Thrash metal is one of the longest running obsessions of my metal music listening and its power knows no bounds more than 5 years after I hit the ground running with it. Thrash metal had really begun to hit it’s stride in the mid ’80s and by the end of the decade some of the sound had grown a little stale and bands like Metallica were changing their style by streamlining their original sound. It takes one band with an incredible amount of ingenuity to influence another, let alone a whole genre, and while Celtic Frost began to spew their vile combination of thrash and doom metal, which went on to strongly influence the development of future black and death metal; it ultimately was their road crew whose grandiose vision saw the light of day and was able to push thrash in new directions. Celtic Frost’s talented road crew became Coroner hailing from Zurich, Switzerland, and while they never got as much attention outside of Europe as they deserved; they helped shape an ailing scene. Their fourth album Mental Vortex is the focal point of this week’s edition of The Throwback.
Coroner is well known in metal circles for being “the Rush of thrash metal” as their combination of thrash riffing with progressive atmosphere had not been seen before. Album opener “Divine Step (Conspectu Mortis)” sees the band combine all of the aforementioned attributes into something that made them unique and something also that seems very unlike the year 1991 in which it was released. The thrash metal structure is all there as Ron Royce’s vocals and Tommy T. Barons’s complex riffing are made even better with each listen.
Following this is one of the band’s more well known songs “Son Of Lilith”, which discusses the birth of evil which uses its youth to its advantage and can hold you in the grip of death for as long as it inevitably wants; lyrically there are even allusions to Dante’s Inferno as they mention “I’m coming out of the void/ Along a spiral trace/ Escorted by a thousand souls/ Remembered but still unknown” with the circles of hell in full detail. Who said that progressive music of any kind didn’t have excellent lyrical content?
“Sirens” begins with some fast paced riffing and then slows to a progressive crawl as if led by a demonic Alex Lifeson. In terms of the musical content the song has a very similar structure to the work of Voivod, but lyrically it seems as though Coroner paint a much more vivid picture: “Time is returning to its realm/ And it’s slowly melting away/ Like deep red wax/ Leaving pools of blood”. “Pale Sister” is the most upfront of the tracks with the overt thrash and fast paced flow, save for some breaks of insanely complex riff structures. Progressive metal was once termed by Queensryche‘s Geoff Tate as “thinking man’s metal” and the juices continue to flow in a more abrasive form than in the more traditional style of progressive metal albums seeing as Mental Vortex could not be in that same class with their thrash leanings. ”Paralyzed she’s followin’/ The ancient message/ It’s more much more/ Than just belief” ends the song and the message of religion (a common one in metal) is shown for the overt show of weakness that some portray it to be and with plenty of aplomb to boot.
The original content from the album ends with the track “About Life” and the riffs here really drags you through the proverbial mud; kicking and screaming, yet enjoying this vicious and violent onslaught for what it is. Yet again the thought put into lyrics like “A public where death’s reduced/ To be excitement/ In late night news/ In a time/ Where children learn/ To ignore the world/ Around them.” ring more true in 2012 than they did in the 21 years between now and this album’s release. The guitar effects when the songs slows almost make it feel as though a gas is being released and having your mind changed to something else a la Aldous Huxley‘s fantastic Brave New World. The album ends with a fantastic cover of The Beatles‘ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and puts their spin on a classic and for those that hate that band their influence is immeasurable.
For fans lucky enough, Coroner reformed to perform at Maryland Deathfest IX in 2010 and performed a song from every album. Coroner is nothing if not consistent as they leaned heavily on thrash in the beginning (R.I.P., Punishment For Decadence) and moved towards progressive (No More Color, Mental Vortex, Grin) and made a big splash in the metal world causing a wave that is still being felt to this very day; and for that we can all be happy. Feel free to drop me a comment about a band you’d like to see covered, or just leave one as a sign of good faith. For what I’m currently listening to you can always check out my Last.fm page if you like. Let’s get both progressive and thrashy. Until next week, be prepared to be grim and frostbitten.