Freak Inside not only sees a forward stride in production values for the young, female-fronted German thrash act Cripper, but also in its general songwriting capacity. Where their debut EP Killer Escort Service had some raw energy to it, pulverizing guitars and Britta's brute, blunt vocal stylings, the mix sounded a bit off and most of the songs were really not all that special. Here they've improved in that department, with a good deal of variation from track to track, and not afraid to draw some inspiration from outside genres like melodic death and hardcore where it suits a composition. Now, I wouldn't go as to label this a must have, but it's ripe with the promise that we might have a new Holy Moses on our hands.
The content ranges from straight thrashers with pure Bay Area appeal reminiscent of Master of Puppets or late 80s Exodus ("Fire Walk With Me", "Trapped", "Slowly Beaten Hate Machine") to slower, groove tracks like "60bpm" which have more in common with Gorefest's Erase. Once in a while the band will thread in a dour melody ("Shortcut" and "60bpm" again) which honestly reminded me of the mighty Bolt Thrower, so there's a fair amount happening here to keep the attention span from the mere, plugging thrash rhythms of the guitars, which while well written, are rarely breathtaking in of themselves. Through it all, Britta weaves her pissed off, gruff vocals like a hybrid of Sabina Classen and Jan-Chris de Koeijer's late 90s attitude, with some backing in the gang shout sections that gives the material an urban aspect. Outside of Holy Moses, this material doesn't sound a whole lot like the German veterans most have come to recognize from the region, but that's really a strength, because Cripper stands out, if only slightly.
About the only real issue with Freak Inside is that the writing, while improved, still doesn't distinguish itself through the choruses. It's as if the band concentrated hard on making the mix sound better, making the individual leads and verse/bridge riffs superior to their demo/EP material, and forgetting that the chorus sections should be climactic and exciting. This is thrash metal! I can't comprehend why so many bands neglect such an important element that made it popular to begin with. A few of them here are just breakdowns with Görtz hammering some lines with little charisma to them, and they sometimes feel like a letdown. The album is 52 minutes long, with 12 tracks, and I'm not sure I can remember a single chorus. Otherwise, it's solid for a self-released full-length debut. The lyrics are decent, the cover sculpture interesting, and the music marginally better conceived than the usual mindlessness of fresh 21st century thrash acts.
Verdict: Win [7.25/10]