Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Coroner - Coroner (1995)

Coroner is the final 'official' release by the band of the same name, a studio compilation. Though it reeks of contract filler, and Coroner had already disbanded, the trio had the decency to actually head into the studio, pull in some session musicians when the schedules and ideas weren't in sync, and lay out some new and unreleased material. Thus, the fans who were obvious dismayed by the breakup (and I was one of them) wouldn't feel poached of their hard earned money. I would have much rather had an entire disc of new content, even if it was rehashed b-side material, but at the very least they didn't just phone in some remastered or 100% reprinted tracks and walk out on us.

That said, of the three threads running their course through this collection, two of them are almost entirely disposable. First we have the reprinted element: one track taken from each of the band's five studio albums, a miniature 'Greatest Hits'. The choices here are obvious, but not necessarily disagreeable: "Reborn Through Hate" (R.I.P.), "Masked Jackal" (Punishment for Decadence)", "Last Entertainment (T.V. Bizarre)" (No More Color), "Serpent Moves (Grin)", and "Divine Step (Conspectu Mortis)" (Mental Vortex). They've also included "I Want You (She's So Heavy)", the Beatles cover from Mental Vortex. Why they would choose to run with this and not "Semtex Revolution" or "Pale Sister" is baffling, but it leads to the second largely dispensable segment of this disc: The covers.

In addition to the Beatles tune, they include their ragga inflected rendition of "Purple Haze" which was included on the CD for Punishment for Decadence, and a version of D.A.F's "Der Mussolini" which is honestly quite fun, the only piece in this paragraph that contributes to the price of admission. Not that the selections are bad, mind you, but what Coroner fan did not already own them all on their original discs? Essentially, I've just rattled off 8/16ths, which is one half of this compilation, and outside of "Der Mussolini" and the warped cover image it's thus far entirely void of value...and I haven't gotten yet to the techno remix of "Grin [No Religion Remix]", which while not entirely absent of ideas, is about as effective as that Fear Factory remix album was. Bad electro mixes of songs that don't need or want them.

Now we get to the good bits, the unreleased studio material, some of which might have ended up on an album post-Grin had the band not exited stage left. In particular I'd point out the two halves of "Golden Cashmere Sleeper" as being particular strong points of the album. Sure, they maintain the Grin level of simplicity: the former half consisting of repeated, doom-like riffs and scintillating, alarm-like guitar radiance, the second sounding much like something you'd find off one of Joe Satriani's late 80s instrumental albums, especially the clean guitar tone Vetterli has adopted (though Joe would have thrown some bitching solos over the din, these are subdued and sparse). "Gliding Above While Being Below" is another worthwhile slice of tranquility, not unlike "Part 2", and sounding like something Rush might have come up during a smoke break in 1988.

There are a few brief intros and interludes: the marching, eerie ambiance of "Benway's World" and the even more abstract "Snow Crystal". The other unheard songs are "Shifter", which feels very much like a "Divine Step (Conspectu Mortis)" or outtake from Mental Vortex, but not all bad; and "The Favorite Game", which is fairly flush with the Grin material. Simple chugging rhythms, nice atmosphere, melodies, and a few of those whammy bar Voivod effects (all too briefly). I don't love the vocals here, but it's one of the better listens on the disc, and helps justify its existence.

If you're coming into this band with no experience behind you, trust me when I tell you to skip straight past this and acquire No More Color, Punishment for Decadence and then R.I.P. in that order. That is the meat of Coroner's career, the works that in the long run will have become the most hallowed and transcendent. But Mental Vortex and Grin would also be a better investment. The Coroner comp is a last resort, for those who are desperately in love with the band and were clinging on to any hope left us that the band would not dissolve after all. Yeah, it does have a sampling of the studio albums, but what good would it do, for example, to only have access to "Last Entertainment" and not the rest of No More Color? I'd rather off myself. As for the newer studio material, it's not bad, but I couldn't consider it a fair representation of their career, as it's more experimental, packing far more 'whimsy' than the full-lengths, and soon forgotten. While it's admirable that the Swiss were opposed to bilking their listeners with a pure Greatest Hits release, this honestly could have been better (for example, it might have included more from the self-issued unknown tracks tape they were handing out).

Verdict: Indifference [6/10]

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