Band: Risk It!
Album: Cross To Bear
Label: Farewell Records
Pressing: First Press, solid orange /200
Sophomore albums. Notoriously tricky things to get right. Perhaps Hardcore hitters Risk It! from Germany have the right tactic to dispel these notions, because they literally waste zero time on their follow up album ‘Cross To Bear’. There is no pretence or long, drawn-out introduction. Album opener ‘Getting Low’ hits the ground running and is a furious first strike, with rapid fire drumming and crunchy guitar riffs. A lovely little bass fill leads us into the first of several great breakdowns throughout the album, this first one a definite nod to No Warning. The legendary Canadian band is one that the Risk It! lads clearly worship dutifully, because their influence rears it’s head a few times on this album, and is a theme that has been carried over since their second EP ’The Only Thing’. However, I do think it is reverence rather than emulation, and it has served the band well, earning them a support slot on No Warning’s comeback tour in October 2015.
90 seconds later, and we are already into the second rager on this album. ‘Mind’s Demise’ has an awesome main riff, and the whole rhythm of the song is fantastic, bringing to mind bands such as Rude Awakening. This album is absolutely full of great, solid guitar work, ‘Boiling Point’ uses a scaling guitar riff that crunches over the top of a snapping drum pattern, and is a track which also sees our first, true, two-step style breakdown, one that will absolutely get the pit moving when they play live. ‘Trapped’ puts the brakes on slightly, however it creates a wall of sound, and I feel it’s a track that encapsulates the production and musicianship on this whole album. Everything is stronger, tighter, refined, and meatier in comparison to 2012’s ‘Who’s Foolin’ Who?’. There is the odd guitar solo, but other than that there is nothing frivolous here, and it is a very business like approach to Hardcore. In that sense, despite its production value, it has a very traditional, almost purist approach to the genre - utilising the bare essentials to get straight to the point and make you want to nod your head, or move side to side. That may sound like a criticism, but when it is applied in such a way as it is on ‘Cross To Bear’ it can be quite refreshing.
‘Balance Of Power’ is knowingly placed on the song list to pick up the pace again for the first time since track one. It’s a welcome change and one that gives the album a boost. This is another song that has an absolutely great breakdown. In fact, Risk It! just straight up kill a breakdown whenever they work one into a song. They don’t rely on the same, singular, stock breakdown, here choosing one that sort of lurches and rolls forward towards the end of the song, building into a series of small, rhythmic drum fills.
Side B kicks off with more No Warning worship in the form of ‘Finish Your Business’. Here Risk It! choose to stylistically pay homage to No Warning’s much debated second album ‘Suffer Survive’. While it may have been met with criticism when their predecessors tried it, when Risk It! experiment with this slightly more metallic sound it adds an extra dynamic to the playlist. However this second half of the album isn’t quite as strong as the first half, and this is most evident on ‘Crumble Inside’. With some of the other Hardcore on display within this album, this particular track just seems rather generic and is an album filler. This is one of only a couple of instances where the cracks in Risk It’s sophomore effort are visible. This may sound ridiculous, but I think the improvement in the production, and the tightening of the musicianship is at times a double edged sword. It is said that an artists style is often defined by the mistakes they make, and I think this has been true for Risk It. ‘The Only Thing’ and ‘Who’s Fooling’ Who’ were great; they were played well, but there was also a certain loose quality, and this gave the releases a definitive personality. While it is still apparent on ‘Cross To Bear’, the all round improvements in production and musicianship seems to have partially diluted some of that inherent personality.
However, this is a minor and perhaps harsh criticism, and the album finishes as strong as it starts. ‘Face Reality’ is a slower, mid-paced track, and one that can often be quite tiresome on Hardcore albums like this, but here the great gang vocals and rumbling bassline make the track stand out. ‘Can’t Take it Away’ is a staunch closer, and leaves you with a great last impression of the album. If you think of ‘Cross To Bear’ as a live set, the final breakdown in ‘Can’t Take It Away’ is a fantastically crunchy call to arms, a veritable ‘last chance to dance’ as the two-stepping rhythm ends the album on a high note before the jarring, fading feedback finishes everything off.
This is a strong album. It may not especially be breaking any new ground within the genre, but Risk It! are a band that clearly love straight-up Hardcore, and they have chosen to use their sophomore album to pay homage to that fact. And in that respect it more than succeeds, delivering the genre trademarks with a great amount of skill. I sometimes feel that European Hardcore is unfairly overlooked in this country, unfortunately overshadowed by their American counterparts. However, if there is any justice, this album should see Risk It! two-step towards the front of the Hardcore pack and gain some well deserved, wider recognition.