaks, making you wonder why they just didn’t kick things in at around the 1 minute mark.
There’s really only one section where this album truly breaks out into owning what it does and throwing out the true strength of this band, and that is the two song set of “Silent Scorn” and “Return To The Hanger”. While this is meant to be the sequel/conclusion of the famed “Hangar 18” story from “Rust In Peace”, musically this sounds closer to what was heard on “So Far, So Good, So What?”. The first song is a part acoustic ballad, part military march that listens like an army funeral. What follows in the second song is the only thing on here that qualifies as Thrash, albeit a shorter and darker version of the late 80s sound of MEGADETH. The ending riff where the solo interchange comes in sounds like it was inspired by “Darkness Descends”, and cooks better than anything heard on “Countdown To Extinction” or “Youthanasia”. Why Dave can’t write a whole album like this anymore is absolutely beyond me.
Though this has its moments, it is still a step behind “Cryptic Writings” as an overall listen. If you are one of these old school fans of MEGADETH who liked the albums before Dave would speak entire verses of words as if he were on a pulpit, be prepared to be annoyed by about 1/3 of what is on here. This is definitely something that falls into bargain hunting territory, preferably at $6 or less. As much as it pains me to say it, there are cases where an album can be Metal yet simultaneously not very good.
(Online April 18, 2009)