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Megadeth's 1990s outputs, for the most part, seem to be less controversial and spat upon than those of Metallica, save maybe for "Metallica" in some cases. Unfortunately, this really only applies to "Countdown to Extinction" and "Youthanasia". 1997's "Cryptic Writings" saw Megadeth moving even further down the road of pop, hard rock, and radio metal. This was not as drastic of a change that we eventually got with "Risk" and a huge amount of the metallic bite was still retained here. Still, "Cryptic Writings" remains a controversial topic of conversation between most Megadeth fans. Taking this album's sound into consideration, it's quite easy to see why.
The guitars on this album are quite stripped down and far more simple than anything the guys had released before. Instead of focusing on technicality, Dave and Marty seemed to really put an emphasis on blues-influenced rock riffing with a sharp metal edge and a key focus on melody, albeit a much more simple melody. This is different than melody heard on "Tornado of Souls" or "Holy Wars". Really, at this point, if you were expecting another "Rust in Peace", you were living in a world of false hope. Megadeth was not making thrash metal anymore in 1997, save for a few songs on this album. The guitars mainly focus on groove and a very catchy flow. "Trust" was this album's main single. After a drum roll somewhat similar to "Enter Sandman" (sorry again for the Metallica comparisons), a memorable guitar riff makes itself audible. This is the riff utilized throughout the song's chorus and shows how the album works as both a metal AND a pop album, all in one. The solo, of course, is great as well. "Almost Honest" immediately follows. This song features similar themes of trust, or rather, distrust. The riffs are somewhat similar in that they sound quite poppy. There is still that metal bite as well, used more as undertone.
So while most of these songs are heavily rooted within hard rock and pop, blues seems to make a huge impact on the overall sound as well. "Use the Man" is a somber piece about Dave Mustaine's battle and observance of heroin addiction, hence "using the needle". This song begins with a bluesy acoustic passage accompanied by some sporadic hints of electric guitar. The song picks up later on to a faster paced heavy metal track while still retaining the blues atmosphere. "Have Cool, Will Travel" is definitely blues influenced with a really unusual harmonica thrown in the mix. The riffs are a bit odd and sound a little weird, for lack of a better word. This only makes the song that much more interesting. "I'll Get Even" seems to mix the styles of pop and blues with its extremely catchy yet bluesy chorus. This song seems to be similar in structure to "A Secret Place" by following a similar overall formula, kind of like "Trust" and "Almost Honest". This is a beautiful, powerful song that does not get the recognition it deserves, in my opinion.
So while this album mainly showcases Megadeth's pop and blues side from a metal standpoint, there are some songs that stick to a more heavy metal formula, and even some that retain Megadeth's old thrash/speed metal sound, believe it or not! "She-Wolf" is one of those more traditional heavy metal tunes with a kick ass solo and one of the most melodic riffs on the entire album. This is one of those songs that has become a staple at live shows and a fan favorite, for good reason. This is the song that really sticks out on the band's heavy metal side, but what about that aforementioned thrash metal sound that sometimes pops up on this album? Take the track "The Disintegrators". This is the first of the two REAL thrashers on the album. This song is a nice throwback to the 1980s sound of Megadeth and while it still has that "Cryptic Writings" feel to it, this doesn't cause the song to derail whatsoever. It's a nice breath of air from the old days. You'd think that it would not fit in with the rest of the songs but really, it only enhances the album's quality. "FFF" (Fight For Freedom) is the other thrash song, and is actually the album's closing track. This song is short, clocking in at under 3 minutes in length. It manages to be the fastest song on the album with a fairly aggressive riff and galloping thrash/speed metal sound. Kind of a weird way to close a more rocker of an album but it works nonetheless. Maybe it should have been placed in the middle somewhere, though.
Compared to "Youthanasia", Mustaine's voice sounds even better here. Like I said previously, his voice pretty much had improved on every album up to this point but on this one, he was at his best. It's not their best album, no. But vocally, Mustaine offered his best performance this time around. His voice contained the perfect tone for the music and nothing was annoying about it, nor did it detract from the music. When he needs to sound painful and emotional, he gets the job done. I really can't find anything wrong with the performance in terms of vocals.
The drums are fairly simple here aside for the two thrash metal songs. There's nothing really technical about them, and for the most part, that seems to work. I do wish some more of that jazz influence was thrown into the mix that the early Megadeth albums had. I know Gar was long gone at this point but even Menza had a bit of that jazz influence and I feels it goes to waste here.
Really, aside from a few flaws and some cheese, "Cryptic Writings" is a MUCH better album than most would like to admit. It's the precursor to "Risk" and kind of shows where the band was going to that point, although keeping most of the metal in there as well. A solid album, this was a "pop metal" album that actually worked, and it worked quite well.
The game of selling out finally has come back to bite Dave in his ass. Practically gone is the fragile balance of metal and the mainstream that made his last two releases so successful. I would love to be the open minded guy who's says "take it for what it is, not what it isn't" and preach that as the reason it demands respect. Well I am looking at it for what it is.
What is it you ask? Its poorly structured hard rock tracks, simple riffs with no bite or edge, not particularly melodic, definitely not technical, definitely not fast, definitely not driving and chorus centric with weak choruses. "Hey guys, let's make this extremely focused on mainstream style choruses but let's not use any guitar hooks or catchy lyrics". Basically they made the mistake of writing an album without any type of appeal.
