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Deth by mediocrity - 40%

Acrobat, May 16th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2004, CD, Capitol Records (Remastered)

If Mustaine once set out to create a louder, faster, better band than Metallica (hell, as bold as that was - he managed to exceed or match their best on occasion), his post-Rust in Peace 90's output displays very little of that. Youthanasia is a failure on many levels; primarily being that it's mostly forgettable, more than definitely underwhelming and, if you'll excuse the oxymoron, extremely mediocre. For all its faults, Metallica's eponymous "snakey boy" album was as catchy as it set out to be, as well produced as it ought to be and could compete with its true rivals in terms of hits (by which, I mean other ridiculous big-hitters like child-too-friendly synthetic man-mush, Michael Jackson, and Sheffield sell-outs, Def Leppard). In comparison, Megadeth's two "grey albums" lack a lot of their force and the majority of their staying power. Whereas Countdown to Extinction managed to at least muster some hits, Youthanasia really falls flat on that count. Only the syrupy, aimed-at-Francophone-radio ballad 'A Tout Le Monde' succeeds in being hooky in an AOR-friendly way (it's Megadeth do 'Winds of Change', in case you were wondering - it never reunited Germany, unlike the Scorps).

Of course, Megadeth don't thrash or rage here but that's hardly to be held against them. On the other hand, what they do attempt is to create a vocal-centric album with one of the most idiosyncratically scratchy, weak sounding vocalists in metal's storied history. Mustaine must have been having a bad week as, while in-tune, his voice is a rakish, waif-like presence hovering high in the mix when it really has no place doing so. Prior Megadeth albums succeeded due to the fact that they had high-flying instrumentalists playing dazzling stuff to detract from any short-comings from Muistaine's voice. Here, however, the drums and guitars are reigned in and Muistaine is, somewhat embarrassingly, taking centre stage. I really don't know what he was thinking... perhaps he thought he'd come into his own as Hetfield had done? At any rate, the somewhat thin production, the spartan instrumentation - by their standards, at least - and overtly familiar verse-chorus nature of the album exposes Muistaine as, while not a bad vocalist, totally inadequate for what the album requires. As a matter of fact, I genuinely enjoy the vocals on Megadeth's earlier albums, it's just here that he overreaches and misses the mark massively.

Honestly, I'm somewhat baffled by the praise this album receives. It's a metal album, sure, in the most barren plains of 90's thrash metal but it's just the most mid-paced, radio-orientated, vanilla, accountant-metal imaginable. It occasionally references classic metal but in the most restrained, beige way. Aside from the ballad, the slight break in the title track and the closer everything is so dull that you struggle to make it through the rather brief playing times. I mean I suppose 'Train of Consequences' has a catchy riff in that "thrash goes rock/you wish they'd just retired instead"-way but in no way, shape or form does any part of this album show Mustaine at his best (and he is one of the best rhythm guitarists in metal). Songs are barely worth mentioning as they follow a similar pace and style. Does this make Youthanasia the Reign in Blood of mid-1990s AOR metal? Perhaps, perhaps.

On a more personal note, I bought this album around fifteen years ago, as an ardent Megadeth fan; their blazing energy and style was just so impressive and this album just left me stone cold. So, it's nice to see that my impression is a completely unchanging one. I'm more than happy to reevaluate my impressions of an album and, hell, it's always great when you get into something you weren't keen on, however, this tepid, tepid album just refuses to sink its (lack of) hooks into me.

I dunno, though, if slogging through 50 minutes of grey-metal with occasionally nice solo sections that makes Savatage's Handful of Rain seem like Skeptics Apocalypse in comparison is your bag... go forth, be fruitful, hang a baby on the line. The rest of us should listen to Megadeth's first four albums and continue to forget about this duller-than-dishwater album.