One of New York's original thrash metal acts alongside Anthrax and S.O.D., Nuclear Assault displayed a strong professional side to their music at an early point in their career, winning them a slot on the Combat Records roster, a union which was consummated with the release of this 1986 EP Brain Death. The title track to this will turn out to be redundant, included also upon their full-length debut Game Over the same year, but the other tracks are only available here or on the CD re-issue with the Fight to Be Free single added (1988).
Turns out that "Brain Death" itself is actually the weakest of the three tunes here, primarily as it suffers from a case of elephantitis. But at least for the first few minutes, it moves along with surety, as a tinny acoustic intro segues into a crisp, punchy speed/thrash metal lick. I absolutely love the guitar tone on this release, it's crude and fuzzy but clean as a whistle, and a nice fit for Dan Lilker's bombastic bass playing and John Connelly's trademark flair for shifting keys from his street-savvy mids to air raid highs. But the bridge here goes on far too long, taking about two minutes to get into the lead and the last verse refrain. Chop about two minutes and it would be quite a kickass introduction.
The other tracks are mercifully shorter, beginning with the belligerent, galloping "Final Flight" that has Connelly howling much like he would over the subsequent three albums. The lead guitar here is quite excellent, proof that Nuclear Assault's street level, hardcore roots were not about to discourage the metal bred crowd from appreciating their level of musicianship. Speaking of 'hardcore', the closing track "Demolition" (which had been brought forward from their Live, Suffer, Die demo in '85) definitely has a dark, slow punk-core riff in there, but it's betrayed by the fuzzy leads that stretch through the opening minute. Good lead here, and a nice, grooving bridge loaded with rapid mutes...in truth this is the best song here.
Brain Death suffers a bit that it's namesake drags on and also appears on Game Over, but all told this was a successful sampler for what the New Yorkers had to offer. If you can get it on the cheap, or you're a collector, it might be worth having for the rare tracks. As an introduction to their work, though, skip straight to the sophomore Survive.
Verdict: Indifference [6.75/10] (the scalpel they're sticking in you)