Singing, yeah, Dave made some serious progress on the last album, only to bulldoze it here with sections that are just truly bad (the beginning of Use the Man for example). He has never been great at singing, but this... THIS!!! This is inexcusable. Plus he failed to even make most of the choruses catchy. Good job Dave, you proved that even you can make crap. The lyrics mostly deal with heart break and such, I'm sorry it came off as weak and whiny. He did so much better as the martyr of outspoken politics.
Guitars? No bite, no speed, no groove, no real melody, no real anything. Those riffs are just there to be riffs, but they have no substance and don't seem intended to actually do anything. The solos are weak too, for all the same reasons. Bass too, seriously, did anyone in this band stop to think whether or not this was a good idea? Were they so stuck up on their own success that they believed everyone would love it simply for having their logo on it? I don't know. I just don't know what else to say, how many different times and ways can I say that this album has nothing to offer in anyway. How can an album be good when it lacks anything to make it good? This is proof that not all music has direction and purpose.
I will be honest with you from the very beginning. I do not like this album! I do not like it because it’s simply not heavy metal. It has nothing to do with Megadeth since I have always been a fan of them, even when things were not that good e.g. So Far So Good… For most of the times I admired Mustaine’s attitude and his songwriting. I liked the bands performing and I had great confidence in their skills and abilities. When they turned away from thrash metal, I remained faithful and I kept buying their CDs and supporting them when people I knew claimed that they had been sold-out. But this, well this is something else!
Without any sense of dignity, this ex-metal band, delivers a pointless, strengthless, uninspired album that consists of many, too many, commercial, “radio-friendly” compositions, aiming to non-metal listeners. There is a significant absence of nerve, tension and speed. The majority of the songs are so dull and boring that at times I feel like shooting myself in the head! I never thought I’d find jazz and Rn’B traces in an album of the once thrash/speed metal masters of the kind. The unrepeatable thrashy guitar breaks are no more and the multiple riff changes are gone for good. The guitars are plain pop and the rhythm section is extremely weak. I do not who is to blame for this release, the band, Mustaine alone, the record label, but he surely must be shot to death!
What you get in Cryptic Writings is twelve songs divided into three categories. The first one consists of six, yes six, abominations. Almost Honest and Have Cool, Will Travel are two perfect examples. They have no structure, no basic riffs, no energy, no nothing. Totally, utterly, completely horrible, they belong to the gutter. The few breaks that come out of nowhere can’t save them.
The second category that submits into mediocrity is made of two tracks. The opener Trust is kind of okay though miles away from the spirit of ‘Deth. It’s mid-tempo with a decent riff but still… The other one that stands just above the shit-hole is Sin which is merely a filler but maybe you will be able to listen to it from the beginning to the end.
The only reason that keeps me from throwing away the CD are the songs that belong to the first category, that of heavy metal songs. The Disintegrators and She Wolf are the two well-hidden metal diamonds, behind the wall of shit. They are fast, strong and steady, featuring excellent guitar work, hard drums and a metal feeling in them reminding of the good, old days. The remaining two tracks, Vortex and F.F.F. are pretty damn good with once more nice riffing and they stand out quite well.
If this is supposed to be the natural development and evolution from where Youthanasia left off, then I prefer to be called a primitive savage while I’ll be listening to all the great stuff they did in the past.
In the 90’s Megadeth were in a constant downward spiral in musicianship. Now Cryptic Writings being the last stop before that god awful abomination known as Risk one would expect Cryptic Writings to be fairly mediocre. Personally I find it to be an amusing endeavor, but ultimately it leaves you with a sour taste.
Now this album may not be fast, hell with 3 out of 12 actually are remotely speedy, but it has some decent riffage. But many of these you can hear some of their influences in them, one of which is stolen right from under the nose of Pink Floyd. If you listen to “I’ll Get Even” the intro sounds fairly similar to the intro of Pink Floyd’s Speak to me/Breathe. But what this album really lacks other that speed is heaviness. It all sounds light and very thin which is very problematic until it reaches Vortex where the sound finally thickens. Now Dave and Marty have some exceptional solos on this release as well but most of them are pretty dumbed down, now honestly I wasn’t expecting another “Peace Sells” in terms of guitar work, but c’mon they can do waaaaay better than this. The rhythm section is like the guitar work, catchy and pretty dumbed down. The bass and percussion is pretty strong on this album, but not strong enough to ruin anything or overbear anything else.
Now in terms of Dave’s vocal performance, it’s his average studio voice, but it’s a little more clean than the snarl we came to love in the 80’s, but it damn sure sounds better than what he does live, that’s for sure!
But one thing I must admit that several of the tracks are quite catchy, mainly because of the big choruses in some of the songs. This formula of weak verse/booming chorus is good but for only so long, and that’s part of the reason this album is so damn boring. The lyrics are fairly dull too, but mainly because the producer Mr. Bud Pager deemed some too explicit to make this a hit [I have the reissue version with some of the aborted tracks included, and several are better than the released counterparts]. Speaking on the reissue I strongly recommend getting that version, the bonus tracks really bring up the experience, especially “Bullprick” and it’s odd lyrics of construction tool-based violence.
Now to put this in a nutshell: Cryptic Writings is pretty bad, and one of the lower ends of the ‘Deth catalogue, but it’s not as bad as the next album I must say. You should definitely avoid this if you’re a fan of their older works, but if you want a simple radio-friendly album, well, you’ll be in heaven-65%.
