Sound — 9
Coroner - the band that took music far beyond it's time. After releasing five incredible studio albums and one brilliant demo, the band looked dead set on conquering the world with their exceptional brand of technical jazz-infused thrash, only to be shot down over and over again by none other than their own record label. Instead of sticking to it, the band thought it best to quit whilst they were ahead but they had one problem - their contract stated they owed Noise Records one more album. Luckily, the band managed to compromise and their final, self titled effort is the marvelous result. Rather than being a brand new album with all new material, this is more of a compilation album with a big fistful of new songs thrown in to sweeten the deal a little. Now, many people frowned upon the band's last record "Grin" for being too mainstream or too linear by Coroner's standards, but many more praised the record as another massive achievement - these people will maintain their opinions with the newer material on show here. Songs like 'The Favorite Game' and 'Shifter' are a brilliant continuation on the previous album's sinister, dark atmosphere, with a bit more groove tinges than before (mostly due to the band's decision to tune to C#, a favourite tuning in groove metal). These songs certainy showcase the sound that the band was heading for, with a lot more experimentation with grooves and even keyboards, but the tracks manage to hold up very well as a part of the Coroner's catalogue. Tommy Vetterli's solos are still present and just as flavoursome as ever, guitar fanatics will not be disappointed with his performances here. Other tracks such as 'Benway's World' and 'Snow Crystal' shows the band dabbling in the more atmospheric keyboard-based areas of their sound that they had shown signs of with their previous two efforts, and though they're nothing special they fit in very nicely. The standouts here however, besides the additional tracks form previous releases, are the soothing 'Gliding Above While Being Below' and the one-two punches of 'Golden Cashmere Sleeper', which comes as part one and part two. The former of these tracks is a three and a half minute classic, with very simple bass, drums and clean guitars and Tommy's melodic and somewhat epic soloing over the top. Fantastic stuff to hear from Coroner, it gives this album in particular some more variation and shows that not all metal bands have to be heavy to be incredible. But 'Golden Cashmere Sleeper' is the major standout out of all these new songs, part one especially. It sounds like a song that "Grin" couldn't bear to handle, a fantastic and sinster sounding groove combined with Ron Broder's hypnotic voice makes for a wonderful lisening experience. Part two is more a case of the calm after a storm, being a much lighter (but no less eerie) continuation of part one, and its this double Chasmere combo that makes the album climax. Also thrown into this compilation are Der Mussolini (which, despite being very good, comes across as an oddity as I am unsure whether or not this is a cover or an original song) and two previously unreleased tracks - the 'Grin No Religion Mix' and 'Purple Haze Live Radio Cut'. The No Religion Mix is interesting to say the least - its a techno remix of the same song from the previous album, and most certainly another example of Coroner's habit to relentlessly experiment with everything they can. Thought 'interesting' is the only word I can use to describe this song, as it is a good listen every once in a while but its one thats more down to one's personal taste than anything. The live cut of 'Purple Haze' however, is spectacular - a cleaner version of the song as opposed to the all out, much thrashier version they recorded on "Punishment for Decadence". A very good rendition, and I actually prefer it to their previous version of the song. Not forgetting the classic tracks from their previous albums, the older songs featured on this record are Serpent Moves, Divine Step, Last Entertainment, Reborn Through Hate, Masked Jackal and their cover of The Beatles' 'I Want You (She's So Heavy)', and all of these are for the most part unchanged (with the odd intro taken out or put in). All in all, this compilation is essential for Coroner fans or anyone who is interested in some brilliant music which goes that extra mile that most artists cannot achieve nowadays. On a side note, some session musicians were brought in on a few songs as the band were struggling to collaborate at the time of recording the new tracks. This doesn't affect the quality of the songs though, and this album is still years ahead of it's time despite being released 14 years ago (and in the case of some songs, even longer).
Lyrics — 9
No need for comment a a large majority of the lyrics here, as a lot of these songs are either from older albums or in some cases instrumental. Lyrics for the new songs though... what can I say? Typical Coroner songwriting, covering themes from internal conflicts (pardon the pun) to mental states with masterfully crafted poetic structures. And again with Ron's voice, his performance is as vicious as ever. No need to say anything here, Coroner fans will know what I mean - for a more in-depth analysis of some of the lyrics here, read a review of one the Coroner's other records.
Overall Impression — 10
Sad isn't it, how a band with such massive potential and undeniable talent can fade away into obscurity just when they reach their peak. This compilation is a sad reminder of what was and what could have been, yet the sheer quality that lies within will spread a smile across your face with greatest ease. Some people spit at this album, calling the new material 'groove crap' and giving it the same harsh treatment as many do with "Grin" and this is rather harsh. You can only applaud the band for trying something new, whilst at the same time keeping their sound familiar, still completely different from every other band at the time and most importantly making music that even by today's standards stands high above all contenders and is years ahead of our time. The new tracks on display here showcase their newfound direction perfectly (experimented upon further with Tommy Vetterli's short lived followup band "Clockwork") and the older classics still stand their own and merge with the new material seemlessly. Coroner - both the band and this album - is a name that deserves respect. Remembered but still unknown. "Coroner" was released via Noise Records in 1995 and is now out of print.