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A monkey's farewell - 65%

Felix 1666, December 25th, 2016
Written based on this version: 1990, CD, Steamhammer

The third disc of Risk was the last one with the more or less funny creatures on the cover. After the disappointing "Hell's Animals", the band was summoned to make up ground again. Thus it was not helpful that the album revealed a serious flaw right at the beginning. I am not talking about the senseless introduction, but the pretty powerless, dull and somehow hollow sound. Instead of cooperating with a full-time sound engineer, Heinz Mikus himself was responsible for the mix and this was anything else but a good idea. Compared with some vigorous productions of today, "Dirty Surfaces" sounds antique and outmoded. Let's close this sad chapter quickly.

The songs themselves do not possess the fresh liveliness that ennobled the debut. Furthermore, the material of "Dirty Surfaces" is weaker than that of "The Daily Horror News...", not only because of the fact that Risk have slowed down the tempo. Tracks like "Paralysed" or "Like a Rollercoaster" leave me slightly irritated, because they are just there without emanating any aroma. They just don't even stink. "Legend of the Kings" also cannot convince. Its melodic chorus line makes my blood freeze, because it builds a bridge to the shitty teenager metal that the happy guys of Helloween love so much (Dr. Stein is still the greatest charlatan the world has ever seen.) Anyway, "Dirty Surfaces" also holds very strong tracks.

"Letter from Beyond", for example, is a well designed number. Its hopeless lyrics show a much more serious side of the band than the cover implies. (The same applies for "Warchild", "Bury My Heart" and the musically uninspired downer "Blood Is Red" - the lyrics of these pieces are carefully thought through as well and add value to the album.) Moreover, the title shines with its slightly weird lines, its steadily growing intensity and the impulsive chorus. The elegy is neither fast-paced nor extremely heavy, but its profound atmosphere draws the listener into the song. "Dirty Surfaces", the title track, points into another direction. A heavily stomping mid-tempo crusher with a brilliant chorus. Since 1990, I am not able to get it out of my mind and there can be no doubt that Udo Dirkschneider would be very happy if he had written this prime example of metallic catchiness. Slightly strange is the fact that the title track does not appear on the regular album version. It was only one of two CD bonus tracks (the other one is called "Iron Wheels", a pounding up-tempo number with a solid chorus). Regardless of this incomprehensible arrangement, the band was more energetic than on "Hell's Animals". Already the straight and direct quasi-opener "Pyromaniac Man", an ordinary yet decent speed song, has more power than broad parts of the predecessor of "Dirty Surfaces".

1990, we all know it very well, marked the end of the first thrash metal epoch and the here reviewed album pays tribute to this fact. Risk operate at the interface of traditional metal, power metal, speed and thrash. The album does not suffer from disorientation, but it belongs to these works that are in danger to find themselves between a rock and a hard place. My ambivalent rating reflects this relatively difficult situation. In hindsight, "Dirty Surfaces" marked the beginning of the formation's second period with significantly slower songs. The funny animals got lost in the ocean. Albeit Risk's next work presented "The Reborn", the monkey, the crocodile and the other dudes never reappeared.

Sticking it to the shark, sticking with what works - 75%

autothrall, February 8th, 2011

After emigrating from their native jungle into the cities streets of Hell's Animals, the quartet of monkey, crocodile, piranha and vested, shade and cap-sporting hippo decide to swim with the sharks for the third Risk full-length, Dirty Surfaces. After the band's previous effort, I had half expected them disappear more fully under the tide of pure, precision thrash metal, but this album is actually a pretty welcome surprise, returning to the infectious and melodic speed and thrash hybrid of debut The Daily Horror News, with the same lineup as before. There's a lot of character here, memorable riffing that is anchored by Heinz Mikus' distinctly Germanic vocals, and though it's not up to par with their 1988 effort, it's still one of the band's better offerings.

Their intro tribute to Jaws is actually quite tasty, as swollen synths threaten to devour children in a mass, escalating panic, offset by the smooth but blistering speed of "Pyromaniac Man", one of the most exciting songs here. Bass-driven verses are slathered in raucuous riot rock chords and the demi-thrash burst of the chorus is tremendous fun. "Legends of the Kings" takes on a more serious tone, with fine threads of melody imbued into the rolling propulsion, and mystique spun into Heinz' performance. "Warchild" is extensive, nearly seven minutes long (not the only such track here) with an extended, acoustic intro and a lolling, pure heavy metal, gait, but the band then increases its pace once more with the great guitars of "Paralysed" and "Like a Roller Coaster". Other gems include slowly building "Letter from Beyond", dire grooves of "Dirty Surfaces" and the great speed/thrash closer "Iron Wheels" (the last two being CD bonus tracks).

In fact, there are no real duds here, and the entire album is engaging, enjoyable to experience, though it does lack the staying power of the Risk's debut. All of the band members offer some solid executions. The vocals of Mikus and the riffing of Keymer and Hermann take the center stage, but the bass tone of Peter Dell is thick in the mix and poignant enough. Certainly the lineup gives off the impression that they're still having fun with this mix of their heavy metal roots in Faithful Breath and the increased velocity present in the late 80s, early 90s, and if you've found yourself drawn to their personality before, I can think of no reason you wouldn't take away a similar sensation from this, even if the songs don't remain in the brain for long after.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com