When the band in question has such a hugely strong back catalogue, why have I chosen this particular record, a record that is loved by some but is clearly not considered by large swathes of the metal community as their best? I can hear you all crying it: ‘Why have you chosen ‘Youthanasia’ by Megadeth? Why not ‘Rust In Peace’ or ‘Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying’ or ‘Countdown To Extinction’?
The answer is simple: I like them all but this blog series is not an exercise in talking about the most critically-acclaimed albums or the most technically-adept music. People will try to tell you that this album or that album is a band’s best and that you shouldn’t rate any others more highly. Well I’m afraid it doesn’t work like that. Regardless of trends and the thoughts of the masses, individuals will often have favourites that buck the trend. This is one of mine and this post explains why.
I love Megadeth.
They were the second thrash metal band that I fell for, after Metallica and I discovered them via their 1994 album ‘Youthanasia’. Since then, I have acquired the entire Megadeth back catalogue and consider them a hugely important band in my life, more so than any other thrash metal band. They are the thrash metal band as far as I’m concerned. So much so that I long for the opportunity to interview Mr Mustaine having not had the chance in my ten years at Powerplay – I live in eternal hope.
It may not be the best album from Dave Mustaine and Co. from a pure thrash metal standpoint or from a complex, technical point of view, but because it was their first for me and it led me on a wonderful voyage of discovery, it is the most special and remains the Megadeth album that I return to most frequently.
The day that I saw it sitting on the shelf in a now-defunct record shop in Ipswich, I knew that I had to buy it. It was early in my musical life and I was around 15 years old or so. I read magazines like Kerrang! And Metal Hammer and so I knew of Megadeth. I had read articles about Dave Mustaine and was led to believe that he was fired from Metallica for being too wild. Being impressionable and naïve at the time, I assumed therefore that the music was equally wild and untamed. I was reticent to give them a try but I succumbed and gave ‘Youthanasia’ a go.
The primary reason was the cover art. I have always been a sucker for good album art and ‘Youthanasia’ managed to walk the fine line between looking really professional and really rather bonkers. I mean, who on earth would put out an album that, on the cover, has babies hanging by their feet from a washing line? It spoke to me and my inner sense of mischief.
It was a done deal and the purchase was made. My instant reaction to this record was ‘wow, this isn’t as wild as I thought it would be’, quickly followed by ‘oooh, I rather like this’. At the time, my nearly new Aiwa multi-disc stereo was being repaired for the umpteenth time so I had to resort to a more cobbled together music system on which to listen. I used an old 1970s amp and a couple of tired speakers. Even through this system, the magic got to me. And, given how loud I played it, it got to most of my neighbours too, whether they liked it or not. It became one of the main soundtracks to my teenage life and you can’t put a price on that.
‘Youthanasia’ is dominated by metal anthem after metal anthem. Big fat riffs, a powerhouse rhythm section, hooks, melodies and enormously addictive choruses make up the large proportion of the album’s music. The tempo is generally mid-paced and groovier than you might normally expect from a thrash metal band. However, the solos, the guitar harmonies and the ubiquitous snarl of Mustaine’s vocals, albeit slightly calmer and more melodious than before, are all out of the top drawer. And, importantly, as such the music cannot be mistaken for anyone else. ‘Youthanasia’ is clearly the sound of a band entering a more commercial era but the songs are just so punchy and enjoyable that I didn’t care back then and I still don’t really care today.
There are very few albums in my collection where I like each and every song. The fact that I love each and every song on this record must say something about the high regard in which I hold it. It also helps that my best mate loved the album and we’d frequently meet up and play it, changing our minds about which track is our favourite all the time. His was ‘Victory’, thanks to the melodic breakdown and solo near the mid-point. Mine was initially ‘A Tout Le Monde’, then ‘Addicted To Chaos’ but is now ‘Train Of Consequences’ – it all adds to the special feeling that I have for this record.
Not too long after buying the album, I discovered that Megadeth had made a fly-on-the-wall film documenting the ‘making of’ ‘Youthanasia’. Given my love for the record and the light-hearted tone of the film, it quickly became my favourite music video that I owned. And yes, I owned it on VHS! It was great to see inside the purpose-built studio, to hear interviews with each member, to see the band jamming in the studio; it felt like I was part of the band’s crew and I would sit open-mouthed watching Mustaine and Friedman bust out the cool riffs that I loved so much.
‘Hey, cool sky over there man…but you can’t see that though, haha’, courtesy of drummer Nick Menza or ‘…but when he put his dick in there, it didn’t seem that hot’, referring out of shot to a hot coffee, are just two of the light-hearted jokes that I remember fondly from this video and remember quoting to others ad nauseum. Music aside, this vibe helped to underline my thinking that the Mustaine, Ellefson, Freidman and Menza combination was the ultimate line-up for Megadeth, a truly golden era.
The whole thing had such an impact on me that when I was bought a leather jacket as a reward for getting good results in my exams, I could think of only one band to decorate it with: Megadeth. Inspired by the jackets that I’d seen in the metal shops of Camden in London, I borrowed my brother’s Warhammer paints and duly painted the Megadeth logo from the ‘Youthanasia’ album along with a portrait of Vic Rattlehead based around his image on the back cover of the same album.
I still have that jacket and I occasionally still wear it with pride. It looks a little dated now I must admit but it is a memento of a simpler time in my life and, when I get a little jaded with music in general, it serves as a timely reminder about just how powerful music can be.
Thank you Megadeth and thank you ‘Youthanasia’.
If you’ve enjoyed this article, check out the others in this series: