Perhaps I wasn't the only one fooled by the cover art into thinking that Grinder had transformed somehow into an early death metal band, but that's just the cover art, and the actual audio content is still very much thrash metal. The production here had improved leaps and bounds over the previous Dawn for the Living, and the band were writing in a more spacious, expansive tone, but despite the few moments of truly interesting music offered through Dead End, the album becomes a stunted bore, with Arizona styled vocals (half Phil Rind of Sacred Reich, half Eric A.K. of Flotsam & Jetsam) that offer a little more melody than the usual German thrashers, but lack all of the blazing, venomous charm of their peers.
A song like "Dead End" really represents my feelings about the album. It opens as incredibly generic thrash with no guitars worth a damn, then transforms into this schizoid landscape in which the band experiment with mood, eventually upscaling to fast as balls speed/thrash with ripping solos. Despite the band's obvious level of competence in its craft, the song is at best an uneven, forgettable assault arriving in a time of far better options. The opener "Agent Orange" is simply not as good as Sodom's song/album of the same type, but the intro that sets up the surge of belligerent riffing is well done, and the verse riffs aren't bad. The band utilizes a lot of melody in "Total Control" and "Why", almost attempting to bridge into a progressive/thrash terrain, but sadly, despite the good drumming and occasionally well plotted melodies, they are not interesting.
"Train Raid" is even worse, a spastic blues/punk piece that doesn't mesh well with the album, and the neo-classical gone bounce thrash of "Inside" almost gimps itself. Had Dead End been gifted with more straight forward fare ala the pickup of "Agent Orange" or "Just Another Scar", then it might have gotten by on its sheer good looks, but as it stands, it's yet another example of those records that drift off into the spark of their imagination without producing a theory or relativity or any other worthwhile innovation. 'Proficient' and 'expansive' are words I would use to expand Grinder as they cycled through the three albums of their career (before mutating into the power metal band Capricorn), but 'quality' is one descriptor that eludes them.
Verdict: Indifference [6.25/10] (invisible in the streets)