Formed in 1984, Cryptic Slaughter were a crossover thrash band out of Santa Monica, California. But calling them just that wouldn’t be quite enough because truth be told, there’s a lot of emphasis on the hardcore aspects but certainly nothing like metalcore. Some songs are so fast and abrasive that they almost touch power violence territory, but overall it’s tough to pin them to just one thing. Each album takes a different aspect by the horns, be it metal, hardcore, or whatever. Regardless, they split up after four records, reunited a few times, and recently reformed under name title Lowlife. So as far as I’m concerned, they’re dead, and it’s time to call them from the grave!
The first Cryptic Slaughter album was one of the most extreme of its time. Convicted came very close to what would become powerviolence, if not just missing it by a hair. Perhaps a more chaotic or vicious Nuclear Assault would be a more apt description. But, the slower and bouncy hardcore sections make themselves very present, particularly in songs like “Low Life.” The bass guitars are utilized to create pummeling bridges between the steadier sections and the fast bursts of riffs. I love the way this helps build the attitude in “State Control” with the intro leading into terrorizing fury. It’s only about thirty minutes in length, but the choppiness of the songs do tend to make it feel longer. You need to be in the right mood to listen, but it’s worth your time
Final Grade: B+
Money Talks (1987)
A year later, Money Talks hit, and it’s probably what I would regard as their most metal-oriented effort. Moreover, it’s also got the best songwriting, despite the album cover looking like it should be even more barbaric. Indeed, the tracks are way more rooted in concise (for this type of band) riffs that hold a sturdier foundation. “Wake Up” not only does this but also pushes more towards accessible vocals. This helps songs like “Freedom Of Expression?” stand out since their lyrics are meant to make a statement. Of the four records, this is also the album where the drums are the tightest, which goes very well with the better production values too. It may sound like Cryptic Slaughter was abandoning their dirty roots, but rest assured it’s still there, just assembled a bit better. Oh, and Bill Crooks’s higher pitched vocals on this are top notch. The first two records are both great and are fitting for a certain frame of mind, but this one tops the debut by just a hair.
Final Grade: A-
Stream Of Consciousness (1988)
While the previous disc went in a cleaner direction, Stream Of Consciousness did exactly the opposite. Not only is the songwriting way more mangled, but the production is also the worst out of all four. Gone is the metal aesthetic that was present before and back are the powerviolence vibes even harder than before. This may be appealing to some, but it didn’t do anything with that creatively, is dull in delivery, and ultimately just sounded like a bunch of recycled songs that didn’t work previously. Nothing here is abstractly bad, just nothing that I’d call worth going out of your way for.
Final Grade: C-
Speak Your Peace (1990)
The fourth and final release would see the departure of vocalist Bill Crooks, with Dave Hollingsworth (who spent a short time with DRI) in his place. There isn’t an overly obvious difference in delivery, but the overall structure of Speak Your Peace is quite different. Now, instead of bursting out in fast and aggressive riffs with short breaks, longer songs with more stable structures are present. Because of this, more digestible tracks are bred, with some of the smoothest songs the band have ever made. “Still Born, Again” is a solid example of this flow. The issue is that it sounds like it wants to be Money Talks but doesn’t have the strong foundation. I dig the idea of this one, but it’s not what I’d call essential.
Final Grade: B-