By Kieran Graulich
Following last week’s Metallica wrap up, let’s look a little deeper into the world of metal.
For any hard rock fan, Megadeth shouldn’t be a foreign name. The California thrash metal band’s legacy goes hand in hand with Metallica’s, namely due to frontman Dave Mustaine’s original place as songwriter and lead guitarist in Metallica (most of your favorite Metallica songs were probably written by Dave Mustaine). Many of their albums actually parallel: what “Countdown to Extinction” was to Megadeth, “The Black Album” was to Metallica. “What Killing is My Business” was to Megadeth, “Kill ‘Em All” was to Metallica, etc. So then, what was Megadeth’s “St. Anger”?
In the late 1990s, Megadeth started to work with Dan Huf, producer of Kid Rock, Keith Urban, and, eventually, Taylor Swift. For the past few albums, Megadeth had made moves to commercialize their sound, openly admitting to editing lyrics to make them “a little more inclusive to people who aren’t into dying and evil.” (You can already see where this is going.) In 1999, Megadeth came out with “Risk,” which is often unanimously voted as a low point in metal history.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Megadeth. Like, LOVE Megadeth. However, “Risk” is, in many ways, significantly worse than “St. Anger.” Even with all of its problems, “St. Anger,” had redeeming qualities in harsh riffs and some sense of integrity. Meanwhile, “Risk” doesn’t have any.Megadeth’s formula of reckless thrash metal with Dan Huf’s ’90s country/pop production do not match. At all.
The overproduction of Risk can be likened to your little cousin putting way too many mints and sprinkles on your gingerbread house in an unorganized, gaudy manner. It ruins the flavor. And for a vocalist like Dave – whose strength was never really vocal talent as it was raw, frantic energy – it does not mesh. While guitarist Marty Friedman (who I will still argue is the greatest metal guitarist of all time) does manage to shine through with a few guitar solos and acceptable riffs on “Prince of Darkness,” even he cannot save this album.
To understand the scope of this album’s mediocrity, one only needs to listen to the single “Crush ‘Em,” a cock rock arena song that leads into a spoken word (rap?) section spoken by Mustaine through a bad megaphone effect where Dave lets you know, “The name of the game is pain.”
Oh yes. It is.
Despite the uninspired songwriting and lyricism, most of the songs on here, particularly the last half, are too dull to even be laughably bad. That’s saved for the first half of the album, where songs like “The Doctor is Calling” reign supreme. It all reeks of false ’90s rap rock machismo that does not suit a band like Megadeth. In trying to appeal to the masses, Megadeth managed to shed “Risk” of all of Megadeth’s good qualities and replace them with throwaway jams from Kid Rock’s “Devil Without a Cause.”
The verdict? “Risk” is still bad. Still very bad. Although Megadeth went on to reconcile themselves (“Endgame” is THE best metal comeback album since “Brave New World”), “Risk” still leaves a Mark of Cain on the band’s discography. However, that really isn’t much different from any other metal band from that time period.
But most metal bands didn’t do “Crush ‘Em”.
Best Moments: …”Breadline?” “Time: The End?”
Worst Moments: The guitar effects on “Wanderlust.” Stop it.
Kieran Graulich is a staff writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.