Cryptic Writings

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Cryptic Writings
Studio album by Megadeth
Released June 17, 1997 (1997-06-17)
Recorded September 1996 at The Tracking Room in Nashville, Tennessee
Genre Heavy metal
Length 46:44
Label Capitol
Producer Dann Huff, Dave Mustaine
Megadeth chronology
  • Cryptic Writings
  • (1997)
Alternative cover
2004 remixed and remastered re-release

Cryptic Writings is the seventh studio album by American thrash metal band Megadeth. Released on June 17, 1997 through Capitol Records, it was the band's last studio album to feature drummer Nick Menza. His departure would mark the end of the band's longest lasting lineup to date, having recorded four studio albums. Megadeth decided to produce the record with Dann Huff in Nashville, Tennessee, because they were not satisfied with their previous producer, Max Norman. The album features 12 tracks with accessible song structures, specifically aimed for radio airplay. The lyrics were also altered, in order to make the music more inclusive for wider audience. These changes were met with mixed opinions from music critics, who noted the band moving away from their thrash metal roots.

The album debuted at number 10 on Billboard 200 chart and was certified gold in October 1997 by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipping half a million copies in the United States. The first 500,000 copies of Cryptic Writings in the U.S. were released with silver background album cover. A remixed and remastered version, featuring four bonus tracks, was released in 2004. Two years after its original release, the album sold 850,000 copies in the United States and won widespread praise from rock radio programmers. The song "Trust" was nominated for a "Best Metal Performance" at the 1998 Grammy Awards and became the band's highest charting song on the Billboard's Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks.

Background and recording[edit]

In 1992 Megadeth released Countdown to Extinction, which contained songs with compact, accessible structures that resulted with strong sales and significant radio airplay. 1994's Youthanasia and 1997's Cryptic Writings followed a similar route, both being certificated platinum, with the later one spawning three rock-radio hits.[1] Frontman Dave Mustaine, speaking about the band's commercial breakthrough, said: "I think a lot of our success now has to do with the fact that we're willing to study the marketplace and educate ourselves. Most musicians don't get the opportunity to go into the market with educated strategy. Fortunately, for us, our management educated us on how to study what's current without losing our integrity and to keep on edge while staying at the forefront of what's important right now."[2]

According to guitarist Marty Friedman, it took the band a year to prepare the record "from note one to mixing". A lot of the material was written during the tour and some of it afterwards. As Friedman said, the songs came together naturally because the band wasn’t rushed to get a record out.[3] The album was produced by Dann Huff, who had his producing debut with Megadeth. The band chose to work with Huff because they were not satisfied with Max Norman, the producer of their previous record. Mustaine explained why he decided to quit the collaboration with Norman: "Max came up with this bullshit formula that every song had to be 120 beats per minute to get on the radio. When people make drastic decisions to do things like that and it backfires, it usually ends up, in one way or another, costing them their jobs."[4]

Before the start of the recording sessions, bassist David Ellefson stated: "Cryptic Writings is our seventh album, and we don't want it to sound like anything we've already done".[5] Instrumentally, the band introduced a more melodic mix than the previous albums, filled with crunchy riffs and speedy guitar solos.[6] In addition, Mustaine re-evaluated the band's songwriting techniques, recasting some lyrics to better reflect the sales and radio airplay environment of then's rock arena. According to him, many of the song's lyrics were altered in order to make the music "a little more inclusive of people who aren't into dying and evil".[2] Ellefson commented that this album was a "natural progression" in Megadeth's sound. He further stated that they were not trying to leave behind their thrash metal and heavy metal roots, but to "broaden the musical horizons".[5]

Artwork and release[edit]

The symbol depicted on the cover is a veve, a voodoo sign. According to Ellefson, the original concept for the album's cover was very different, however, it was changed at the last minute. The title derives from a lyric in "Use the Man". Aside from being a lyric, Ellefson stated that there was not really any correlation between the title and the music on the album.[7] The first 500,000 copies of Cryptic Writings in the United States were released with silver background album cover.[6] These releases also included a Vic Rattlehead collectible card which promoted "The Cryptic Writings Of Megadeth", an issue run by Chaos Comics.[8] The latter US pressings features the same artwork with black background album cover. The black background album cover is also featured in the remasters.[9]