This album is jazzy in ways that Load could never have hoped to be. I think it’s because Dave Mustaine was reluctant even to do this. He was a man who wanted to make nothing less than metal, and he struggled constantly to get his band to agree. Even when they went for a bluesy, jazzy, almost pop sound, he kept it from becoming tranquilizer music by injecting some liveliness into it. When he sings he doesn’t sound technically as good as Hetfield’s nice deep voice did on Load, but it keeps you awake by retaining the snarl from the old thrash days, while Hetfiled just kind of let the listener drift off into la-la land. Conway Twitty could have sung those songs and the album would have been no better.
Comparisons to Metallica are inevitable because both bands went in the same direction at the same time. However, these songs are much more interesting to listen to than the drivel of Load. The Disintegrators is probably the only thing here that comes close to thrash, but FFF is a great song that also reminds of their older songs. Almost Honest, Use the Man, and I’ll Get Even sound like they could be pop songs but because Mustaine wasn’t interested in making pop music they have either a hard edge or a sarcastic tone, making them a fun listen in spite of lyrics that are a downer. Have Cool, Will Travel is similar but with the harmonica and some faster, livelier riffs it sounds even better. The lead track Trust is, with The Disintegrators and She-Wolf, among the most traditional songs on here. Even though I like the bluesy/jazzy sound of most of this album, these more metallic songs are the best to listen to. FFF ends the album on a good note, finishing up with a short, fast-paced song after an album that was deliciously varied.
My version has many bonus tracks. Normally that doesn’t thrill me very much but in this case there are two alternate versions of songs from the album that better than the official versions that made the cut, both because their lyrics are better. The lyrics to the bonus versions of Sin and Vortex are a vast improvement over the dumbed-down tripe that made it onto the album. The alternate of Vortex was the better of the two, because Sin was already an annoying song, even with the good lyrics. The Spanish version of Trust was atrocious, but Bullprick made up for that greatly, and ended the bonus tracks similar to the way FFF ended the main album.
It was a sort of On/Off album, but even so it succeeds where Load failed. This has life to it, it has a personality, it keeps the listener engaged. This is not an album of near-white-noise like Load. The lyrics are not about how life’s problems get you down, they’re about getting over those problems and actually achieving something, even if it is just revenge against whatever or whoever got you down in the first place. Listening to this, you will not get a sense that the solution to every problem is to lie back and take it like a slave, whining all the way. With a generally dark attitude, this album leaves the listener optimistic and feeling strong. When Dave sings, he sounds like he really wants to get back at someone, probably his bandmates for choosing a direction he disagreed with. Were it not for him, bastardly ego and all, this album could have been at least as bad as Load. If anything, Risk was Megadeth’s version of Load, because the band still made compelling music here. The metal attitude remained a driving force in their songwriting.
This album is, by far, the most controversial of the releases that MegaDeth put out during the 90s. Unlike Risk, which everyone can pretty much agree was a complete parking lot full of dinosaur shit, this album has some redeeming moments mixed into a batter of slower and more radio-friendly tracks and some god-awful attempts to match the dry sound of the alternative rock scene. As such, it is necessary to analyze every aspect of this album so that we can measure the weight of the arguments of the defenders and the detractors of this release.
The first thing to address is the question whether this is MegaDeth’s Black Album, and to this I answer with a highly resounding “NO!”. The Black Album was a complete renouncement of the thrash genre, from start to finish, in favor of a more down tempo and repetitive hybrid of doom/thrash-like style with some cliché and obviously mainstream-friendly lyrics. Furthermore, the Black Album had a stellar production and showcased an across-the-board attempt to simplify what was once a highly non-conventional approach to song structure. This album, by contrast, has a rather obvious collection of pure thrash and speed metal songs, mixed in with a collection of songs that are similar to the Black Album’s down tempo approach to riffing, and some rather horrid rip-offs from bands like Soundgarden and Alice in Chains.
The first set of songs to deal with are the hold-over thrash tracks that stick out like a sore thumb on here. “The Disintegrators” is the first example of a speedy song, and other than a rather abrupt intro, cooks steadily throughout. The rest of the thrashing tracks, not surprisingly, are all huddled at the tail end of the album. “FFF” is pretty much a politicized version of “Motor Breath”, it's difficult to grasp the point Dave is trying to make here, but the song cooks quite well. “She-Wolf” is probably the only track on here that I can’t find any flaws with, it has a great galloping guitar line that is reminiscent of MegaDeth’s glory days in the mid-80s, and the lyrics fit right in with the subject matter found on classic albums like “Peace Sells” and “Rust in Peace”. “Vortex” mostly consists of a riff that sounds like it’s quasi-Judas Priest inspired, which fits well with this outfit as they pretty much borrowed many of their ideas from the NWOBHM, though the contrasting riff right after the solo meanders like crazy.
The next collection of songs are the ones that have been beaten up rather badly for their radio-friendly nature, though in themselves they are quite strong. “Trust” and “Secret Place” are my two favorites from this mix as they have fairly inspired solos and some rather interesting musical devices at play, in addition to some rather thoughtful lyrics. “Almost Honest” is pretty much a metal/rock single song that is meant for mainstream consumption, but this doesn’t really bother me as I couldn’t care less what the song was intended for, it’s catchy and it’s fun. “Use the Man” is basically an acoustic remake of the interlude to “Phantom Lord” with some rather goofy lyrics, this would be a song that I’d peg as mediocre although I did enjoy the fast ending.
