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Strong as ever - 88%

Mikesn, March 3rd, 2007

"We are the damned of all the world / With sadness in our hearts / The wounded of the wars / We've been hung out to dry"

So sings Megadeth vocalist/guitarist Dave Mustaine on the title track of his band's 1994 effort, Youthanasia. In many ways this line is quite reflective of the 'turmoil' that the band's fan base was going through at the time. Both Youthanasia and Megadeth's previous album, Countdown to Extinction, did extremely well Both releases propelled Megadeth to the top of the charts (as high as #2 at one point), and the American band was finally enjoying the fruits of their labour. However, this would not come without a price. Countdown to Extinction took them away from their thrash metal roots in pursuit of a more accessible sound. Does this mean we automatically write them off as sell-outs? Of course not. But many fans who longed for the technical thrash found on the likes of Rust in Peace or Peace Sells did write them off when they took this new musical direction. But Dave and the crew didn't care, and continued making the music they wanted to make. Despite what many will tell you, Youthanasia is not a bad album. However, it does continue the progression that began on Countdown started in 1992.

Though the music found in songs like Reckoning Day and Youthanasia remains quite heavy, it is obvious that thrash metal is very scarce on Megadeth's sixth album. In its place is a more traditional type of metal. Much slower than the likes of Rust in Peace…Polaris or Set the World Afire, the material on Youthanasia is set at more of a medium pace, yet makes up for the lack of speed with a level of catchiness similar to that of Countdown to Extinction. This is accomplished through steady, consistent riffs and memorable vocal efforts (But we'll stick with the musical side of the album right now). One song that showcases this catchiness is the song Victory. Aside from being one of Dave's more clever tracks, it's also one of the album's thrashier cuts. Victory's riffy structure represents the build of several of the album's songs, and even detractors of the album should find it interesting. One of the most enjoyable parts of older albums was the technical shredding that Mustaine and Co. subjected listeners to in many of the group's songs. Youthanasia lacks the three minute soloing from Dave and Marty. But it isn't completely devoid of soloing. Mr. Mustaine and Mr. Friedman both showcase their talents on the axe through (for the most part) shorter, slower, yet still competent guitar solos which remain a staple in the arsenal of Megadeth. Music is not an issue with Youthanasia, and like Countdown to Extinction, is very well done.

Now, one of the most ridiculed aspects of Megadeth lies in the vocal delivery of guitarist/vocalist Dave Mustaine. His efforts on Youthanasia will do nothing to change your mind. But for those who do appreciate his efforts, well, Youthanasia will not disappoint. While I didn't think it was too bad to begin with, Dave's singing significantly improved on Countdown to Extinction. Though the difference is definitely not as large between Countdown and this release, it is still noticeable. He really excels during the various choruses found through the album. The likes of Family Tree and Blood of Heroes have Dave elevating his performance above anything he had ever done at the time. However, the catchiness does not stop there. Songs like Train of Consequences and New World Order also have acceptable vocal lines, yet are somewhat more difficult to get into. This is especially the case in Train of Consequences, where Dave's voice is somewhat irritating the first time you give it a listen. You know, his trademark snarl/growl/vocal style. But aside from some minor moments such as that, Dave has a very good showing on Youthanasia, perhaps his best at that point of his career.

Despite recording a very enjoyable album, Megadeth still got plenty of criticism from their "tr00 fans." No, there aren't any Hangar 18's or Good Morning/Black Friday's or Set the World Afire's, but instead there are an abundance of simpler, more accessible, yet still heavy songs which many can enjoy. The second half of the last verse could be interpreted as the band's response to these hecklers, through the slightly odd career path that they decided to tread (by time Risk came around, Megadeth had lost a lot of it's mainstream appeal as well as most of the tr00 thrash fans which got propelled them to their highs in the first place) If you don't enjoy Megadeth's material (especially Countdown to Extinction), chances are you will not like this, but I find that it's a perfect album for newer Deth fans, along with Peace Sells. Get this album if you have the chance.

"You didn't want us anyway / And now we're making up our minds / You tell us how to run our lives / We run for youthanasia"

(Originally written for Sputnikmusic)