In many ways, Megadeth's career trajectory has run parallel to Metallica's; both bands started out as speed-metal outfits, then broadened into technically adept progressive thrash, and in the early '90s, streamlined and slowed down their songs for mass-market acceptance. While that mainstreaming process was initially viewed as both commercially and artistically successful, it also meant that neither band represented heavy metal's cutting edge any longer. As MTV combined its appetite for new trends with decreased music programming, Megadeth found themselves unable to rely on it or a cultish underground fan base to promote their music. So, they began to concentrate on a medium that had all but ignored them during the '80s: album-rock radio. Certainly, radio had become more willing to accept their music as time passed, and Megadeth cultivated that more conservative audience with polished production and reduced fury. And that's what they continued to do with 1999's Risk. To their credit, Megadeth never went as far as trying to reshape their sound around AOR's rampant '70s worship, so even if their music lost a good deal of its danger and excitement, it has aged gracefully (something that can't always be said of Metallica's '90s output). Risk is not much of a departure from its two predecessors; more reflective, melodic, and conventional than the Megadeth of old, it delivers a well-played set of hard rock tunes suitable for metal and AOR fans alike. Some of those tunes are catchier than others, and they're enough to carry the album if you're a fan of this style. Even if the album's title is a misnomer, it's startling to see Megadeth still around -- and still successful.
by Steve Huey