Now it’s time to deal with the painful part of the job, the disgusting pile of excrement on here that is occupying the remaining 4 tracks on this album. “Mastermind” has two good riffs that are a bit similar to “Jump in the Fire”, but unfortunately this song is completely destroyed by some of the most ridiculous vocal tracks ever conceived, resulting in perhaps one of the most absurd choruses I’ve ever heard out of a metal band. If they had dropped the stupid fucking interchange between the voices during the chorus, and just kept the “Mastermind” vocal drone, I wouldn’t hate this song so much. “I’ll get even” is a slow, repetitive, and ultimately boring Alternative Rock song with a bassline that was ripped off of Peter Steele’s bass part to Type O Negative’s more hard hitting and inspired 1996 song “Love you to Death”. Suffice to say, all the caffeine in the world won’t keep you awake during this one. “Sin” is another song tainted with Alternative rock influences, and features one riff repeated much and varied little, although if you can manage to suffer through first minute and a half you get some fairly decent soloing followed by a more metal-like riff section. “Have Cool, Will Travel” has some solid riffs that are completely destroyed by an annoying as all fucking hell harmonica part. Hey Dave? You already wrote “I Ain’t Superstitious” back in 1986, not to mention that corky blues solo to “High Speed Dirt”, these kinds of musical jokes do eventually get old.
This is the actual beginning of MegaDeth’s musical decline. Essentially this album is 2/3 good, which would make it worth about $9 to the fan of metal. However, if you are a fan of MegaDeth’s early thrash and didn’t like the changes that started on “Countdown”, I’d suggest looking for it at $4 or less, as it only has 4 songs that really qualify as worthy of your consumption.
The post-1991 output of a great number of 80s thrash bands in the wake of Metallica’s hugely successful ‘Black Album’ boast a consciously simplified and commercialised sound that largely replaces the aggressive, punk-inspired nihilism of their earlier work with a more refined, approachable, and in most cases mellow direction more in line with current musical trends. Following the example of their more successful rival, Megadeth’s sound entered a process of gradual departure from the speedy thrash perfection of 1990’s ‘Rust in Peace,’ as their subsequent albums became increasingly consumer-oriented. Third stop along this line is ‘Cryptic Writings,’ representing the culmination of this radio-friendly approach, before careening off the rails with the frankly embarrassing chaos of 1999’s ‘Risk.’
Abandoning thrash for the most part in favour of a more traditional heavy metal style, though targeted more towards its dissolution through the popular grunge bands of the time, ‘Cryptic Writings’ features twelve unremarkable and unsurprising songs ranging from around three minutes long to about five. Dave Mustaine’s trademark growl improved over the course of the band’s early albums as he started to sound less like an angry school girl and more like a grown up man doing a childish impression of a goblin, but it’s pretty much the same delivery that’s been used since ‘Countdown to Extinction,’ as are the default medium speed rhythms and restrained guitars. As the band is still called Megadeth, and is thus obligated to remain a little on the dark side, there are no glam rock piano ballads or overly optimistic lyrics, as the material ranges from short and punchy Nirvana-style generic disgust to acoustic ennui with catchy choruses, and occasional short-but-sweet call-backs to the band’s more energetic days.
Setting the pace of the album right from the start, the single ‘Trust’ opens with a slow drum solo that’s almost tribal sounding, one of the few mildly interesting touches of percussion on the album, before atmospheric backing keyboards fade in and David Eleffson’s bass clunks slowly along until it settles upon the recognisable main riff of the song, all too soon joined by Mustaine’s crisp sounding guitar. The production job on this album is technically impressive as is the norm for Megadeth’s 1990s releases, the instruments generally filling out the sound-scape with a little help from backing keyboards, making a radical departure from the dirty, echoed sound of their earlier work. As one of the longest songs on the album, still coming in at under six minutes, the song diversifies slightly through a soft, whispered middle section featuring acoustic guitar before the chorus returns and Mustaine is permitted to go off on one with his guitar solos. Overall, a song that owes far more to Black Sabbath or Nirvana than 80s Megadeth, but competently executed and inoffensive, much like the majority of the music to follow. The driving riff of the poppier ‘Almost Honest’ sounds even more like straight-up rock as the song leaves heavy metal behind, and this piece generally sounds a little outdated, even down to the slower, blues-inspired guitar solo. The main chorus is annoyingly and inappropriately upbeat and bouncy for the subject matter, but there’s really very little of interest here.
Perhaps taking note of this disappointing descent into archaism, the much improved ‘Use the Man’ begins with the conceit of a jolly sounding soft rock song in the vein of the Beatles being piped through a tinny radio, a trick used earlier in the band’s career with the album ‘So Far, So Good... So What?’ which proceeded to explode into a fast thrash riff. Here, the change is less cataclysmic and more mournful, as Mustaine takes over with an acoustic guitar, creating a spartan atmosphere for this tirade on drug use. Mustaine sounds like Kurt Cobain on this one, and his electric riffs, when they kick in, sound a lot like Sabbath. The climax of this song makes it all worthwhile, as strange sound effects beckon an unprecedented faster take on the song for the final forty seconds, which has the adverse effect of making the rest seem like a waste of time. It may be my own preference for the band’s earlier catalogue taking over, but the faster sections of this album, the really fast sections that stand out as being fast and full of energy, always prove to be my favourite parts.
