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Megadeth Ad Victoriam - 85%

JohnHoxton, September 23rd, 2015
Written based on this version: 2004, CD, Capitol Records (Remastered)

This album is by no means a classic and it's not as good as its predecessor Countdown to Extinction but it does have a number of songs which can be deemed as classics. Gone was the speed and intricacies of Rust in Peace and to a lesser extent Countdown to Extinction; in its place is a more streamlined and simplified style. It's an album that sacrifices speed for catchy songs and it uses standard verse and chorus patterns with a good degree of success. There are very few fast rhythm sections and not many duel guitar solos which were so often associated with their earlier work. Nevertheless Dave Mustaine and Marty Friedman's riffs, licks and solos throughout the album are still very accomplished.

The album begins with a powerful medium paced opening guitar riff which provides the first indicator as to what will follow. As the album progresses I feel that it doesn't have enough pace to it. The opening two tracks warrant faster riffing and an increased tempo which is how they are played on live sets; never the less they are still very good. The pace then quickly drops with a very slow song called "Addicted to Chaos" which only needs to have an increased tempo and this applies to the entire album. It even begins with a tediously slow opening drum rhythm section. This is where I first notice that the drums have this bassy echo which doesn't sound very good. Nick Menza's [RIP] drum track is proficient although at times slightly underwhelming. This clearly isn't Menza's fault as he's just playing in unison with the other rhythm sections.

I also noticed that the guitars have been tuned down and this has a negative affect on the overall sound; they should have used standard tuning to retain that gritty Megadeth tone. I think that they tuned down half a step to create a thicker sound which would compensate for the slower tempo and this slow tempo was created to produce a very mainstream album in order to achieve that no. 1 record which incidentally never came to fruition. There has been some suggestion that it was Max Norman, the producer, who encouraged the slower tempo and if that's the case then it also suggests that Mustaine wasn't in total control over his musical direction and this would be detrimental to Megadeth in the later part of the decade.

These are only minor flaws that don't ruin what is essentially a very good album. The writing is still very strong with subjects which range from drug and gambling addiction to a phenomenally well written song about someone's imminent death. This shows that Dave has focus in his writing which is a major plus for the album. The mid section of this album has two stand out tracks, "The Killing Road" and "Blood of Heroes," but it also gets bogged down in monotonous melody and mediocrity. Now there's absolutely nothing wrong with the written content here; it's just the delivery that's the issue. For example "Elysian Fields" has this tediously repeated vocal harmony in the second verse along with the song title being over used during the chorus, and to top it off there's a harmonica played at the end which is completely pointless. Also "Family Tree" begins promisingly but fails to deliver any of those trademark jackhammer riffs thus slowing the pace of the album. I therefore find myself skipping through half of the mid section to get to the title track.

The entire last third of the album gets much stronger after the mid sections melodic slump. The title track "Youthanasia" is a fantastically heavy sounding song with a timely tempo change and a great riff in the middle. It would have been good if some of the other songs had a few varied structures. I was also pleased that in the last third of the album there was more content in relation to nuclear destruction which is reminiscent of "Set the World Afire" from the So Far, So Good, So What! album. In actual fact this was the last album for a decade which would vocalize matters of nuclear war and political turmoil in the world. The next two albums would completely move away from these subjects which had been the mainstay for much of Mustaine's material. It only seems fitting that Mustaine wound pen the last track titled "Victory" using words and sentences constructed from past songs. It's like showcasing their entire discography in 4 minutes and this is also one of the few moments when we can hear one of those fantastic duel guitar trade-offs. The track also appears, even if unintentionally, to signify an end of a chapter in Megadeth's history. They will be moving onto new ventures; ventures culminating in the Risk disaster.

In retrospect this album reveals that the band were in transition. This is where Mustaine became more influenced by the success of the previous album Countdown to Extinction and by the direction of the record producer Max Norman. Norman suggested that they record the songs at a "heart beat" and essentially that is what Mustaine did, but the lyrical content and the speed at which the songs are played live suggests that this album would have been even better if Mustaine had ignored this direction. It was only after hearing several of these songs live in concert that I began playing all of them with an increased tempo of between 6-16% and I have to say that it makes such a considerable difference; it's a much more enjoyable listen. Even though these factors dictated the final version of this release Megadeth didn't completely abandon their heavy metal roots unlike some of their peers during this decade, and it's definitely not a complete "sell out." The album has some really excellent songs with only two that I really dislike, and then there's the bonus tracks which consist of two good instrumentals and a really good demo of "New World Order." The standout tracks are the openers "Reckoning Day" and "Train of Consequences," followed by "À Tout le Monde," then "The Killing Road," "Blood of Heroes," "Youthanasia," "Black Curtains" and "Victory." To all intents and purposes this album was a victory.