After emigrating from their native jungle into the cities streets of Hell's Animals, the quartet of monkey, crocodile, piranha and vested, shade and cap-sporting hippo decide to swim with the sharks for the third Risk full-length, Dirty Surfaces. After the band's previous effort, I had half expected them disappear more fully under the tide of pure, precision thrash metal, but this album is actually a pretty welcome surprise, returning to the infectious and melodic speed and thrash hybrid of debut The Daily Horror News, with the same lineup as before. There's a lot of character here, memorable riffing that is anchored by Heinz Mikus' distinctly Germanic vocals, and though it's not up to par with their 1988 effort, it's still one of the band's better offerings.
Their intro tribute to Jaws is actually quite tasty, as swollen synths threaten to devour children in a mass, escalating panic, offset by the smooth but blistering speed of "Pyromaniac Man", one of the most exciting songs here. Bass-driven verses are slathered in raucuous riot rock chords and the demi-thrash burst of the chorus is tremendous fun. "Legends of the Kings" takes on a more serious tone, with fine threads of melody imbued into the rolling propulsion, and mystique spun into Heinz' performance. "Warchild" is extensive, nearly seven minutes long (not the only such track here) with an extended, acoustic intro and a lolling, pure heavy metal, gait, but the band then increases its pace once more with the great guitars of "Paralysed" and "Like a Roller Coaster". Other gems include slowly building "Letter from Beyond", dire grooves of "Dirty Surfaces" and the great speed/thrash closer "Iron Wheels" (the last two being CD bonus tracks).
In fact, there are no real duds here, and the entire album is engaging, enjoyable to experience, though it does lack the staying power of the Risk's debut. All of the band members offer some solid executions. The vocals of Mikus and the riffing of Keymer and Hermann take the center stage, but the bass tone of Peter Dell is thick in the mix and poignant enough. Certainly the lineup gives off the impression that they're still having fun with this mix of their heavy metal roots in Faithful Breath and the increased velocity present in the late 80s, early 90s, and if you've found yourself drawn to their personality before, I can think of no reason you wouldn't take away a similar sensation from this, even if the songs don't remain in the brain for long after.
Verdict: Win [7.5/10] (no one's madder than I am)