We’re gonna cut the bullshit and get right to it here, as I’m pretty sure that nobody needs to know the long backstory behind Megadeth’s Risk. In case you’re a new-comer, this is widely regarded as their worst record, takes their slow departure from thrash to completion, and adds a lot of industrial tactics. Surprise surprise, I have a soft spot for this disc, which I’ve briefly talked about in my Rank And File. But Risk is turning twenty years old, and I see no better opportunity than now to dig a little deeper into this.
To be clear, Risk is by no means the best Megadeth record; far from it in fact. But it’s also by no means a horrible effort. The real reason why this tanked so hard is because it was written under the Megadeth name, which was already moving away from its speed metal-based thrash roots. Had a new band with a different name been placed on the album cover, it would have been viewed with far different spectacles. Getting the element of surprise out of the way, we’re left with a pretty fair industrial rock album that also manages to trickle in some pop melodies here and there. By no means is this “pop-rock,” but denying obvious radio attempts would be a bit silly.
That all being said, electronic instrumentation and catchy choruses are sure to be present. Record opener “Insomnia” lays the former down pretty hard with its dingy atmosphere and beats, but the truth is that it’s a pretty strong tune. The suspenseful energy and inclusion of exotic string passages make it worthwhile. On the contrary, there are plenty of songs that wring out the extra toppings and work well as melodic hard rock songs. “Breadline” is comprised of bouncy rhythm patterns and a clear execution, easily working as the best song on the album. It even has a beefy solo tacked onto the end.
Another song that has been with me since my discovery of the band is “Prince Of Darkness,” which is famous for its long and dark opening. Drenched heavily in the industrial flavors, the riffs behind this are punchy as hell, and the chorus is crafted beautifully. For the grunge seekers, “Wanderlust” is a slow creeper that’s main riffs are built on that style, and it’s pulled off magnificently. The outro of this song has some incredible energy. Even the following number “Ecstasy” loads in alternative rock licks with a heavy distortion, and the more I visit Risk, the more it makes sense that it was released in the late ‘90s.
But like I said, I still don’t think this album is overly incredible and is definitely flawed. “The Doctor Is Calling” is a very smeared stain that goes nowhere and holds no foundation whatsoever. Not to mention, Dave Mustaine’s vocals here are annoying as hell. “Crush ‘Em” is also admittedly too corny for its own good, even though far worse crimes have been committed. Risk also doesn’t have as much to it near the end of the disc, and can drag on by the time you get to “Seven.”
The final outing to feature most of the classic line-up (save for Nick Menza) isn’t incredible, nor is it overly impressive. But it’s also not the train-wreck that people say it is, it’s not void of any interesting ideas, and it’s certainly not a fucking pop album. I always give a band props for having the guts to step away from their usual formulas, and if nothing else Risk makes a fair album deserving of at least a spin. In 1999, I certainly would have been surprised to hear this coming from Megadeth. It’s now 2019, and this is old news. For the naysayers, I suggest revisiting without the thrash goggles.
Risk came out on August 31st, 1999 as the last release through Capitol Records. It’s available on CD and tape cassette, and there are variations with more tracks and different artwork. Unfortunately, no vinyl pressings that I am aware of exist. Find all available versions here.