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MEGADETH
Risk


Capitol (1999)
Rating: 6/10


With Nick Menza out of the band, Megadeth mainman Dave Mustaine recruits drum stalwart Jimmy DeGrasso (Alice Cooper, Y&T, Dave Lee Roth) for this rollercoaster of a record that has been met by mixed reviews.

Rumour has it that the opus is titled Risk simply due to Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich’s claim that Mustaine needs to take more risks with his albums. Personally, if this is true, then I don’t see how Mr. Ulrich is one to comment considering the “experimental” failings of his own band, but it seems as if Mustaine has taken note, with Risk being Megadeth’s most experimental, yet ineffective album to date.

Opening with the stirring, violin-laced ‘Insomnia’, Megadeth adopt a harder edge to proceedings this time round, but the riffs are still groove-based, accessible even, as the band seemingly tempt to wander the same murky path as rivals Metallica. The woeful cover artwork and the slight change of logo suggests a band, which, like Slayer, has lost themselves after the nu-metal invasion.

To an extent it’s still very much Megadeth for the 90s, albeit one so polished and bereft of thrash, only occasionally rising to power metal notions with the juddering riffs of ‘Prince Of Darkness’. But with ‘Enter The Arena’ and the terrible ‘Crush ‘Em’ the band now seem more suited to writing songs for wrestling entertainment. The less said about these two abysmal forays into modern rock the better.

While ‘Breadline’ is about as melodic and commercial as Megadeth get, some critics have argued that if this opus had been put out under any other moniker then it would have sold by the bucket load… but I disagree. A track like ‘The Doctor Is Calling’ is more suited to Alice Cooper, and despite its clattering drum and wistful guitars I’m craving something more cutting edge. Suddenly, Megadeth sound rather stale alongside the likes of Machine Head and Fear Factory.

Strangely, it is Megadeth at their more subtle which seems to work here. ‘I’ll Be There’ and ‘Wanderlust’ are probably two of the band’s most underrated songs, but they are still nothing more than rather formulaic rock tracks, which seem in keeping with the “thrashless” career path of Metallica. The same could also be said for the subtle steps of ‘Ecstasy’ and the two ‘Time’ tracks (‘Time: The Beginning’ and ‘Time: The End’) which close the album.

I find myself having to harp on about how poor the mid-to-late 90s are for metal, especially with some of the genre’s hardest bands watering down their sound to seemingly carve out a career. I’m guessing that’s what’s happened with Megadeth, because Risk leaves me unfulfilled, and gasping for those hazy days of crunching thrash which Dave Mustaine and company became masters of. Sadly, thrash metal isn’t fashionable in 1999, and my interest in Risk fades as rapidly as the decade.

Neil Arnold

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