Album of the Week 34-2013: Coroner – Grin

Divisive albums are generally the most interesting in a band’s repertoire. Case in point: ‘Grin’. Up until this album, the Swiss Thrash trio Coroner could hardly do anything wrong. Their brand of interestingly composed and highly technical Thrash got universal acclaim among fans of the genre. Their last full-length studio album heavily divided their fan base though. However, I do think that over time, many people have revisited the album and they must have felt sorry for not recognizing it as the masterpiece it is the first time around.

What makes ‘Grin’ such a radical departure from Coroner’s earlier work is the difference in approach. Coroner has always been somewhat Jazzy in their interpretation of Thrash, but where the previous albums focused on the frenzied complexity of the genre, ‘Grin’ is simpler, laid-back and based on groove rather than blazing speed. This is without any doubt the most laid-back Thrash record in my collection. There’s still no doubt about what band this is though; Ron Broder’s trademark bark and Tommy Vetterli’s exciting dissonant riffs are still very much in place.

Despite the supposed lack of variation, ‘Grin’ is a record I never grow tired of. The increased focus on ambience and the slower tempos account for a dark atmosphere which makes certain passages borderline scary as hell when listening to the album in the dark. In fact, ‘Grin’ is an album you can just relax to, as opposed to many Thrash albums – including Coroner’s own – that require full attention in order to completely grasp what’s going on.

Coroner still is very much behind the album. On their recent reunion tours, the majority of the set was made up of ‘Grin’ tracks. In fact, opening the set is usually ‘Internal Conflicts’, a track that still has a lot happening, but it’s going on much more subtle than before. Tommy Vetterli’s solo is near divine on the song and the slowed down chorus has a dangerous atmosphere. Opening track ‘The Lethargic Age’ is the shortest song on here, but is in no way the short, fast track its length may suggest. It very well sets the mood for the album though.

However, near the end of the album, its true perfection shines through. ‘Paralyzed, Mesmerized’ and ‘Grin (Nails Hurt)’ are this album’s evil, but perfect twin brothers. The former is lead by a fantastic, almost hypnotizing guitar theme courtesy of Tommy Vetterli – who, again, plays one of the best ever guitar solos in the track – and works towards multiple climaxes throughout its eight minutes, while the latter is the musical equivalent of walking into someone who scares the crap out of you in a dark alley. In a sense, the track sums the album up well; its moderation makes it all the more dark and evil. Broder has sounded more aggressive, but his vocals have rarely sounded as hateful as in this song. The band impressively works through climaxes here; the song swells in tension by only slight alterations in the “until I lose” bits, followed by the release of the polka-based outro. Simply brilliant.

Don’t let anyone who compares this to what Prong or Ministry was doing at the time fool you. The ideology behind it may be similar, but ‘Grin’ definitely spots different results. Unique results even. ‘Grin’ is unlike any album you have ever heard. But then again, Coroner was never your average Thrash band, was it?

Recommended tracks: ‘Grin (Nails Hurt)’, ‘Paralyzed, Mesmerized’, ‘Internal Conflicts’

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