The album sold 75,000 upon its release and debuted at number 10 on Billboard 200.[10] Four months after its release, the record was certificated gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipping half million copies in the US,[11] of which 383,000 were sold according to Nielsen Soundscan.[2] Two years after its original release, the album sold 850,000 copies in the United States and won widespread praise from rock radio programmers.[12] It was certified platinum in 1998 by the RIAA, having shipped one million copies in the United States.[6] However, Cryptic Writings did not enjoy particular chart success on international level. It only managed to peak at number two on the Finnish Albums Chart, where it charted for eleven weeks. Elsewhere, it didn't enter into the top 10.[13] It eventually received a gold certification from the Canadian Music Association for shipping 50,000 copies.[14]

A remixed and remastered version, featuring four bonus tracks, was released in 2004 through Capitol Records as part of the group's reissued back catalogue.[15] According to the liner notes of the remastered version of Cryptic Writings, Dave Mustaine had to alter many lyrics at the request of their new manager, Bud Prager. The liner notes suggest that Mustaine was not a fan of the changes, but other interviews indicate the band actively sought and eventually accepted Prager's advice for the album. "I figured maybe this guy (Prager) could help me get that intangible number one record I wanted so badly", Mustaine wrote in the liner notes.[9]

Composition[edit]

Chicago Tribune journalist Dean Golemis cited "She-Wolf" as an example of the band's "melodic thrash" approach.[16]

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Mustaine pointed out that four of the album's 12 track are "fast, hard and crunchy". Referring to the musical direction of the album, MTV's writer P.R. Flack noted that "The Disintegrators" and "FFF" were rooted in the thrash metal genre, and ranked them among the fastest tracks on the record.[17] Neil Arnold of Metal Forces highlighted the tune "Vortex", which according to him, features some of the album's best guitar work.[18] However, a number of songs, particularly "I'll Get Even" and "Use The Man", carried a more rock-oriented sound, which contributed to the album's diverse style.[16] Lyrically, the album does not have a distinct subject matter, but focuses on numerous themes instead. "She-Wolf" tells of a "wicked temptress with mystic lips and lusting eyes",[19] while "Mastermind" has been stated by Mustaine as being about "the computerization of the world."[20]

"Trust" was released as the record's lead single. The song was developed from "Absolution", an instrumental track recorded on a demo during the studio sessions of their previous album.[21] "Trust" peaked at number five on the US Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks, thus becoming the band's highest charting song on that chart. It was nominated for "Best Metal Performance" at the 1998 Grammy Awards.[6] "Almost Honest" was the second single of the album, and like its predecessor, it managed to enter the Top 10 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Chart.[22] Mustaine stated that the song is about how people treat one another, which contains a message that "it's difficult for people to be honest". Billboard's Chuck Taylor commented that the song contains catchy hooks and the band's "signature guitar howl" and classified it "somewhere between Def Leppard and Bon Jovi".[2] "Use the Man" and "A Secret Place" were released as the third and fourth single, respectively. "Use the Man" is about drug addiction, while "A Secret Place" describes losing touch with reality.[21]

Three extended plays were released in support of Cryptic Writings. Two of these featured live recordings from the ensuing tour while the other was a studio EP which featured instrumental versions of several album tracks. The live releases were entitled Live Trax and Live Trax II, the first being released on June 30, 1998,[23] while the second was released as a bonus disc to Cryptic Writings in 1998. An instrumental EP entitled Cryptic Sounds: No Voices in Your Head was released in Japan, Argentina and as a bonus disc to the album in Korea. The vocals on the tracks were replaced with extra guitar melodies, with the song "She-Wolf" being performed in a Spanish acoustic style for the first half.[24]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 2.5/5 stars[25]
Chicago Tribune 1/4 stars[16]
Los Angeles Times 2/4 stars[26]
Metal Forces 7/10[18]
Rock Hard 8/10[27]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[28]
The New Rolling Stone Album Guide 4/5 stars[29]

Music critics were divided on the record. Stephen Thomas Erlewine, reviewing the album for AllMusic, reacted unenthusiastically towards it. He criticized Mustaine's ability to write more "ambitious" material and opined that the band "sounds better playing thrash." However, Erlewine did admire the band's desire to experiment with their sound.[25] Rolling Stone was more generous towards Cryptic Writings. Reviewer Jon Wiederhorn commented that the album "should thrill Metallica fans who felt screwed by that band's thrashless 1996 album, Load."[28] Dean Golemis of the Chicago Tribune panned the album for being "predictable and annoying" and assumed than Megadeth were "destined to follow Metallica's leap into mainstream sounds".[16] Author Thomas Harrison also noted the album for not making much impact as their previous studio releases.[30]

