Cracked Brain is the sole non-Schmier Destruction album that the band still considers an 'official' part of its discography, and it makes sense. The compositions are clearly in the same vein as Release from Agony, with the surgical, technical flourishes of Mike Sifringer's axe slinging, but they're more accessible and catchy. Part of this is the new singer, who was dragged over from the Swiss band Poltergeist to handle the vocals. To his credit, he sounds quite good, taking the spiteful venom of Schmier to a slightly more melodic plateau, and when you consider the hot blood and division he might have stirred among the fan base, he pulls through remarkably.
'Remarkable' is exactly how I would define about half of this album. The first two tracks are among the best in Destruction's career, shorter in stature than some of their classics like "Eternal Ban" and "Curse the Gods", but almost as fascinating. "Cracked Brain" itself creates clinical whirlwind of drug-induced, popping guitar melodies that just melt into the vocals of Grieder, and the chorus is perfectly positioned. But the real highlight comes at around 1:40, when Sifringer and Wilkens break into the insane, medical leads and a bridge riff that makes my eyes water with joy. Directly after this, they break straight into "Frustrated", almost as if it were being 'joined in progress', and I also truly love this song, with the almost angelic, happy breath of its chorus, the constantly collapsing melodies of the riffs and the gang shouts.
There are other notables here on Cracked Brain, beginning with "Time Must End", cycled through an uplifting intro riff to a dense, technical trawl that is perhaps most reminiscent of the material on Release from Agony, only not as cold or emotionally vapid. "Rippin' You Off Blind" is another blood boiler, loaded with riffs, and "Die A Day Before You're Born" is just something you can picture Schmier singing on Eternal Devastation. Same shrieking tendencies. But alas, not all that glitters here is steel, and a few of the later tracks "No Need to Justify" and "When Your Mind Was Free", while well intentioned, don't hold up with as many catchy riffs. "S.E.D." is also not a favorite, though there are 1-2 decent riffs tucked in there, and the cover of "My Sharona" is a total Weird Al moment, though it is fun to think of a band like this performing that song.
Cracked Brain is the last of the classic Destruction era, and also the worst, but a few of the tracks belong in any highlight reel of the band's career. Once the 90s arrived in full bloom, the band would fall off the turnip truck into a miasma of adaptive folly so much that they are now embarrassed by their recorded output circa 1994-1998. This tragedy would endure until the turn of the century, in which All Hell Breaks Loose would save the band's face in anticipation of its devastating follow-up. I often wish that this were just an EP with "Cracked Brain", "Time Must End", "Frustrated" and perhaps a few others, because it would have been perfect, aside from the obvious lyrics, which are, in short, dreadful. Taking into consideration the rest of the songs, the overall judgment is not so great, but the strong points are incredibly strong, regardless of the substituted vocal presence.
Verdict: Win [7.25/10] (better leave a last sigh)