Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Coroner - No More Color (1989)

How does one improve upon perfection? What does one offer a king who lacks for no worldly possession? Coroner have your answer, but you'll have to traverse the cold and mechanical depths of their third album No More Color to understand why. Having already embarked on a remarkable musical journey into the tortured, glorious back waters of human sanity through their stunning debut R.I.P. and its colossal, flawless followup Punishment for Decadence, the Swiss set upon themselves to broach modernity. Thus the cleaner, clinical production found here, the more biting eaves of progressive thrash and lyrics honed even more focally onto depression, social unrest, pathology and media mindwashing. Yet, there is no sign shown here of abandoning the spurious fits of technical brilliance that first manifest through R.I.P.

This album is unbelievable. Now I love Punishment for Decadence like any man would love a skilled handjob, but No More Color is somehow even more important. In all honesty, if some theoretical situation were to arrive in which I was to be incarcerated and allowed only about ten albums to take with me, I could not pass on this.. Each of the eight compositions is highly potent, polished and writhing with ideas. It doesn't fly off the hook quite so much as Punishment, but here the effect of the band's proficiency is more one of drugged, surgical envelopment from which there is no escape from the ensuing paranoia. A labyrinthine lobotomy, each node of the human brain then being jolted with electrodes of pleasure and pain. It's a little less airy than the first two albums, the band having cycled towards its third producer/engineer in three albums. Pete Hinton's mix is a more confrontational and direct than Harris Johns or Gary Bidmead, with the riffing more central and swaggering and loud.

Most importantly, this is a burst of fresh, carnal creativity. Punishment was a heightening and polishing of the R.I.P. aesthetic benchmark, but No More Color takes Vetterli's incessant riffing genius into new corridors of clarity. "Die By My Hand" is one of the best metal songs I've ever heard, opening with Edelmann's escalating kit warfare into a harrowing, complex groove and a triumphant chorus break over which Tommy's punctual squealing marries Royce's predictable, dark poetry to give the impression that some insane choir of killers is howling it at both the witness and the empty sky. "No Need to Be Human" conjures a razor-like, numbing guitar rhythm with dense, compact fills and a Brave New World dystopian lyrical slant. 'Why do you do this...stop it now/'cos in fact you're innocent, like a newborn child' might not seem like such a clever chorus, but when placed in the beautiful rhythmic pattern here it's emotionally wrenching, and both of the bridges are effortlessly executed: the first a fast, cyclic thrashing and the latter evoking some bluesy slides before the well balanced cavorting of the lead.

"Read My Scars" starts and stops with warlike pallor, then emits another excellent verse riff with incredible fills, especially the mix of bass and guitar melody around :40, and the speed metal outbreak over which Vetterli scales off in the bridge. "D.O.A." is fucking surgery incarnate, with one of the most creepy, unnerving thrusts of guitar in the verse that make you feel as if you were literally on the table, under the damned knives, praying to escape malpractice as the local chirurgeon's eyes glare at you, curious and bloodshot. I don't know if I could pick a favorite on No More Color, but "Mistress of Deception" (along with "Die By My Hand") threatens such status with a frenetic fill at 1:00 that threatens to make the listener's eyes melt out of his/her already impacted cranium. Other points to note are the rhythm guitar below the middle of the lead at around 1:40, and the popping flux of the bridge beginning around 2:30. Yeah. Go change your shorts, I've already done the same.

Yet, Coroner has even more strategies at work. "Tunnel of Pain" hammers out a kinetic, rapid bass intro before it spirals out into the rafters like a love child of Escher and Beethoven. Totally love the bridge here, a moment of shining near-tranquility below which Royce's bass throbs before the incredible, minimal breakdown at around 2:20, soon joined by arching leads. "Why It Hurts" maintains the steady thrust of the previous song, a stolid and acrobatic thrashing with a break that screams out at you (1:15) before Tommy T Baron once again begins an exercise in making the listener jealous of his craftsmanship. "Last Entertainment", the suitable end to this bout of maddened audio mirth, is the most experimental. Steve Rispin's guest synthesizers ramble off behind a choppy mid-paced escalation, joined by a spoken word narrative, made strangely poignant by the strong accent of Royce. However, there are some beautiful leads here and its truly atmospheric, sucking the observer straight into a new reality of light and shadow.

You'll have to forgive my excess gushing over this one. No More Color is an album that changed me, changed my perception of what was possible within the metal genre. Like several others that had come before it: Reign in Blood, Master of Puppets, Powerslave, Killing Technology or Abigail to name only a few, it helped test the boundaries of what was possible in this medium, a staunch and serious evolution that dispensed with the trends and stereotypes. This isn't exactly Twisted Sister or Quiet Riot. It's artistry is far more daring. There is not a second on this album I would change if I was even given a time machine and complete license to do so. It is perfection from fore to aft, and though it's not the first such summit reached by this Swiss legend, it's the first to which I'd direct any intrepid explorer who wishes to shoulder its brilliant burden. Own it. Or continue to suck as a human being.

Verdict: Epic Win [10/10] (lost between machines)

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