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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%.