Friday, 8 April 2011

CD Review: Cryptic Writings, by Megadeth (1997)

Twelve years and seven albums into their career, Megadeth find a bumpy middle-age groove on Cryptic Writings. There is a clear smoothness and clarity to the material, and four of the dozen tracks on the album are among Megadeth's best and most mature compositions. There are also quite a few duds which knock back the CD's reputation.

The last studio album to feature Nick Menza on drums, and the last time that the band's most stable line-up recorded together, Cryptic Writings contains some gems, and the album wastes no time introducing the first one. Menza kicks-off the CD and Trust with a brooding drum beat, an appropriate opening for a most sophisticated and satisfying song, featuring a melody brimming with a laid back confidence.

Towards the back-end, three songs sparkle. A Secret Place takes a terrific risk with another complex structure demonstrating how far Mustaine has traveled as a songwriter. She-Wolf is a formidable tribute to Iron Maiden, with the final minute dedicated to an amazing Maidenesque harmony that salutes Eddy in his mid-eighties glory. But the absolute best is saved for last, FFF (which stands for Fight For Freedom) fairly exploding from the atom of an insuppressibly fast Menza beat to support a hypnotic, hooked-up guitar riff that still manages a large dose of soul.

The Disintegrators is another stand-out track, a throwback to old-school Megadeth with a modern paint-job: all speed, incessant riffing, and over-amped power, but the vocals are now welcome contributions rather than afterthoughts.

Unfortunately tracks like Mastermind, Sin and Have Cool, Will Travel degrade the quality and should have  been dropped entirely from the album, Megadeth once again having trouble separating the highly worthy from the relatively worthless.

Cryptic Writings is a significant contribution to the Megadeth catalogue, and while the valleys are awkward, the peaks ensure that the journey is worthwhile.


Dave Mustaine - Guitar, Vocals
Marty Friedman - Guitar
David Ellefson - Bass
Nick Menza - Drums

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Trust - 10
2. Almost Honest - 7
3. Use The Man - 7
4. Mastermind - 5
5. The Disintegrators - 9
6. I'll Get Even - 8
7. Sin - 6
8. A Secret Place - 10
9. Have Cool, Will Travel - 6
10. She-Wolf - 10
11. Vortex - 7
12. FFF - 10

Average: 7.92

Produced by Dann Huff. Co-Produced by Dave Mustaine
Recorded and Mixed by Jeff Balding. Mastered by Bob Ludwig.

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.

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