This album is probably the turning point for Megadeth, the band that most divides the true metal community. The division isn’t along the love/hate lines, but more like observe/ignore. Most of what I’d heard from the metal press regarding Risk was negative; the one positive review, basically proclaiming it the best metal album of the year, came from a reviewer whose opinions I consider informed. Therefore, I listened to the album assuming that all the negative press was wrong.
And naturally, I made the right decision.
Risk isn’t what I’d call a “new direction” for Megadeth, it’s still recognizable as metal and it’s still recognizable that the band hasn’t done anything to dull their edge (unlike that other band whose name begins with an “M”). The CD is enhanced, containing interviews with the band members during the recording sessions. I watched the interviews after listening to Risk about ten times, and my suspicions were confirmed, but…
But my reaction after the first listen was that Risk is an amazing album. It’s the most dynamic Megadeth album, that’s for sure, but it’s also an album showcasing the whole band’s musicianship instead of just balls-to-the-wall metal guitar noodling (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Previous Megadeth albums, spanning from the early Eighties to a couple of years ago, when compared to Risk , seem like turns in a maze. Killing is My Business was great, Peace Sells was great, too. Hanger 18 , etc., all good albums and depending on how much one likes Megadeth, they’re important metal albums, too. I can’t shake a felling of incompleteness, though, after listening to them. Risk is finally a complete album.
The first track, “Insomnia,” gives away that Megadeth was making a radical departure from their typical snarling, sneering metal noodling. OK, so the song is about not being able to sleep, nothing special there, but their mixture of hysterical, melodic metal sitar with snarling, sneering metal noodling rocks like an insane whirling metal dervish. “Prince of Darkness,” hey, a powerful, violent, crunching heavy metal song about Satan. When’s the last time Megadeth pulled out all the stops on one like that, eh? “Crush ‘Em” and “I’ll Be There,” apart from “Insomnia,” give more away about this experiment. I think they’ve reworked KISS’s “I Was Made For Loving You (Baby)” into light industrial metal masterpieces. “Breadline” is the clincher. It’s as pop as they come. I mean, like really pop. It’s danceable, too. They throw in some psychedelic elements and pop guitar solos, and big hit. “The Doctor Is Calling” and, even more so, “Wanderlust,” well, they know what they’re doing, chasing that other “M” band. There are twelve songs in all, with “Ecstasy and “Time” deserving mention as well.
OK, the album is great, I’d decided that myself, then I checked out the video track. Hey, there’s bassist Dave Ellefson talking about listening to albums from the 1970’s they’d normally never listen to in preparation for this record. Then new drummer Jimmy DeGrasso (used to be with Suicidal Tendencies, too) is talking about doing music he’d never done before. I think I caught frontman Dave Mustaine talking about Fleetwood Mac… And let’s not leave out guitarist Marty Friedman, who mentions that Risk will either make or break the band. Hey, they’re taking a risk, get it?