Sound: Coroner were a technical thrash band originating from Switzerland, and this is a review of their forth record "Mental Vortex". Now, anyone who is familiar with Coroner knows exactly what to expect from the band - fast, technical riffs and solos, bizarre time signatures and catchy hooks. Whilst a lot of people argue that the band peaked on their third album "No More Color", and others even say their penultimate record "Grin", it was on this album that they truely redefined and honed their sound and style. Kicking off wth 'Divine Step (Conspectu Mortis)', we're treated to a sample from the movie Reanimator, which then leads tsraight into the sort of riffage you'd usually never get from a Swiss band. The song has plenty of riffs, about four tempo changes and a blistering solo from guitarist Tommy Vetterli. Speaking of Tommy, his guitar playing on this album is absolutely incredible - every single song has it's own merits and this is mostly because of his guitar playing. Following track 'Son of Lilith' is one of the best tracks on the album, with brilliantly catchy, yet technical riffs, a mind boggling solo and some of the most fierce vocals Ron Royce has ever performed. The album never lets up, with 'Semtex Revolution', 'Sirens' and 'Metamorphosis' just building on the foundations set by the first two songs alone. Then we start getting back into what Coroner fans could call familiar territory with 'Pale Sister' and 'About Life'.
These two gems are perfect examples of Coroner's sound, sounding very similar to their earlier material but with the more mature and precise execution and songwriting that's the previous songs on the album have exhibited. Then the final song (and single from the album) is showcased, in the form of a cover of the Beatles song 'I Want You (Shes So Heavy)'. Continuing from where their 'Purple Haze' cover (from their second album "Punishment for Decadence") left off, this song is thrashed up a hell of a lot, and some people say it ruins the record. I don't think so, I think it's a rather spectacular cover and a fantastic reworking of a classic song. I must also give a special mention out to drummer Marquis Marky, who plays so incredibly well on this album that it leaves most other thrash drummer sbiting dust. Well, maybe.
Enough of the performances and songwriting, how about the production eh? Well, this album was produced by Tom Morris, and sounds astounding for 1991. No other thrash album had this much clarity back in those days, so this is a massive surprise to me (as was the case in my "Blessed Is the Blac" review). The guitar tone is crisp, the drums are are the perfect level, everything is mixed to perfection - nothings too quiet or too upfront. In all honesty, it's extremely difficult to find any faults in this albums sound. // 10
Lyrics: Now most people don't listen to Coroner for Ron's voice or lyrics. They want the technical mastery of the instrumentals. However, Ron's voice is aggressive enough to make you listen, with his lyrics being fantastic and poetic. He obviously puts a lot of thought into his lyrics, and there's not generic 'death, kill, blood, satan, war' crap going on here either. The song 'Son of Lilith' explains itself with it's title, but the lyrics consist of extracts such as; "I'm coming out of the void/Along a spiral trace/Escorted by a thousand souls/Remembered but still unknown". I don't know if your taste in lyrics is the same as mine, but I find that amazingly well written and constructed! Other refrains, such as the chorus to 'Divine Step'; "Golden wings/Drawn in blood/What is sin? /And who is God?" Exhibit the possibility of religious undertones, and when trying to dechipher the meaning of these lyrics it's like trying to solve a riddle. // 10
Overall Impression: Here we have a band who sound like no other. Before, at the time, now, even in the future - no one can sound like Coroner. This was a band that was far ahead of their time and if it wasn't for Noise Records unfairly screwing them over, they would've achieved greatness. As they stand, they've already achieved legendary status and despite their breakup in 1995, this album is a testament to the bands legacy. If you like thrash, if you even like metal, buy this record. Even if you're not into metal, you can find something to appreciate on this album. it's progressive, jazz-infused thrash that everyone needs to hear, and it's a devastating thought that we will never know if Coroner will better this album. When faced with an album such as this one, it's very difficult to choose any tracks in particular that really standout from the others, but I'd have to say that 'Divine Step', 'Semtex Revolution', 'Metamorphosis', 'ABout Life' and the rather tasty cover of The Beatles' 'I Want You (Shes So Heavy)' are certainly contenders for the best tracks. But like I said, with albums of this quality it's next to impossible to just pick one or two songs out of eight masterful tracks. heres my advice - buy this album. You will absolutely love it, whether you be a jazz guitarist, a metalhead, a thrasher, itdoesn't matter. Everyone can find something on this album that they love, and I think that this record cemented Coroner's position as one of the most unique bands ever.
Mental Vortex was released in 1991 on Noise Records. All of Coroners albums are still available, with the exception of Grin (1993), Coroner (1995) and The Unknown (1996). The band insists that they have no intention to reform. // 10