Cryptic Writings [Bonus Tracks] [Remastered]

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The remixed and remastered Megadeth albums released in 2004 aren't your typical cash-ins. They're stark improvements over the originals: group leader Dave Mustaine did the remixing and remastering himself, making especially significant revisions to the earlier albums, and he includes insightful liner notes for each reissue, including track-by-track commentary for the bonus tracks, as well as lyrics and period photos. Like the other post-Rust in Peace albums, Cryptic Writings didn't get much of a makeover for its reissue. Recorded in 1997, long after Megadeth had broken into the metal mainstream, the album sounded mighty fine to begin with. The only substantial bonuses here are Mustaine's reflective liner notes and a quartet of bonus tracks: a Spanish-language version of "Trust," an alternate version of "Vortex," and a pair of unreleased tracks. These bonuses aren't substantial enough to warrant a second purchase of this album -- if you already own it, that is. If you don't already own this one, you're not missing too much. Granted, Cryptic Warnings is a fine album. The songs are well written, the musicianship is impressive, and the music itself is quite moody and atmospheric, much like that of its predecessor, Youthanasia. There are also a few really good songs here, most notably the opener, "Trust." All of those merits aside, the same problem plagues Cryptic Writings that had plagued most every other Megadeth album that followed Rust in Peace: longtime fans -- or at least those who remained on board at this point -- simply didn't like it. Yes, that's unfair perhaps, but that's just the nature of rock, and metal in particular -- few bands last beyond a few albums, and those that do, like AC/DC, do so because they don't change what won them fans in the first place. Megadeth clearly changed. That Mustaine and company were still soldiering ahead at this point says a lot about their determination. But as the liner notes acknowledge, this wasn't an easy time for Megadeth. Mustaine writes, "I was happy just to finish this record, because things were unraveling fast, and I was very sad to have to relive this record while remixing it," and you can feel his pain. After all, there is some great music here on Cryptic Warnings; it just wasn't of interest to Megadeth fans, most of whom had given up on the band by this point. Given this underlying sentiment of despair, Cryptic Warnings is somewhat of a depressing album to listen to presently. Regardless of the music itself, you can't help thinking of what had come of such an exciting band -- they had become unimportant and, as a result, sullen if not downright bitter. ~ Jason Birchmeier, Rovi