Review Summary: Whilst Cracked Brain retains a great deal of technical flair from Release From Agony, a more upbeat tone to the songs leads to it being somewhat awkward in comparison.
Destruction's commercial path as a band is fairly interesting; their first 2 albums were instant classics of the European thrash metal scene, and their works in the 21st century are consistently competent and aggressive. At the lead up to the nineties, however, the band was effectively on the precipice of either becoming something greater or irrelevant; sadly the latter happened. After a series of successful albums (Infernal Overkill, Eternal Devestation, The Mad Butcher EP) it released Release From Agony in 1988, a highly technical thrash album, which was critically successful. The band's more technical direction, whilst garnering a great deal of praise, ultimately left fans cold, and this eventually led to the ousting of famed vocalist/bassist "Schmier", which effectively marked the death of the band's success all in one go. André Grieder of Poltergeist was drafted to replace him, but his less effective style and relative lack of charisma saw their next product, Cracked Brain
, perform considerably worse commercially and critically. However, despite its failure in comparison to Release From Agony or their earlier classics, it remains an interesting and overall decent album on the merit of the remaining technicality of the songs, which would dissipate with their later albums of the 90s.
Mike Sifringer - Guitar
Harry Wilkens - Guitar
Oliver Kaiser - Drums
André Grieder - Vocals
Christian Engler - Bass
Whilst the album is mostly a regression from the impressive quality of Release From Agony, Cracked Brain saw some improvements both in technical standard and production quality. The instrumentation is tighter in spite of increasingly angular arrangements, and the overall sound is clearer. However, the bass has less presence, possibly in tow with Schmier's exit, which leads the arrangements to feel a little less heavy.
The consequences of a new vocalist and bassist seem to mostly lie in the album's tone. Release From Agony, whilst somewhat goofy in regard to its execution, had a songwriting style and tone that was quite sinister overall, working quite well with the more technical style of playing in order to form a more effective whole than on Cracked Brain. The latter struggles in regard to supporting its technical arrangements as the new vocalist Engler lacks the same charisma, whilst the general tone seems to be more upbeat and akin to the slightly punkier edge of thrash. This ultimately leads to what is effectively a mismatch in sound where the more upbeat nature of tracks like Frustration
and Time Must End
feels somewhat out of place with the presence of more aggressive ones like the title track or S.E.D.
. There seem to be more gang vocals around the whole album and instrumentation never hits quite the same tonal or speedy extremes as its predecessor.
Despite this issues, there's actually a lot of good to be found on this album, especially in its most aggressive tracks. The title track in particular is pretty much a classic of the band, and past the goofy My Sharona
cover around the midpoint of the album, the album picks up with more considered arrangements and more emphasized technical styling; all of Rippin' You Off Blind
to When Your Mind Was Free
are fairly impressive tracks, which makes up for the awkwardness of the first half of the album (except for the aforementioned title tracks). However, the heights of any of Destruction's prior work are never really hit, resulting in the album being listenable but lacking in lasting value. Sadly it would only be downhill for the band until the return of Schmier for their comeback album All Hell Breaks Loose in 2000.
*Review rewritten on 04/07/2015*