In fall 1992, Steven Joerg took over as Homestead Records’ manager. While he continued the label’s indie-rock trajectory, Joerg adopted a radically different vision integrating free jazz on the same label where Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr and Big Black recorded seminal records. Pianist Matthew Shipp, who had a duo record with bassist William Parker on a Texas punk-rock label which had a deal with Homestead's parent company, talked him into signing the David S. Ware Quartet. According to Ware, Cryptology was "a meditation on Coltrane's example of using music as a vehicle for transcendence."
In his review for AllMusic, Thom Jurek says about the album "It is raw, unwavering, and intense almost beyond measure."The Penguin Guide to Jazz states that "the long-form, linked improvisations on Cryptology is an impressive first draft."
The album garnered a Lead Review slot in Rolling Stone by David Fricke, who says about the title piece "It's a sharp lesson for anyone who thinks free jazz is just a euphemism for no discipline".
The Wire placed the album in their "50 Records Of The Year 1995" list.