Although the material thus far has been far from extraordinary, the songs have generally been individual and memorable enough to be credited as such. On an album of twelve very similar sounding songs, a useless filler track was going to come along sooner or later, and ‘Mastermind’ proves to be the first. Again sounding more like a traditional rock song than anything contemporary, perhaps revealing Mustaine’s own listening habits as Metallica would later unveil their taste for hard rock and country on ‘Load,’ this song does little more than take up three and a half minutes between two much more worthwhile songs, and not only because of Mustaine’s unintentional self-parody in the chorus, performing his snarling monster impressions for no reason. The only factor in this song’s credit is the guitar solo, which lasts a little longer and harks back to the slower solo sections of the classic ‘Rust in Peace’ album, something that continues in the very Megadeth-sounding ‘The Disintegrators.’ This shorter piece is the fastest on the album so far, lacking some of the volume and power of early Megadeth but still generating enough energy in the fast delivery of the chorus that Mustaine occasionally forgets to shout along in time. Even if it fades from memory after the disc is ejected, this song will at least, perhaps, cause the listener to think ‘there was quite a good fast one somewhere around track five.’
‘I’ll Get Even’ returns to pop territory a little, with the most obvious ‘beat’ of the album and a slow, sing-along chorus, but for once it’s done exactly right. The lyrics of insomnia and depression are perfectly suited to Mustaine’s off-sounding vocals, almost spoken word but still somehow managing to bridge a gap between rasping and singing, while the cool, slow guitar riffs are complemented by refreshingly unusual cow bells. This one stood out significantly on my last listen, even if it doesn’t sound as traditionally ‘Megadethy’ as the previous offering. Sadly, it’s time for another piece of filler, this time with a second-rate replica of ‘Trust’ that I keep expecting to descend back into that opening riff of the album. Mustaine continues to use the same vocal delivery as ‘I’ll Get Even,’ interspersing spoken word between guitar chords, but it sounds a lot more formulaic this time around. ‘A Secret Place’ is one of the most repetitive songs on the album, and pop-oriented again in the vein of ‘Almost Honest’ and ‘I’ll Get Even,’ but is weirdly my favourite of the lot. After the opening ‘THX digitally mastered’-sounding build-up comes an Eastern-sounding melody that lasts throughout the whole song, occasionally transferred between instruments if Mustaine needs to do a bit of a solo. It’s far from being a perfect song, ending frustratingly soon before heading off in interesting directions, but still individual enough to stand out.
In a seemingly deliberate reaffirmation of Megadeth’s political edge after all the wussy stuff, the band unwisely start the final third of the album with the mostly irritating ‘Have Cool, Will Travel.’ As the stupid title suggests, this is something of an unusual song, featuring harmonica and piano sections, but is primarily a very tired sounding blend of knock-off Sabbath riffs and unimaginative ‘nothing’s getting done’ and ‘point the finger’ accusations. Things look up with ‘She-Wolf,’ likely my favourite song on the album and a fine return to form, opening with a scratchy thrash riff that only increases to blistering speed as the music continues. With lyrics concerning the ‘mother of all that is evil,’ this is a great metal song in the classic tradition, even going out on a dual lead guitar section that would sound fairly run-of-the-mill on an Iron Maiden album, but really shines out here. The next song ‘Vortex’ continues in the same style, but can’t really keep up with the pace, acting as the filler for this final heavy metal third of the album, and sounding oddly long despite only lasting for three and a half minutes. The final track, enigmatically titled ‘FFF’ which the chorus reveals, disappointingly, to be merely ‘Fight For Freedom’ rather than anything more risqué, is an average but enjoyable return to Megadeth’s roots as a punk-thrash band, though the uncertain lyrics – eventually arriving at ‘fight for anything’– reveal the naivety of this early, nihilistic attitude. Sounding much like Metallica’s ‘Motorbreath,’ written when Mustaine was still a primary songwriter before that band started releasing albums, this nevertheless feels more nostalgic than genuine.
The desperation for radio/MTV attention permeates the entire album, and it’s clear that the formerly talented and experimental musicians, particularly lead guitarist Marty Friedman, face imposing restrictions on their originality due to Mustaine’s self-confessed desire ‘for that Number One record I so badly needed,’ admitted in the album booklet (it would only get to Number Ten). ‘Cryptic Writings’ is still currently the last Megadeth album to sell comparatively well, showing that the recent return to form with this year’s ‘United Abominations’ may not be what the public are into so long after the band’s heyday, but at least the band can satisfy and win back its large and loyal fan base.
‘She-Wolf’ is perhaps the only song on here to live up to fan expectations, though ‘Trust,’ ‘I’ll Get Even’ and the last thirty seconds of ‘Use the Man’ manage to be fairly successful examples of what the band were aiming for at this period; sadly, the majority of the album sounds weak in comparison. ‘Cryptic Writings’ favours clichéd emotional lyrics and weakly abstract political themes over the more specifically targeted anarchy the band are more famous for, and no amount of irrelevantly mysterious cover art can satiate disappointed long-time fans.
Megadeth has released a lot of good material over the years. Cryptic Writings isn't quite as bad as everyone claims it to be, although it still isn't anything near to an amazing album. The fact of the matter is that Cryptic Writings is a little too diverse to really be a solid album. Too much variation of the formula led to discrepancies in writing and, in the end, product.
