After showing Metallica‘s Load some leniency in our ‘is it time to cut Metallica’s Load album some slack’ article, We now turn our attention to another universally derided album and ask….is it time to cut Megadeth‘s Risk some slack?
Megadeth’s 8th studio outing has genuinely been lumped in with Cryptic Writings and Super-Collider in the ‘woefully inept mainstream Megadeth albums we like to forget exist category’. Considering time (supposedly) heals all wounds, Worship Metal sat down – with minds cleared and previous opinions set to the wayside – and listened to the whole damn album again (original CD version, not your remixed and remastered bullshhit that we’ve had to link below).
Here’s the results…..
For starters, surely Risk should be a whole lot more palatable when you already know that thrash metal is off the table? With the weight of expectation removed, opener “Insomnia” proves to be a unique Megadeth track that holds up remarkably well. Blessed with a bouncy high-tempo, Mega Dave’s snarl is welcomingly up front and centre while the riffing is simple, catchy and complemented well by the Eastern-tinged violin ‘riff’ that occasionally accompanies it. “Insomnia” may be commercial, it may be glossy but it’s a cracking little opener.
So far, so good…so what’s next?
“Prince Of Darkness” follows and surprisingly, at this point, Risk feels less risky than it did 16 years ago. This is another effective Megadeth tune that spills over with malevolence and the mini thrash breakdown at the 4 minute 40 second mark successfully gets the head-banging and chest-pumping. “Prince Of Darkness” may not be thrash – it’s metal for the masses – but its ever rising tempo all but explodes into an all out mosh-fest by the end and anything that’s more “deadly than death” has got to be good, right? Decent.
“Enter The Arena” is a fairly throw away prelude but still sits comfortably at this juncture. As the preamble to a song entitled “Crush ‘Em”, it’s admirably effective but only if “Crush ‘Em” smashes your earholes into smithereens! Alas, it never did and it still doesn’t. With an opening bass line that seems a little too similar to Jackass’s ‘Party-Boy’ theme tune, this soggy biscuit of a song is wimpy soft rock commercialism at it’s most saccharine. A Megadeth song entitled “Crush ‘Em” should rip your head clean off with technicality, snarling vitriol and enough time changes to give the speaking clock dementia. Instead, we get a song that’s tantamount to picking a fight with a kitten. Possibly the worst song in Megadeth‘s illustrious history and a blatant attempt to court mass media usage, Megadeth‘s ambition can’t be faulted but the only thing being crushed was the spirit of true Megadeth fans around the world.
“Breadline” follows and we can’t think of another Megadeth song so ‘poppy’ in construct. Instantly forgettable and far too interested in chart success, even Dave sounds bored singing it. Moving on.
“The Doctor Is Calling” begins in fairly cheesy fashion but at least some Megadeth menace returns. Ambitious and with an eye firmly on the epic, initial reaction is positive until tedium eventually sets back in as the song goes absolutely nowhere. A wasted opportunity and Risk is starting to grate.
“I’ll Be There” has us pondering the merits of DIY dentistry as we sit through another filler track. These guys wrote “Holy Wars” for f*cks sake! Plodding, pathetic, pop-pap is the only way to describe this forgettable fluff.
At least “Wanderlust” attempts to make amends with its catchy refrain and dark atmosphere. The chorus is actually memorable and while still ridiculously Megadeth-lite, it’s a tune that does linger in the mind.
The same can’t be said for “Ecstasy”, a state of being we certainly don’t find ourselves in. Yet another plod-a-thon, the slippery nature of this hard as jelly semi-ballad remains disappointing to say the least. The chorus buries a crunchy riff in the mix, tantalisingly close but still too distant. Oh, it’s finished. We’re ecstatic.
Maybe “Seven” can rectify the damage? A groovy, Aerosmith-alike rocker, it’s not terrible but also fails to match the heights this great band can so obviously reach.
On to the homestretch and a double-hander in the shape of “Time: The Beginning” and “Time: The End”. Glancing at our watch it appears high-time to ‘call time’ on this tedious affair. “Time: The Beginning” is a well performed ballad, no more, no less. At least “Time: The End” throws in a meaty riff. Dave ditches the soft, sensitive vocals for his trademark snarl and Megadeth sound like a metal band again. Still in the deep abyss of commercial accessibility, at least this track has some bite and acts as a better than average ‘end’ to a mediocre album that has not stood the test of time.
Did Megadeth really need to go this commercial to keep up with Metallica? Definitely not; yet Risk always seemed perversely inevitable. Dave Mustaine had been building to the commercial sheen and shine of this middling record for some time with the likes of “A Tout Le Monde” from Youthanasia and “Trust” from Cryptic Writings more than merely hinting at what was to come.
So, is Risk a great album? No. This band gave the world two of the greatest thrash albums in existence with Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying? and Rust In Peace and a modern classic in the shape of 2009’s Endgame and Risk falls way, way short of those milestones.
Do we hate it? Not really but we’re hardly going to take it on a third date either.
We’ll cut “Insomnia”, “Prince Of Darkness”, “Wanderlust” (just) and “Time: The End” some slack, as they’re pretty solid tunes. “Crush ‘Em” is still complete shit though. Newcomers (or latecomers) should approach with caution!