In all my decades of listening to music I can’t recall anticipating an album as much as Megadeth’s ‘Youthanasia.’
Written by: Dangerzone
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
LINEUP: Dave Mustaine – vocals, guitar * Marty Friedman – guitar * Dave Ellefson – bass * Nick Menza – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Reckoning Day * 02 Train Of Consequences * 03 Addicted To Chaos * 04 A Tout Le Monde * 05 Elysian Fields * 06 The Killing Road * 07 Blood Of Heroes * 08 Family Tree * 09 Youthanasia * 10 I Thought I Knew It All * 11 Black Curtains * 12 Victory
WEBLINKS: Site Link
In all my decades of listening to music I can’t recall anticipating an album as much as Megadeth’s ‘Youthanasia.’ This was still an era before the Internet had taken over and being in far flung New Zealand meant little to no snippets of new music were available before an album release.
Therefore the excitement for this album was almost unbearable, with myself and my brother hoping for a return to the thrash of ‘Rust In Peace’ and earlier. 1992’s ‘Countdown To Extinction’ was a major breakthrough for the band and was their most successful effort to that point, going double platinum. But their slower direction left some cold, myself included, seemingly following the etiquette set by Metallica on their ‘Black’ album in 1991.
In many ways the anticipation usurped the album itself, with the end result being something even more commercial than ‘Countdown’ much to our shock and dismay. If you could have seen the looks on our faces at the completion of this album you’d have thought a major tragedy had occurred. That’s how seriously we took this back then. Many decades later how does it stand up though?
Listening to this straight through for the first time in years I still feel the same as I did in 1994. I won’t deny Mustaine’s ear for a keen melody back then, but this whole set is a woefully misguided melodic heavy metal album, which often has more in common with basic hard rock.
It’s difficult to establish what Mustaine’s ultimate goal was, but the stylistic confusion is evident from the very first track ‘Reckoning Day’ which does begin with a weighty riff, but soon dissolves into mid-tempo stagnation, setting the template for the remainder of the album.
‘Train Of Consequences’ chugs along with another melodic chorus, even incorporating harmonica into the mix, showing just how far in the opposite direction Mustaine was going. ‘Addicted To Chaos’ is a complete bore, another slow track devoid of energy and vitality, once a Megadeth trademark.The metallic AOR of ‘A Tout Le Monde’ was the most radical departure yet, displaying a wealth of melodic awareness, verging on ballad territory.
‘Elysian Fields’ is heavier and once again benefits from a well-constructed chorus, probably Mustaine at his peak in terms of melodic songwriting. ‘The Killing Road’ has some welcome sinister riffs recalling the early years and even flirts with some half-hearted speed metal near the climax, but it’s very slight. The second half of the album dissolves immediately with the bland ‘Blood Of Heroes’ and its one dimensional slower pace, typical of so much of the album.
The vocals are monotonous and the guitar work never gets out of second gear. Mustaine’s tale of sexual abuse ‘Family Tree’ is virtually identical and by this time the album is crying out for some signs of life. It’s just plodding metal punctuated by some traces of melody, but seems like a rejected Alice Cooper track.
Suffice to say the title track follows the same path, as do the interminable ‘I Thought I Knew It All’ and ‘Black Curtains.’ Mustaine mixes things up with ‘Victory’ at the albums conclusion, this one a bit faster, but the cliched lyrics containing song titles from previous albums is fairly daft, with Dave trying to convince the world he’d successfully overcome his drug addiction and conquered the world.
The intense analysis which followed our initial consumption of this album lasted weeks, with the type of focus reserved for major political or sporting events. One minute it was declared great, the next a total flop, with the final opinion it should have been a six track EP. Even now I firmly believe this album was a gross misstep from Mustaine. Instead of going down the standard metal route he should have reverted to thrash and done the unexpected. This would have shaken up a stale and fading metal scene and shown a willingness to not play it safe.
But Mustaine betrayed his initial promise and essentially became an afterthought, with the band releasing two even worse albums in 1997 and 1999. Thankfully the likes of Slayer and Pantera kept things at the basic thrash level in 1994, making up for this major letdown. This was Megadeth’s chance to regain their credibility and they threw it away. I never accepted it then and I still don’t now, even with the passing of many years.
Entire Album (Select Tracks)