Cryptic Writings still has some good moments. But overall as an album it is still one of the weakest Megadeth has produced. There are some catchy tunes and even some good thrashers on it but the good qualities couldn't override mediocrity.
The guitar work is well played. Both Mustaine and Friedman are amazing guitar players and writers but their love for other genres of music has allowed this album to stray a little too far from safety. Even Friedman's Oriental music influence comes into play on the song "A Secret Place". The album does have amazing variety. Some bombastic riffs, melodic intersections, acoustic breaks, and firework solos all grace this album but the way in which they are put together is a little frantic and it feels unfinished at times. Some of the songs are pretty simple guitar structures for two guitar gods (Almost Honest, although catchy, is pretty damn simple). Much of this album is pretty disappointing in the guitar area because listeners have come to expect so much more from the two that this album seems very pop influenced in comparison. The likening to hard rock rather than metal is apparent at points on the album too.
The bass work is also pretty simplified for a great bassist as Ellefson. Although there are still some very awesome bass lines on the album - its simplicity once again seems to pale in their previous shadow and in the end I felt like there could have been a lot more depth.
The same problem resides in the drum writing on this album too. The diversity is good in the drum area but the overall simplicity and poor song structure create too many flaws for performance to overcome. Menza is a lot more technical and better than what Cryptic Writings shows for the band.
Dave Mustaine's vocals are too layered. Too many layers are present (and obviously present) on Cryptic Writings. I love that he is willing to try a little more singing and variation on his vocals but when there is heavy computer distortion added at times it diverted my attention from the song. It was too distracting from the music at times. He does some pretty good material and his lyrical writing is still very clever despite its change in direction to a more personal aspect.
Cryptic Writings will appeal to those just getting into Megadeth because of its catchy riffs and rhythms but fans of earlier material are going to roll their eyes at most of the material. Songs like Mastermind are going to make some fans cringe and others are going to really dig its groove. Personally, I felt that the album was too eclectic to be truly an amazing album.
Songs to check out: Trust, She-Wolf, FFF.
This was where Megadeth really went into decline. Although this process started with Coutndown To Extinction, it was not until this album before it really maifested itself. There are some good songs but an awful lot of crap too.
The most striking thing about this album are the inclusion of some of the fastest songs since the RIP days. The Disintegrators is an all-too brief blast of speed that was lacking on the past two releases by the band. She-Wolf is probably the best overall song with it's thrashy riff and excellent soloing. FFF sounds an awful lot like Metallica's Motorbreath but it remains an enjoyable listen regardless. Vortex has some good lyrics too.
As for the other songs, Trust is easily the best. It's very catchy (I always find myself tapping along with drum intro) and features a decent riff even though it is obviously very commercial. This became the band's biggest hit on rock radio and the only one from this album worth hearing live.
The remaining songs are nothing special. Almost Honest is tolerable I suppose and Mastermind is ok once it gets heavier. But the other songs are pretty much a waste of space. The likes of I'll Get Even and Have Cool, Will Travel are some of the worst stuff the band has ever written. Dave was really getting into "hit single" mode here. This would of course culminate with the following album.
If you can get this album very cheap, then it's worth having for the 5 good songs. A dissapointing effort and it only gets worse.....
A lot has been said about 'Cryptic Writings', both positive and negative, but a fact is, that after the balance between Rock and Heavy Metal, that made 'Countdown To Extinction' such an awesome album, went to Rock a bit too much with 1994's 'Youthanasia'. Not that 'Youthanasia' was a bad album, but the fact that it lacks that sharp edge, makes that I hardly listen to that album anymore. On 'Cryptic Writings', Megadeth, and singer/guitarist Dave Mustaine in particular, tried to get back a large share of Metal in the music again, which makes 'Cryptic Writings' an album that has that special balance again. In fact, stylistically the album doesn't even differ that much from 'Countdown To Extinction'. To illustrate how much I like the album, together with 'Rust In Peace' and 'Countdown To Extinction', 'Cryptic Writings' forms my personal Megadeth top 3.
In the typical Megadeth-tradition, the album has a really, really strong opener. 'Trust' is a very good song, probably even one of the best songs that Dave Mustaine and Marty Friedman have ever written together. The lyrics are quite sensitive and the music builds up very nicely. Not really a typical opener, but who gives a damn? One of the most catchiest choruses the band has ever made and a short, but very strong guitar solo by Marty Friedman round off this great song.
It took me some time to get used to 'Almost Honest', but once I got used to it, I realised that 'Almost Honest' is actually not a bad song at all! The lyrics are pretty much comparable to those of 'Trust', the subject is the same, and just like 'Trust', 'Almost Honest' has some very nice work on the backing vocals.
Next up is 'Use The Man', which I consider one of Megadeth's best ever songs. The acoustic verses and Dave Mustaine's typical dangerous low voice create a perfect atmosphere and a nice step towards the great chorus of the song. A nice surprise is the heavy guitar riff underneath Marty Friedman's great solo, which is based on the same key as the verses, just played more "Metal". Some nice headbanging to be done here.
'Mastermind' is a hideous song with one of the most ridiculous choruses the band has ever produced. However, the song is followed up by a nice surprise; 'The Disintegrators' is a very nice Heavy Metal song which reminds me of 'Poison Was The Cure' from 'Rust In Peace' a lot. This song just hasn't got that pointless bass intro and rocks right from the beginning.
