Coroner: Mental vortex

11/11/11  ||  Habakuk


When I saw staffer IG starting to re-cover the Coroner discography,
this time around I had to make sure to get my reviewing share of this
awesome band with an absolutely flawless legacy and secured myself
“Mental Vortex”. In hindsight, it’s always tempting to draw connections
between a band’s albums and make up some storyline about where the
different elements of their sound surfaced and whatnot, but with Coroner
it’s not just tempting, it’s impossible to disregard the almost linear
progression from album to album.

So, I won’t try to go all “new angle” on this and state that “Mental
Vortex” as their second to last full-length consequently shows them at a
very mature stage, soundwise. In order to find out why, please refer to
the following paragraphs:


As most will know, the band had started off as a full-on, fast
thrash band of skilled musicians. They perfected this sound on “No More
Color”, the immediate predecessor to this. “Mental vortex” starts in the
same vein, but then shifts towards a slower, groove-heavier sound that
was later perfected on “Grin”. So, as a transition record, it’s is
probably a bit half-assed? Wrong.

It instead perfected transition, combining the best of both worlds.
Let me get one thing straight before any harm is done – If people read
groove and thrash, they’ll immediately think of Pantera and the likes.
Forget about that. Again: Forget about that. It will totally mislead you
about how this sounds. Coroner never use blunt chugging or any Phil
Anselmo-isms, but always rely fully on razor sharp precision and a much
more reserved manner.

Which leaves us with the beauty of listening to pure
song-craftsmanship at work. For example, if you ever put together a book
about climatic buildups (hey, who knows…), I dare you to include
“Metamorphosis”. It’s the perfect way of doing it. What starts as a
simple drumbeat with some animal samples (yeah, like at the zoo!), is
combined with a bad-ass riff which eases up into a swirl, only to come
back with more force from the drums, then morph into an even more
bad-ass mid-tempo shred section, then the ante is raised and the vocals
come in. THIS. IS. HOW. YOU. DO. IT. The rest of the song keeps the tension high, so really, check this one out.

The other songs are harder to explain as they don’t seem to follow
such linear formulas, but let it be stated that catchiness, complexity
and flow are all to be found at whatever point you fast forward this
album to. Special mention should probably go out to the Beatles cover of
“I want you (she’s so heavy)”. Needless to say, Coroner put their stamp
on it, so I guess it’s a legit try, but I’m not especially fond of it.
Don’t hate it either, but it does mark the weakest link on this album
for me. 9


Very well-balanced, this album’s production clearly had an agenda
(huh?), namely to sound clean: It has an almost surgical sound. The
guitars cut cleanly like scalpel blades, with bass taking a clear back
seat in order not to interfere too much. The drums’ reverb is cut
quickly and only rarely (then purposefully) allowed to fully sound, and
the cymbals are very low as a whole, which makes the drums appear very
snappy and tight, but they keep a very natural sound and fit well into
the soundscape. Sure, it’s not super punchy, but that isn’t needed. I’d
totally rate this a complete success. 8.5


A lot of the awesomeness of “Mental vortex” lies in the guitar’s combination of swirling fretboard work which is all about what notes are played, and “simple” note-shredding which is purely about when
they are hit. So, a dumb explanation to why this is great is: Tommy
Vetterli plays good notes at good times. Sounds easy, is hard. The
precision and timing to his riffing is above flawless and flows even
throughout the weirdest of rhythm changes, and many bits of his “normal”
lead work could pass as a little solo with most guitarists. As if that
weren’t enough, he adds great, dissonant open-palmed playing and really
good solos on top of that, too. The way these songs flow seamlessly owes
a great deal to the guitar, and it is something that no-one that likes
guitars (YOU!) should give a pass. 10


Ron Royce has a nasty snarl that isn’t always easy to understand,
but accompanies the music perfectly and adds a kind of cynical overtone
that suits it just well. Coroner are a band where the vocals just go
along instead of making the album, or worse, ruining the whole thing. 7


Unusually subdued for a three-piece, the bass is still there with a
very “classic” sound that mainly adds low-end rather than crunch. The
fact alone that Ron Royce follows the guitar very cleanly through most
of its proceedings while singing however shows that he is in no way just a guy to fill the spot. 8


Another, if not the most important piece in the clockwork that was
Coroner, Marquis Marky not only sported the shittiest stage name, but
also an awe-inspiring precision that made all kinds of grooves work by
the most basic means. There’s no overusing of cymbals or toms, in fact
there is nothing that makes anyone used to today’s hummingbirds’ jaw
drop. Most of the work is done just by bass drums, hi-hat, snare, and
works like a charm. It does sometimes give the whole thing a bit of a
stale feeling, but actually it suits the spotlessly clean style of the
album and is something that once you’ve adjusted to it, is actually very
enjoyable and a much welcome breath of fresh air among the “extreme
drumming” we now get served at every corner. 9


Social commentary, life, death. Good, but I’d lie if I said that I normally pay a lot of attention to them. 7

Cover art

Giving their mid to late albums that “Corporate Identity” with the
same black stripe on the right is one of the coolest things any metal
band has done with their covers. Yep, I’m that easily impressed.
Considering how their sound progressed over the course of these
releases, it serves as a nice counterpart. And yeah, the blurred-out
dude is alright, too. I dig their idea of always keeping humans in the
picture. For this kind of album title, most other bands would probably
have used an image like “From beyond” or something. 8


Hey wait, Motörhead had that one earlier! Does it matter? Nope. Curvy white-on-black Ye Olde English font logos rule. Always. 9


I actually have it, but not here, I just moved. I’ll just hand out 6 points to myself for being an above-average dude. Again: 6

Overall and ending rant

Yeah, what else needs to be said? Coroner still are a
criminally underrated band, and this album is a good starting point to
get familiar with them (actually it was mine, as well) as it marks a
spot in the band’s career from which both directions in their evolution
can be clearly traced. And it is super-awesome, to boot! Go, buy,
listen, spread!


  • Information
  • Released: 1991
  • Label: Noise Records
  • Website: Coroner MySpace
  • Band
  • Ron Royce: vocals, bass
  • Tommy Vetterli: guitars
  • Marquis Marky: drums
  • Tracklist
  • 01. Divine step (Conspectu Mortis)
  • 02. Son of Lilith
  • 03. Semtex Revolution
  • 04. Sirens
  • 05. Metamorphosis
  • 06. Pale Sister
  • 07. About life
  • 08. I want you (She’s so heavy)

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This entry was posted on June 29, 2014 by in Class6(66) and tagged .
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