Westnet's Simon Speichert wrote positively about the record, qualifying it as "pure, solid heavy metal". He noted that the album contains various kinds of tunes and named it "one of the best metal records of 1997".[31] Neil Arnold from Metal Forces observed that Cryptic Writings is not "a bad record", though it comes "pale" in comparison to their 1994 opus Youthanasia. Arnold went on to comment that the album confirms Megadeth are "no longer a thrash band".[18] Wolfgang Schäfer, from the German metal magazine Rock Hard, stated that Cryptic Writings followed the musical direction of its predecessors. He described the album as a "balanced mix of typical Megadeth rockers and some experimental songs".[27]

Touring[edit]

Megadeth supported the album with a world tour that started in the summer of 1997. The Misfits were the opening act of these live shows, one of which was the band's first all-acoustic performance that took place in South America.[32] The following summer, the group participated in Ozzfest 98' for the dates in the United States. These live shows were the last for drummer Nick Menza, who was fired subsequently. Menza stated that Mustaine had dismissed him from the band two days after his knee surgery via phone call telling him his services "were no longer needed".[33] On the other hand, Dave Mustaine claimed Menza had lied about his injury. Drummer Jimmy DeGrasso was hired as a temporary replacement for the remaining tour dates, but stayed with the band for the recording of their next studio album.[34]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Dave Mustaine except where noted.[9]

No. Title Lyrics Music Length
1. "Trust"     Mustaine, Marty Friedman 5:11
2. "Almost Honest"     Mustaine, Friedman 4:02
3. "Use the Man" (4:03 on the 2004 release)   Mustaine, Friedman 4:35
4. "Mastermind"       3:48
5. "The Disintegrators" (3:04 on the 2004 release)     2:50
6. "I'll Get Even"   Mustaine, Friedman, David Ellefson, Brian Howe Mustaine, Friedman, Ellefson, Howe 4:23
7. "Sin"   Mustaine, Ellefson, Nick Menza Mustaine, Ellefson, Menza 3:06
8. "A Secret Place"       5:29
9. "Have Cool, Will Travel" (3:40 on the 2004 release)     3:28
10. "She-Wolf"       3:36
11. "Vortex" (3:23 on the 2004 release)     3:38
12. "FFF" (2:47 on the 2004 release)   Mustaine, Friedman, Ellefson, Menza 2:38
Total length:
46:44

Personnel[edit]

Megadeth
Production
  • Dann Huff – producer
  • Jeff Balding – recording, mixing
  • Mark Hagen – recording assistant, mixing assistant
  • Bob Ludwig – mastering
  • Hugh Syme – artwork
  • Dimo Safari – photography
  • Bud Prager – A & R direction, E.S.P. management
  • Mike Renault – E.S.P. management
  • Giles Martin - producer (remaster)
2004 remaster/remix
  • Produced by Dave Mustaine
  • Mixed by Ralph Patlan and Dave Mustaine
  • Engineered by Ralph Patlan with Lance Dean
  • Edited by Lance Dean, Scott "Sarge" Harrison, and Keith Schreiber with Bo Caldwell
  • Mastered by Tom Baker

Chart performance[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Sales/shipments
Canada (Music Canada)[14] Gold 50,000^
United States (RIAA)[11] Gold 500,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone

References[edit]

