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The title says it all, indeed, but just because dangerous Dave was warning us of his impending midlife crisis, doesn't make this a whole lot easier to ingest. On the other hand, Risk is all TOO easy to ingest, if you're some sort of anomalous disco-funk-rock-pop addict who fancies Mustaine's sneering rasp, puerile lyrics and just a feather dusting of metallic excess. We get it, Dave. You wanted to branch out. Expand yourself. Breach a new audience. Win some karma. Touch the baby Jesus of your soul. Well, I have it on Good Authority that the son of God actually hated this album, and had to binge Under the Sign of the Black Mark for weeks just to rid himself of its stain. But perhaps the biggest crime of this career low, is that there are a small handful of catchy moments scattered throughout the album which might have actually functioned from a pure pop or rock perspective had they not been driven to the winds by Mustaine's scatterbrained songwriting. As if he hired Diane Warren or some other pop author and then fired her half way through...
As with their esteemed Californian contemporaries Metallica and Slayer, or really almost any of the late 80s thrash titans, Megadeth was due for a reality check once their genre was no longer one of the biggest arena packers out there. Honestly, I'm surprised they managed to stave off sucking for quite so long. Aside from the embarrassment that was "Sweating Bullets", their Countdown to Extinction was pretty good, not to mention Youthanasia, which despite the slow, producer encouraged pace was loaded with worthwhile tunes. It wasn't until Cryptic Writings (1997) that they really fell off the horse, but even that paperweight of mediocrity glimmers when compared to this exercise in awful soul searching. If we were to count them, there might be all of two acceptable metal rhythms on Risk: the central Zeppelin groove in the opener "Insomnia", or the slow-stepping progressive doom leanings hinted at in "The Doctor is Calling". Otherwise, the 'heaviness' of this album serves as nothing more than window dressing for Mustaine and his troupe.
The lead guitars are sustainable enough (we wouldn't want Friedman and Mustaine losing their endorsements), and any dismay I might have towards the pop sterility of the production is precluded by the sheer insanity of the composition. Or rather, the lack of insanity. Just the first track alone ("Insomnia") cycles through techno rock, 'eclectic' strings, bluesy metal grooves, harmonic pop vocals and the hands-down most generic pattern of notes in the history of guitar music (starts at about 1:00 in the song). And this is probably one of the best pieces on the album! We are then subjected to the hilariously awful lyrics of "Prince of Darkness", with its trudging awful groove metal subtext that makes Black Label Society sound talented by comparison. Or worse, MUCH worse...the album's 'single', "Crush 'Em", which is preambled by a lame self affirmation of a crowd roaring ("Enter the Arena") while Dave shouts out CRUSH EM and the drums and bluesy, mean guitars prepare us for the worst. This is a fucking DISCO song with muted guitars that leap into predictable NWOBHM styled rhythms while some of the worst lyrics in Megadeth's career are spat out over the hissed 'gang' vocals...
I don't know about you, but by the time that song was over, I had already decided that I would be returning the CD to the record store later that day. And yet, an inner masochistic sensibility drove me forward into the cheap radio rock of "Breadline" and "I'll Be There", which feel like they might as well be Def Leppard outtakes, or "Wanderlust" which seems like it's an attempt to create a Megadeth edition of "Paradise City". The only song I really didn't hate on the latter half of the album was "The Doctor is Calling", which aside from a few dumb lyrical effects had a simple and effective momentum that felt like a mix of Alice Cooper and Queensryche. But truthfully, the remainder of this record is so barren of quality that you might start seeing tumbleweeds roll on by as you listen...
Thankfully this narcissistic knucklehead would come to his senses for the following effort The World Needs a Hero. It's not good, not even close to good, but it somewhat put the reigns on this experiment in banal cross-dressing and soul searching. 'Open-mindedness'. Believe me, I've got no problem whatsoever with a little experimentation, or even a LOT of experimentation, if the results produce a quality piece of music I can enjoy for years to come. Risk is simply nothing of the sort. The songs stink, the lyrics are often awkward and none of the external to metal components are novel, unique or adventurous, unless you consider a stroll through the sounds of the Billboard Top 40 to be 'adventurous'. Risk is safe, silly and incredibly sad: for all the wrong reasons.