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THE Megadeth album of the 1990s - 96%

BlackMetal213, July 23rd, 2016

As we all know, Megadeth had entered into the mostly thrash-less 1990s era of metal with their album "Countdown to Extinction" released two years prior. In my eyes, that album was the logical answer to Metallica's 1991 album. With "Youthanasia", we see the band moving further down into commercialism and leaving their thrash metal roots even further behind. This album basically expanded the sound Dave and Co. were going with on "Countdown to Extinction" and added more of a traditional heavy metal/hard rock soundscape to the already commercial-aimed music. "Youthanasia" was released in 1994, during the height of the grunge/groove metal movement and managed to stand out quite a bit regardless. Here, we see Megadeth writing songs that could be played both on MTV at the time and the radio, as well as at your standard heavy metal show. This is still obviously a Megadeth album and really, it's not a HUGE departure from the band's previous sound.

The guitar work on here is similar to "Countdown to Extinction" but Dave and Marty have both seemed to add more melody and catchy hooks to the mix. If you came here looking for thrash, you'll probably only be slightly satisfied. Songs like "Reckoning Day" and "The Killing Road" and the lyrical oath to Megadeth, "Victory", all contain some nice speed metal riffs. However, these songs are still very much in the vein of 1990s Megadeth. There really is no thrash metal to be heard here. Instead, the band takes "Countdown..." and slows down the pace, even more, adding more radio-friendly aspects to the music. This is metal, but it's commercial metal. It's still not as simplistic as Metallica's infamous album released three years prior. There is a lot more going on here. Dave is able to put far more emotion into his guitar playing in here than he had before. "À Tout le Monde" is a fan-favorite from this album. Really, most people I talk to absolutely love this song, even if they're stuck in the days of 80s thrash metal. It's a somber piece, and translates to "To All the World". This song captures Mustaine's emotions absolutely perfectly. It's not a particularly complicated song in terms of structure, however, it is very effective in creating a melancholic atmosphere. The solo in this song is also fairly simple when compared to earlier works such as "Holy Wars" or "Devils Island" or most of the stuff released during 'Deth's glory days, but its simplicity actually complements its beauty. There are other songs that follow in this path of beauty, such as within the acoustic intro to "Blood of Heroes" and even the lyrically incestual-based "Family Tree". Songs like "I Thought I Knew It All" and the aforementioned "Family Tree" actually are two of my favorites on the album due to the choruses of these songs being absolutely breathtaking. Sure, they're catchy and radio-friendly, but very controlled and effective.

The guitar work coming from Dave and Marty was probably at its most mature point on this album. Now, mature can mean one of many things. Either the band sold out and stopped playing heavy music, they got more melodically mature, they changed their sound to appeal to an audience, or they started playing music that your fucking grandfather would enjoy. When "Countdown..." came out, Megadeth had already matured. And here, it's the same thing. They've matured a bit, but in a positive way. This would be maturing in a more melodic way, with a key emphasis on songwriting and overall musical flow. This album has NOTHING on "Rust in Peace" or "Peace Sells...but Who's Buying?" and while those albums both get much higher scores than this album from me, "Youthanasia" contains a certain melodic element and musical flow, as I said earlier, that the band's thrash albums never had. While the band's classic thrash albums focused on technicality and precision, the 90s Megadeth albums, including the abhorred "Risk" from 1999, all focused more on simpler ideas of flow rather than long, technical solos. Make no mistake, however, we still got plenty of amazing guitar solos from Megadeth in the 90s. "I Thought I Knew It All" and "Elysian Fields" for example, as well as the groovy title-track, are amazing when it comes to guitar solos. Luckily, as with Megadeth tradition, all 12 songs on this album have ripping guitar solos. Most Megadeth songs at least have a somewhat interesting solo and these songs are no exception. I'm glad the band didn't let the simpler song structures affect the guitar solos.

Remember how I said Dave Mustaine's vocals on "Countdown to Extinction" were his best offering up to that point? Well, now that we have "Youthanasia" here, that changes. On this album, Dave offers an even better performance than prior. He sounds more spiteful and far more focused here. Honestly, here, he even rivals James Hetfield in terms of quality. Anyone who really knows me knows I like Hetfield's vocals more, regardless of the music as a whole. Dave manages to rise to his level here. Hell, maybe even above that! The emotion he puts behind his vocals is nearly unmatched here. He still utilizes the traditional higher-pitched voice that he had been using at the time but it works in favor of the music.

This album, to my ears, is the finest Megadeth record of the 1990s. While 1997's "Cryptic Writings", the album following this one, would be Megadeth's second best 1990s album, this was really their best for the time. Hell, it's even better than some of their 1980s work! Truly a testament to heavy metal and a kick in the face to the 1990s alternative style, "Youthanasia" remains one of Megadeth's finest albums and should be celebrated as such.