Swiss metal three-piece Coroner is a force to be reckoned with. From their early Death Cult demo to their last studio album Grin, Coroner consistently maintained a strong foothold on the metal scene while improving and progressing with content and style over time through the ever-changing musical soundscape. Featuring Ron Broder on bass and vocals, guitar virtuoso Tommy Vetterli, and drummer Marky Edelmann, these Swiss metal gods are quite possibly the most underrated metal band in history.
Lyrically, the band covered typical metal subject matter such as politics, hatred, anger, and violence, though they also showed a flair for the gothic with their first two albums, R.I.P. and Punishment for Decadence. With songs such as the instrumental ‘Nosferatu’ and ‘Skeleton On Your Shoulder’ the band evoked a career long obsession with death and the macabre. Tracks like ‘Voyage to Eternity’ follow the last minutes of an astronaut drifting out in space, the claustrophobia and paranoia both unsettling and almost welcoming as he makes his peace. These first two albums chronicle the band’s early thrash metal days, often fast and furious, with each release resulting in a more polished effort in both style and production. No More Color continues with the musical progression, but also displays a marked difference lyrically. As the rhythms became more repetitive and tribal, the lyric stanzas grew shorter, though with more impact. Broder’s rough vocals worked with the rhythms to string the songs’ sections together, while Vetterli’s guitar work really began to shine, with more thoughtful solos incorporating fluid arpeggios against his scruffy chords.
Their final two studio albums, Mental Vortex and Grin, are the pinnacles of their career and follow a musical evolution mixing thrash metal with a more progressive and industrial sound. With Mental Vortex (1991), the band used soundbites from horror films such as Reaninimator and Hellbound: Hellraiser II, a distorted image of Anthony Perkins in Psycho for their album cover, as well as real radio audio from the Kennedy assassination, to their advantage with chilling results. Lyrically, we find the band straddling the line of ambiguity, using visceral imagery of pools of blood and decay to raise questions about our own mortality, often playing both sides of the coin as destroyer or savior. Tracks such as ‘Son of Lilith’, ‘Sirens’, and ‘Pale Sister’ evoke our memories of the mythology they reference against the crushing weight of our increasingly violent world. Other songs, such as ‘Semtex Revolution’ puts us in the head of a sniper, barreling down on his target, hellbent for revolution at any cost. The album closes with an excellent cover of The Beatles ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’, which is basically a showoff piece worth the price of admission alone.
Grin (1993) proves Coroner was truly a band ahead of its time, combining pounding rhythms and blistering solos with sprinkles of industrial timing and precision that rivals the best of the artists of today. Though not as steeped in horror imagery, here we find the music capturing the dark tone better than the words could ever hope to. And yet, some tracks, such as ‘Host’ provide the scariest of lines.
With so many standout tracks on the album, it’s really difficult to pick one that sums up Grin, though ‘Paralyzed, Mesmerized’ may fit the bill. Deliberately slower paced, the track contains the best of Vetterli’s range, with a haunting melody over crunchy chords and a multi-staged solo that may be the best of any Coroner album. From the drone-like intro ‘Theme for Silence’, ‘Paralyzed, Mesmerized’ is one of Coroner’s more creepy songs, and hits all the right places emotionally as well as sonically.
Their final album, Coroner, was released in 1995, after they disbanded, with many of the parts recorded by session musicians. More of a compilation album with a few new songs, it is probably the best single album to display their full range of talent. Including a remix of ‘Grin’, as well as a somewhat reggae version of their cover of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze’, the new material on the album continues their obsession with the darker aspects of the world. The extremely rare The Unknown Unreleased Tracks (1985-1995), originally recorded on cassette, remains the last recordings of the band, and can be found online streaming, though not in a high-quality format. Coroner disbanded in 1994 and went their separate ways.
All is not lost. In 2011, Coroner got back together, playing several festival venues to great acclaim, yet maintaining a ‘no new material’ mindset. In 2014, Marky Edelmann decided to leave the band. One month later, drummer Diego Rapacchietti replaced Edelmann, and the band finally committed to recording some new songs. They went into the studio in 2016 and hope to not only have a new album out in 2018, but plan on rereleasing their back catalogue of albums. Apple Music and iTunes have both Mental Vortex and Grin available at the time of writing, and Amazon has their first four studio albums available for streaming. The band has mentioned their new material is a continuation of the sound of Grin. The good news is that the ‘Rush of thrash metal’ is back, cranking out the jams, and ready for world domination once again.