MEGADETH — Cryptic Writings (review)

MEGADETH — Cryptic Writings album cover Album · 1997 · Heavy Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
"Cryptic Writings" is the 7th full-length studio album by US thrash/heavy metal act Megadeth. The album was released through Capitol Records in June 1997. It´s the fourth and last album to feature Megadeth´s arguably most successful lineup, as drummer Nick Menza would leave the band while touring in support of the album. He was initially forced to leave the tour because of a problem with his knee, which required surgery and hospitalization. According to Menza he was fired by vocalist/guitarist Dave Mustaine, while still in the hospital recovering from surgery. Jimmy DeGrasso (Suicidal Tendencies, Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne, David Lee Roth, White Lion...), who had filled in for Menza while he was in the hospital, was hired as the band´s new drummer.

"Cryptic Writings" is the successor to "Youthanasia" from 1994. While not selling quite as well as "Countdown to Extinction (1992)" did, "Youthanasia (1994)" was stil a commercially very successful release for Megadeth, selling more than a million copies. "Youthanasia (1994)" saw Megadeth moving in a more accessible and maintream oriented heavy rock/metal direction, and that style is continued on "Cryptic Writings", which was deliberately written with the aim of getting rock radio airplay. The band´s new manager Bud Prager adviced Mustaine to alter his lyrical approach to not alienate a mainstream audience and also to write more conscise radio friendly material.

With that in mind it´s not surprising that the 12 tracks on the 47:12 are predominantly easily accessible vers/chorus structured heavy rock/metal tracks. The trace of the band´s thrash metal past are on "The Disintegrators" and on "FFF", which both feature a relatively fast pace and some thrashy riffs. Other than those two tracks, the album only features mid-tempo heavy rock/metal tracks with a strong emphasis on melody and cathiness. Some tracks like "Trust", "Almost Honest", and "Have Cool, Will Travel", stand out a bit, but most tracks on the album are pretty standard quality heavy metal tracks and nothing out of the ordinary or particularly memorable beyond listening to the album. In that respect "Cryptic Writings" suffers from some of the same issues as "Youthanasia (1994)" did.

"Cryptic Writings" features a clear, dry, and a bit clinical sounding production, which would probably have suited hard edged thrashy material better than the heavy metal tracks featured on the album. A more organic sounding production job would have suited the material better.

So upon conclusion "Cryptic Writings" is a decent quality release by Megadeth with both some well written material but also some material which isn´t as remarkable. The playing is as always on a high level, and Mustaine´s vocals are as distinct sounding as ever too (and as much as ever an aquired taste), and objectively seen the sound production is professonal and well sounding too. Therefore a 3.5 star (70%) rating isn´t all wrong, although "Cryptic Writings" definitely is the least interesting release out of the four recorded by this Megadeth lineup.
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