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As most of you know, at one time Megadeth was a huge band amongst metal heads. One of the supposed Big 4 of Thrash they were hailed as. The released monumental albums such as Peace Sells…But Who's Buying and Rust in Peace. But then, suddenly the band's ideals changed. In 1992 the band released Countdown to Extinction. It went double platinum and hit #2 in the US charts. With the music chart's singing its siren song, main man Dave Mustaine vowed to hit coveted #1 spot. No matter what the cost…As result, the thrashy edge that was found on Rust in Peace and its predeccessors began to disappear. By 1999's Risk, it had disappeared entirely. And the band had not achieved a #1 spot in the charts. Whoops. Rather than rolling around in the prestige they had anticipated, Megadeth instead had only succeeded in alienating their fans and forgetting their roots, where they came from. Going by what fans will tell you, sales, what Mustaine will tell you, or what nearly anybody else would tell you, Risk is most definitely an awful, awful album. Easily a 1 right?
Well, not quite…
Sure, the band had pretty much abandoned metal in every way, shape, and form. Even more so than the legendary Metallica. There are no technical riffs to be found. There is no shredding. The heaviest song on the album, Prince of Darkness, would have been labelled as a ballad if it appeared on Rust in Peace or Peace Sells. So why rate Risk as a metal album? Why compare it to past Megadeth albums? Way back when I first heard this, like many, I detested it and the path that Megadeth had taken. But that was awhile ago, and since then I've softened up, and given other genres of rock music a chance. Unsurprisingly, when I came back to this album, I enjoyed it a hell of a lot more than I did before. Since then, I've come to the realization that Risk is a great album. Not the band's best of course, but still great.
Risk will appeal more to the fans of modern rock than that of metal. The music is a lot mellower than anything the band has done, past or present. With that said, the album starts off with a harder edge. The first 4 tracks include some of the album's roughest, fastest moments. Crush Em in particular is one of the album's best songs. I seem to be alone on this when I say that Crush Em is a superb song. The chorus, the lyrics, the riffs, everything stands out. Then again, that could be just a personal bias, as Crush Em was my first Megadeth song. Anyways, after three heavy hitters; Insomnia, Prince of Darkness, and Crush Em, the album moves into a more accessible, mellow section. It is here that songs such as I'll Be There for You, Wanderlust, and Ecstasy prove to be standout tracks. Despite being softer cuts, they are very energetic and they are part of the reason why they are so memorable. Another element that contributes to the excellence of these songs is the emotion that they show. Though it is pretty cheesy, (especially the cringe worthy spoken part in the middle, meh), the song I'll Be There for You drips with emotional lyrics and inspiring, happy sounding vocals and riffs. Provided that you give it the chance, the song will get you into a good mood. This is where Risk truly shines; with simple, laidback tracks such as this.
As the band is no longer focused on pumping out intense riff after intense riff, solo after solo, Megadeth was forced to look for something new to spearhead their music. The band turned to Dave's singing. Though the vocals are a love it or hate it affair, I must say, I really enjoyed them here. With more vocal responsibilities, Mustaine not only doesn't cave in under pressure, he delivers. With the singing in the forefront, songs such I'll Be There for You or Crush Em are suddenly much more interesting. Particularly during the choruses is when the vocals stand out the most. If you dislike the vocals on other Megadeth albums, Risk won't do anything to change your opinion. For those who do enjoy Dave's singing, Risk will be a treat to listen to, as it is often the centrepiece of the song.
Risk is a very big departure from Megadeth's familiar sound. Even the band themselves realized this, as they attempted to return to a more metal influenced sound on their next album. For this reason, Risk drew bad reviews from, well, everybody. Everyone's got their own opinion on the record, but if you're asking me, I'd respond by telling you to keep an open mind while listening. Don't expect it to cater to your thrash metal needs, as it contains very little, if any elements from their days as a state of the art metal band. Rather, the album is a very good modern rock album, which definitely appeals more to the casual rock fan. Not the band's finest album, but not terrible either.
(Originally written for Sputnikmusic)