  1. ^ Michael Moses, Dan Kaye (June 5, 1999). "What Did You Do In The War, Daddy?". Billboard: H-12. Retrieved August 7, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d Taylor, Chuck (November 29, 1997). "Metal Mainstay Megadeth Alters Its Lyrics But Not Its Music For The '90s". Billboard: H-74. Retrieved August 7, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Marty Friedman interview". Rocknotes Webzine. January 10, 1998. Retrieved August 7, 2013. 
  4. ^ Kitts, Jeff (January 1, 1997). "Dave Mustaine and Marty Friedman return to worship at metal's altar with Cryptic Writings". Guitar World. Marty Friedman. Retrieved August 27, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b "Interview with David Ellefson". 8m.com. Retrieved August 7, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Cryptic Writings (1997)". Megadeth.com. Retrieved August 6, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Set The World on Fire - David Ellefson Interview archived at the Realms of Deth". Rock Online. Retrieved 21 October 2012. 
  8. ^ Shirley, Ian (2005). Can Rock & Roll Save the World?: An Illustrated History of Music and Comics. SAF Publishing Ltd. p. 80. ISBN 0946719802. 
  9. ^ a b c Cryptic Writings (CD liner notes). Megadeth. Capitol Records. 1997. 
  10. ^ "Metal Maintains Megadeth". Worcester Telegram & Gazette. August 10, 1997. Retrieved August 8, 2013. "For example, 'Cryptic Writings' sold 75000 units immediately upon release, making its debut at No. 10 on Billboard magazine's record sales chart in mid-June..."  (subscription required)
  11. ^ a b "RIAA Gold and Platinum Database Search". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved September 24, 2009. 
  12. ^ Reesman, Bryan (August 7, 1999). "Megadeth's 'Risk' Set To Ride Metal's Revival". Billboard: H-15. Retrieved August 7, 2013. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Megadeth - Cryptic Writings". Hung Medien. Retrieved 2008-12-04. 
  14. ^ a b "Canadian album certifications – Megadeth – Cryptic Writings". Music Canada. Retrieved August 27, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Megadeth's 'She-Wolf' Remixed And Remastered: Free Download Available!". Blabbermouth.net. July 9, 2004. Retrieved August 9, 2013. 
  16. ^ a b c d Golemis, Dean (July 4, 1997). "Megadeth: Cryptic Writings (Capitol)". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved October 23, 2013. 
  17. ^ Flack, P.R. "Cryptic Writings Coming Soon From Megadeth". MTV. Retrieved August 8, 2013. 
  18. ^ a b c Arnold, Neil. "Megadeth: Cryptic Writings". Metal Forces. Retrieved August 8, 2013. 
  19. ^ Jamieson, Don. "Top 10 Metal Songs About Cannibalism". Loudwire. Retrieved August 30, 2012. 
  20. ^ "An Ugly American - Dave Mustaine interview archived at The Realms of Deth". Rockmetal.pl. Retrieved 20 October 2012. 
  21. ^ a b "Megadeth Lyrics - Cryptic Writings". Rockmetal.art.pl. Retrieved January 9, 2014. 
  22. ^ a b c "Cryptic Writings - Megadeth - Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved August 29, 2013. 
  23. ^ "Live Trax - Overview". AllMusic. Retrieved 2008-12-04. 
  24. ^ "Megadeth – Cryptic Sounds: No Voices in Your Head". Discogs. Retrieved August 28, 2013. 
  25. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Megadeth: Cryptic Writings". AllMusic. Retrieved July 12, 2013. 
  26. ^ Masuo, Sandy (June 29, 1997). "In Brief: ** Megadeth, "Cryptic Writing," Capitol.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 12, 2013. 
  27. ^ a b Schäfer, Wolfgang. "Megadeth: Cryptic Writings". Rock Hard. Retrieved August 8, 2013. 
  28. ^ a b Wiederhorn, Jon (July 10, 1997). "Megadeth: Cryptic Writings". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 12, 2013. 
  29. ^ Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian David (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon and Schuster. p. 534. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. 
  30. ^ Harrison, Thomas (2011). Music of the 1990s. ABC-CLIO. p. 74. ISBN 0-313-37943-2. 
  31. ^ Speichert, Simon. "Review: Megadeth, Cryptic Writings (Capitol)". Westnet. Retrieved August 6, 2013. 
  32. ^ "Megadeth History (1997)". Megadeth.com. Retrieved November 15, 2013. 
  33. ^ "20 question with ex-Megadeth drummer Nick Menza". Metal Sludge. March 12, 2002. Retrieved November 15, 2013. 
  34. ^ "Nick Menza: "I Was Fired From Megadeth Two Days After Surgery"". RockRage. Blabbermouth.net. February 19, 2002. Retrieved November 15, 2013. 
  35. ^ Cryptic Sounds (Japan) back cover. Capitol Records/Toshiba EMI. 1998. 
  36. ^ "Chartverfolgung - Megadeth". Musicline.de. Retrieved 2008-12-04. 
  37. ^ "Megadeth - Cryptic Writings". Chart Stats. Archived from the original on 2012-07-21. Retrieved 2008-12-04. 
  38. ^ "Artist Chart History - Megadeth". Billboard. Retrieved 2008-12-04. 

External links[edit]