Coroner - Mental Vortex
Noise Records
Technical Thrash Metal
8 songs (47:30)
Release year: 1991
Noise Records
Reviewed by Bar

It boggles the mind to imagine, but by some twisted bastardisation of fate, Mental Vortex was largely overlooked at the time of its release. Of course, this had nothing to do with the quality of the album and a hell of a lot to do with the rapid rise of Death Metal and the commercial juggernaut that was Grunge, but it’s still a damned embarrassment. With that in mind, it’s comforting to know that in the 20+ years since its release, Coroner have retrospectively been acknowledged for providing the world with one of the finest Technical Thrash albums of all time. Not a moment too soon either because let’s face it, this thing is a bloody masterpiece.

One of the things that made Coroner so great was that they never put out an album that was stylistically identical to its predecessor. I suppose it makes sense, then, that Mental Vortex was the biggest departure yet from the aggressive, no-holds-barred approach we were originally treated to back on their debut. In their career up until that point, the progression of their albums seemed to focus on increasingly expansive and technical song writing that still retained most of the speed and hostility of their humble thrashy beginnings. On Mental Vortex, however, Coroner decided to slow the pace down considerably and frame their compositions in a kind of sonic space that they had never really attempted. While it might be true that some of the fireworks of their previous efforts is sacrificed for the sake of this transition, what we’re left with are some of the most beautifully concise tracks the trio ever committed to record.

In comparison to their highly regarded previous effort, No More Color, this album can initially seem a little quaint. Where previously the band had achieved complexity with a dizzying, constant barrage of notes, Mental Vortex displays a much more methodical approach to song construction. If it seems quaint at first, you probably just haven’t given it enough time. In my opinion, Coroner simply had to put out an album like this eventually. For a band with the ability to consistently write world class riffs, it only makes sense that they should play to their main strength and that’s exactly what Mental Vortex does. It’s like their love letter to the art of the Thrash riff. Of course, at this point Coroner fan had expected a certain level of intricacy, and the band found new and exciting ways to implement this under their new writing style. Across the tracks we find a much heavier emphasis than before on non-standard, shifting time signatures, quirky tonal dynamics and unconventional chord progressions. So although it might sound more simplistic at first, an argument could be made for Mental Vortex as Coroner’s most progressive album of all.

I also have to mention the cover of the Beatles’ I Want You (She’s So Heavy) . While it may not fit in perfectly with the original material, it really is a wonderful curiosity and I’m so glad we have it. This is just the way a cover should be executed. It takes the original track and transfers it into an utterly different style seamlessly, adding all the sonic benefits that thrash can provide while losing none of what made the song great to begin with.

Coroner plied their art for the true love of it. That’s evident because the sad fact is that they never had much of an audience while they were still active. Regardless, they always sought to expand and evolve the limits of what Thrash could represent. That’s what made them the single most important band from the second wave of Thrash, and I’m sure few would disagree if I said they were one of the most important of all.

Killing Songs :
Son of Lillith, Semtex Revolution, Metamorphosis, Pale Sister, About Life, I Want You (She's So Heavy)
Bar quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by Coroner that we have reviewed:
Coroner - No More Color reviewed by Charles and quoted CLASSIC
Coroner - Punishment for Decadence reviewed by Aaron and quoted 96 / 100
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