Review Summary: A Warning Of What Was To Come5 of 5 thought this review was well written
'Cryptic Writings' is an odd album in the Megadeth discography for it being really inconsistent in its quality. You will find some of the worst Megadeth songs such as 'Almost Honest' and 'I'll Get Even', but also some of the best, such as 'Trust' and 'She-Wolf'. This is probably the the result of this being a transitional album bridging the gap between an accessible and awesome metal album ('Youthanasia') to a strange abomination ('Risk'). To support this, the album is almost cleanly divided between the good and the mediocre. The good would be side two and the mediocre would be side one.
The lone exception to this rule is the opener, 'Trust', which is Megadeth's equivalent of 'Enter Sandman (only better); its main riff has a great groove, the chorus is very catchy and has an interesting bridge. The rest of side one, though, doesn't fare too well as it finds Megadeth trying too hard to get a big hit. Its quite ironic that the more commercial the Megadeth albums became after 'Countdown To Extinction', the worse they sold. You'd think he'd have realised this at this point.
Side two, then, is a relief to fans of previous Megadeth albums, as it is far superior to the first side of the album, with the songs having much more to offer in terms of riffs, melodies and creativity. 'She-Wolf' deserves a mention for its combination of riffs that wouldn't have been out of place on 'Peace Sells.. But Who's Buying' and Dave Mustaine's more melodic vocal style than he had before 'Countdown To Extinction' resulting in one of the best Megadeth songs. For me, it would've made sense to take 'Breakpoint', 'Go To Hell' and '99 Ways To Die' and have them replace most of the songs on side one (but unfortunately, they were left on 'Hidden Treasures' rather than a real Megadeth album).
Even though Megadeth are still technically adequate on this album and it has good production, there seems to be a warning to something quite bad here, as the commercial nature of some of these songs is worrying. Sadly, the warning was apt, given that the appropriately-titled follow-up, 'Risk', was a complete failure and even if it did well commercially, it didn't stop Megadeth's declining sales numbers and it would also become known as Megadeth's first real dud in their discography.