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A mis-step? "Not even close..." - 95%

ViciousFriendlyFish, January 26th, 2014

Megadeth, alongside many of the other big name thrash metal bands, began to move away from their signature sounds in the 90s to more accessible traditional rock and metal styles. Their songs slowed down, their guitars were downtuned, and the new direction created a division amongst critics and fans alike. Youthanasia was Megadeth's second album to display such a shift in direction, following Countdown to Extinction, which contained simplified song structures and slower songs. Youthanasia, therefore is the next stage in the hard rock-influenced direction the band was taking. The most surprising thing about this album, however, is how well this musical style is executed. Metallica, for instance, released two albums full of hard rock in 1996 and 1997 that each lasted nearly 80 minutes, and many listeners turned their backs on the band due to the drastic change in sound and a lack of "metal". Those albums had a considerable amount of excess. Youthanasia, on the other hand (which actually came first) had much less excess and mostly powerful, hard-hitting memorable music and retained a heavy metal style. No messing around with 6-10 minute songs with long-winded jamming to be found here. Just pure straight heavy music.

I consider Youthanasia to be my favourite Megadeth album and harbour no shame in admitting it. The songs still pack as much of a punch as anything else the band had previously released, and there are several seriously crunching riffs to be cherished. The drumming is more simple than on Countdown, but it works very well with the rest of the music. Although I say the direction is hard-rock influenced, it still feels very much like a great heavy metal album. There are songs that still remind you of the band's 80's thrash output, such as "The Killing Road" and "Victory" (which is full of references to Megadeth's past songs), but certainly don't feel out of place with the rest of the album.

Like all good hard rock, there are a lot of memorable melodic riffs on Youthanasia. The choruses, in particular, demonstrate Dave Mustaine's ear for a good melody. Highlights in this department include the choruses to "Reckoning Day" and "Addicted to Chaos". And then, of course, you have the beautiful "A Tout Le Monde", a surprisingly thoughtful song from a band that was infamous for their attitudes and heavy drug use, which concerns an individuals last words they wish to speak to their loved ones to serve as a worthy send-off (and may I say the original version found here is far superior to the 2007 re-recording with Christina Scabbia). Metal bands that are brutally heavy but still have a great ear for melody are usually the best bands. Megadeth fits into this category.

Dave Mustaine has always been rather outspoken on his political and religious views. The subject matter of this album is often serious, touching upon that territory and covering real life issues Mustaine has observed. The album cover and title track, in particular, were inspired by the decline of children's well being, as well as drugs and crime, things that Mustaine himself has dabbled in and is more than familiar with. "Family Tree" is also a good example, as it seems to be about incest. Its chorus is therefore particularly haunting, with Mustaine singing "Let me show you, how I love you, it's our secret, you and me". The music on much of the album, especially the second half, carries the atmosphere of a constant struggle.

It's a surprise to think that Dave Mustaine's desire for a no.1 album at least partially influenced the sound on Youthanasia, because, there seems to be little sacrifice in heaviness, particularly riff-wise, and even little sacrifice in the strength of the songs themselves, both musically and lyrically. The album is definitely a self-reflection as well as a reflection on world issues and addictions. The fact that I actually prefer this album to Countdown to Extinction is probably a testament to how good it is. These days, the album is probably seen as less of a mis-step than perhaps it was before. As of this writing, Megadeth plan to play the album live in its entirety, which should be a treat for anyone lucky enough to go to a show. Youthanasia is a must buy and is up there with Megadeth's best work.