Capitol Records, 1999


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Two years ago, Dave Mustaine and Megadeth roared back to life with Cryptic Writings, an album that dared to suggest that one of the leading metal groups of the '80s could be a commercial success. With tracks like "Trust," "Almost Honest" and "A Secret Place," the band gained something which they hadn't often seen in their career: commercial acceptance, especially on commercial radio.

But something happened to Megadeth in between the success of that album and the release of their latest album Risk. First, long-time drummer Nick Menza was shown the exit door while the band was on tour, and Jimmy DeGrasso stepped in to fill the drun throne. Second, former band member Gar Samuelson died; if a cause of death was announced, I haven't heard it. And, possibly the most tragic move of all: Mustaine listened to an indirect comment from former Metallica bandmate Lars Ulrich, who said he wished Megadeth would take more risks. (You mean like wimping out a la... naah, that potshot is my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 too easy.)

Whatever the case, Risk is a major step - no, change that - a tumble backwards. Although I've seen lines touting some of the songs on this disc as the heaviest the band has ever done, this disc almost seems more flaccid than Countdown To Extinction.

I kind of knew, but didn't want to believe, that Megadeth was in trouble when I first heard "Crush 'Em," the song off the Universal Soldier: The Return disc and the soon-to-be-overplayed-at-an-arena-near-you sports anthem of the '90s. While you can still hear the distorted guitars, a lot of the power that the band had even on Cryptic Writings is gone, and what is left is watered-down.

What caused this sudden shift in quality? It's not the addition of DeGrasso behind the skins (though I'll admit I was more fond of Menza's work with the band). It's not that the band went through a sound change; they linked up again with producer Dann Huff, who did their last album. No, the problem here lies with the songwriting and the chances the band took by screwing with their successful formula.

And that, kids, is a shame, 'cause tracks like "Prince Of Darkness" and "Seven" could have been real screamers, had there been more decent songwriting and less of a focus on being commercial. In a way, Megadeth has now done what Metallica did around the time of Load: they sacrificed their unique and successful style for the almighty radio.

Tracks like "I'll Be There," "Breadline" and "The Doctor Is Calling" all confirm the diagnosis that Risk is one weak, sick album. Even after repeated listens, I could not believe that this was the same band who, just one album previous, was kicking my butt with almost every number. I mean, the vocals don't have the same Mustaine bite, the guitar solos have taken a hit - all the warning signs are there.

I'd be a fool not to realize that the band is getting older, and music must change along with the times in order to survive. But with the resurgence in hard rock/heavy metal popularity, as well as the success that Megadeth had with Cryptic Writings, one would wonder why Mustaine and crew would want to tamper with something that works.

Megadeth might have wanted to do something different with Risk, but the final product shows clearly that it wasn't worth the risks. All in all, a major disappointment.

Rating: C-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.