After that, the album declines a bit. 'I'll Get Even', 'Sin' and 'Have Cool, Will Travel' aren't bad songs and actually have some nice riffs, but lack in conviction. Apart from that 'Sin' and 'Have Cool, Will Travel' sound rather forced in heaviness, just like these songs had to be written in order to make the album sound a little heavier. Nothing to impressive there. However, not this entire part of the album is not too impressive, 'A Secret Place' is a great, slightly experimental song. The intro riff is really powerful and so is the rest of the song. Unlike many other songs on the album, 'A Secret Place' doesn't sound like it's built around its chorus. The song flows quite nicely and the chorus doesn't stand out as much in the way that it doesn't get more accent than the rest of the song. Impressive!
After 'Have Cool, Will Travel', the album suddenly becomes very Metal! 'She-Wolf' is probably as Heavy Metal as it gets and has one of Dave Mustaine's best ever guitar solos and has a chorus that won't let go of your mind for a long, long time. In fact, at the moment I am writing this review, I am in a period that I constantly find myself playing that song over and over again. In the same Heavy Metal tradition, 'Vortex' has this really euphoric Heavy Metal riff starting off the song and throughout the song, you can hear some very nice guitar and vocal melodies. Another pleasant surprise!
Closing off the album in style is 'FFF', of which the intro slightly reminds me of Metallica's 'Motorbreath' (Dave Mustaine might want to kill me because of this comparison) and which is another euphoric Metal track. Those last three tracks have something in common, it is pretty obvious that those songs were written in a time that the band was feeling very comfortable, that can just be heard in the euphoria and the "looseness" in which the songs are played. In any way, 'She-Wolf', 'Vortex' and 'FFF' form a nice and Metal way to close off the album!
Maybe the tension between the band members is the reason that the middle part of this album doesn't sound that consistent. Out of the liner notes in the booklet of the re-release of 'Cryptic Writings', I also understood that the band's manager at the time, a certain Bud Prager, was a pain in the asses of the band. However, I find 'Cryptic Writings' a very good release which should be heard by anyone who is into solid, traditional Metal!
By now most reviewers have probably discovered that Cryptic Writings, when released, was a far cry from anything this band has produced beforehand. The thrash/speed metal stylings are pretty well abolished here. Instead we are treated with more mid-tempo, melodic heavy metal riffs and as stated before more than a fair share of memorable choruses that could get consistent radio rotation without forgetting the guitar solo's.
Despite much of the negative reaction towards this album I still believe that whether Mustaine doesn't need to write thrash metal to release great albums. Youthanasia was is the perfect example and Cryptic Writings is as well(even though it is a step down). What you get is some songs with great heavy metal riffs/arena rock choruses (trust, mastermind), the emotional ballads(use the man) and the occassional ass kicker with at least some thrash appeal(disintegrators, she-wolf)
Dave Mustaine's vocals are one aspect I think has improved over time. He can still do the aggressive vocals but he has shown he can certainly hold a note. The music at times leaves something to be desired on some intro's and choruses but overall Mustaine comes up with some great main metal riffs even if they aren't played really fast. It could be argued whether this album is metal or a hard rock album at times. Perhaps a mixture of the two? The guitar solo's are there, not in full force but still shred. The album seems a bit too experimental into the uninteresting territory that will soon follow with Risk but fortunately there was enough riffage to redeem it. There are also preferrable tracks but overall its still rather consistent.
I would advise that you give this album a fair listen and not judge by what fellow reviewers think. Its usual to dismiss this album but realistically it has enough riffage to call it a great album despite being their weakest to date.
Favorites : Trust, Almost Honest, The Disintegrators, A Secret Place
Unfortunately, Megadeth eventually softened their abrasive, bluesy thrash and molded it into metallic rock on this release. It probably should be thought of as Megadeth's Metallica album, because, overall, this isn't a thrash release, but a heavy metal one. Hell, I'm even hard-pressed to call this album metal, as the majority of it sounds like smoky alternative rock. At least we can all rest assured in the fact that it DOES get worse than this. Risk should be called Megadeth's St. Anger, but it's probably even classier and more metal than Metallica's latest offering. The way I see it--at least they didn't stoop so low as to make a COUNTRY record!!! Yeah, Risk is allegedly techno-pop bullshit and other forms of musical aberrations, but anything on there is better than country.
Now, back to the album at hand---yes, I suppose you could say Megadeth 'sold out' with Cryptic Writings, but I hate using that term, especially when there is some decent riffage to contradict the sell-out. Modern rock bands don't usually solo, at least not with the speed and intensity that Megadeth does, so that gives merit to this release and allows metalheads and Megadeth fans to say "Eh, Cryptic Writings is ok" or "Cryptic Writings is mediocre" instead of "Man, this shit sucks!"
Now, I've noticed that the average rating for this album is 61%, but I'll conjecture that the pure shock that fans and metalheads experienced helped them to give it a lower score. I can rest easy in my assumption that these poor ratings are intelligently supported as well.
What's particularly interesting about Cryptic Writings is that Dave Mustaine seems particularly well-suited to this type of music, a kind that leans heavily toward alternative rock like I've mentioned earlier. Perhaps he fits this niche better. His vocal nuances and the overall sound of this CD is cryptic,even, and makes for a mildly intoxicating listen. Tracks like Trust and Use the Man have inspiring acoustic guitar harmonies and just the way Mustaine sounds is captivating. It's highly comparable to 'Egyptian riffs' in the overall vagueness of the description.
Although Megadeth aren't groove metal, they certainly pulled a Pantera this time around. Why, you ask? Well, because there is one thrash gem that sticks out above the rest. It's no other than The Disintegrators. It's not particularly heavy or abrasive, but it's fast, and will make you say "What the hell?" Keep in mind that Megadeth have never been known for their heaviness in the first place;replacing a thick, crushing guitar sound with a thin, trebly sound. Heh, they're like thrash's Immolation. What they have been known for is their speed, and that's what they do best.
Overall, this album is highly forgettable and boring. One of the songs even has the calypso-tinged sound of Jimmy Buffett. The whole thing just ISN'T what Megadeth is/should be about and I'm ashamed that it was made. Well, I suppose the guitarist may have had weakened arms and wrists and the entire band was generally worn out and decided to take it easy, but I think they should've just taken more time to get themselves together and released something half-interesting and thrashy.
Tool takes all the fucking time in the world to put out new albums. Hell, Aenima came out in 1996 and Lateralus came out in like 2001 or 2002. Why can't more bands be more liberal like that?
This album is good if you're in the mood for something dreamy and light(when something heavy and particularly fast would give you a splitting headache, when you've been working all day, etc.), but most of the time I doubt metalheads will want to listen to this. I don't see why the foreign exchange student that was staying at my house for a week thinks this album and Megadeth's Hidden Treasures are Megadeth's best. How can he not note the tremendous difference between it and say Rust in Peace? One good thing I can say about this release is that there's not a shitty cover song.
This is another album that gets a bad rap in the metal scene because for the most part is so different from anything else the band has done in the past. It's hard to deny that Cryptic Writings is definitely different from Megadeth's previous albums, it's still packed full of some nice songs.
The opener "Trust" seems to owe a fair bit to Metallica's "Enter Sandman", you can pretty much sing the entire "Enter Sandman" lyrics over it and it wont sound out of place at all. Still it's a decent song, a nice catchy, midpaced rocker. Infact most of this album rarely does reach a "breakneck" speed, "The Disintegrators" and "FFF" are both pretty fast offerings, and "She-Wolf" waters down the intro to Metallica's thrash "Disposable Heroes" and puts down a very catchy heavy metal song. There is some experimentation here, "Mastermind" and "Secret Place" (again owing to the Black Album sound), are very fresh sounding and quite cool in places. "Almost Honest" and "I'll Get Even" are pretty much AOR rock songs, whilst they're not particularly bad they're still nothing to get excited over. The album does have weaker points, particularly "Have Cool, Will Travel", the use of the harmonica is a very nice idea but the main riff in it just isn't that inspired. On another plus side, the sampling of the Searchers' 60s hit "Needles And Pins" works well giving the subject of Dave's heroin-warning tune "Use the Man" which plods along nicely with the rest of the album.
All in all this definitely a 90s hard rock album, and it's easy to see why people get a little shocked/turned off by it when they hear it, but to me it's still a decent record of some intelligent and well thought out experimental rock with a few rougher edges. Nice work.
Well what happened here? This album is SHALLOW. Yeah, there are a few good (but simple) riffs. But there aren't enough of them. This is standard verse-chorus-verse metal, and I'm not a fan of formulaic rock. In fact, I own ZERO rock albums. I have some jazz, some classical, some world music, some prog rock, but no standard "rock-n-roll." You know why? Because I don't enjoy verse-chorus-verse song structures (unless the music (RIFFS) located within that structure is intense enough to make me forget about the shallowness). But no. There are some good riffs here and there, but this album seems like an attempt (albeit a competent attempt) to sell out. You know, alter the style of music you do to gain more fans and more money? Of course, Dave was dumbing his music down considerably since Countdown, but this is really simple and really boring.
I liked this album the first few times I heard it, but the more I listened to it, the more I realized how boring it was. Trust, Almost Honest, Use The Man, Secret Place, yadda yadda yadda. Once you got familiar with the few good riffs contained within, thats it. What you hear is what you get. There's little here to discover in repeated listens.
If you enjoy shallow music, than this is pretty up to par. I'd rather be forced to listen to this than say, Limp Bizkit, or 90s era Metallica. Heck, there are even a handful of tracks that I still listen to on mp3 every now and then... She-Wolf and Disintegrators. Both are fast-paced galloping tunes that kick up the intensity of the album. If all the songs on here were this good, I'd have given this album a 70! But nah, there's a whole lot of filler encompassing these 2.
This is where Megadeth really keel over and fuck themselves. They try to sound modern and 90s-ish. And the worst part is, they succeed! The killer melodies that had marked their previous albums are for the most part gone, and only evident in a very few songs. Trust and She-Wolf come immediately to mind.
The rest of the songs tend to range from boring to very boring - the songwriting definitely drops several notches, and sometimes reeks of late 90s post-grunge modern rock. Witness "I'll Get Even", "Have Cool will Travel" and "Use the Man" for examples of hideous boringness. Even Trust has that Godawful middle section that totally ruins the song, and Almost Honest is built to be a 1997 radio hit, meaning that it is by definition complete crap.
Oh, and FFF has a riff from Motorbreath, so while on the last album Mustaine was paying tribute to Sean Harris, here he's ripping off Hugh Tanner!!
This is Megadeth's black album, really - where they totally stepped on the trends of the day, putting out an album that did not sound out of place for the AOR of its time, just a bit more distorted. Again, there are some decent songs, but it's really not worth the hunting and pecking.