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A ritual journey - 93%

MacMoney, September 21st, 2010

Always have Coroner been a bit adventurous and Grin finds the band moving beyond the trappings of thrash to the oft-travelled, but rarely mastered, post-thrash road. When writing the album, Vetterli has clearly taken a step back, looked at his old albums and thought: "These are good, but the next one, it should be clearly different." And it is, quite vastly. You can hear that is it the same band that made Mental Vortex, but without that album inbetween, there is no line to be drawn from the earlier albums to Grin. The material found on the 1993 album is just that distinctly different from the technical thrash that they purveyed before. Gone are the intricate, technical thrash riffs and fast changes in tempo and time signature. Vetterli has decided to go with a much more streamlined approach.

Droning notes emitting from the mouth of a didgeridoo start off the album and are soon joined by tribal percussions. Together these two weave a ritualistic atmosphere, the beginning of a journey on a path to Dreamtime. This sets the tone of the album; it is a journey through the unknown, to the unknown. The traveler is beset by the conjurings of his imagination, the atmosphere of impending dread is omni-present, but it never comes to realization, which just makes it that much more tense. There's no real climax for it all, the dread just builds up and up, but since it is all in the imagination it is never released in the form of an actual materialization of these imagined, unknown horrors. It just slowly fades away at the end of every song, leaving the listener with a distinct sense of unease. This is all achieved with surprisingly little. The verse of "The Lethargic Path" is a good example; one-note riff with a simple one-two drumbeat in the background and the finishing piece; Broder's gruff, monotonic, even robotic vocal delivery. This is how the album works with very simple backgrounds and with either Broder's vocals, a melodic riff or Vetterli's solo in the foreground. Sometimes the first two show up at the same time, but it is comparatively rare.

The single-minded backgrounds are boiled down in the drums. The beats are unchanging for the duration of their parts and there are hardly no fills at all. This serves to provide a ritualistic atmosphere to the album with the slower parts especially feeling a lot like ceremonies to ward off the dangers lurking in the darkness beyond the traveler's field of vision. Usually at the slower parts, Marky's beats are a bit off the beaten path with him hitting the bass and snare at weird times, even if the time signature usually stays at the normal 4/4, adding much to that uneasy atmosphere the album exudes. On songs like Serpent Moves, Status: Still Thinking and Paralized, Mesmerized the beats are leisurely, sort of like they are just sort of jamming around, once again forming a perturbing juxtaposition with Broder's gruff and jarring vocals as well as the images they create. Edelmann was always the least technical member of the band, but the seeming lack of effort at creating unnervingly smooth and relaxed beats to go with the sharp riffs and aforementioned vocals is impressive.

Due to the ritualistic nature of the album, the riffs are always quite simplistic and contained. There's no frantic thrash riffing as on the early albums and also gone is the burgeoning, ever-developing riffs of Mental Vortex. On Grin Vetterli has written riffs that are sharp and effective wholes that are created for only one purpose and exactly that, nothing else. The guitar tone itself is dry and sharp as well, working well together with Vetterli's chosen style. There's not much low-end on it, but that part is brought up well by Broder's bass which is given quite a lot of room in the production. His solos aren't as showy as they used to be either. They're still very melodic and some of the best ever laid down, but they aren't the "cram as many notes into it as I can" solos that he used to play on the first two albums.

As is customary, the best has been saved for last: the last four tracks offer the most masterful writing of the album. Theme for Silence is an interlude of sorts where the didgeridoo of the intro once again makes an appearance, continuing the Dreamtime ritual-theme though this time it echoes as if from a distance and is joined by the sounds of wilderness: The quest is on the way already. This is only a brief waking moment until you fall asleep again. Paralized, Mesmerized is the ultimate of the more loungey feeling songs since Marky's beat never strays from that leisurely beat and feel except for the long tom-fill that leads to the three choruses of the song as well as the more intense last solo spot which also features a thrash riff for a brief moment. The verses feature a simple riff that fades away to give room for Royce's slightly effectized vocals to come in - just like he was singing for a lounge band - and do their creepy work. The tense atmosphere is held up mostly by the melodic riffs Vetterli comes up with combined with the simplistic riffs of the verse. The melody in the first part and the arpeggio in the latter part of the chorus manage this most effectively. Most reminiscent of their earlier work is mayhaps the next song, the title track. It moves at a fast pace and has more of an industrial feel to it in comparison to the rest. The song relies much on this said influence: Gruff direct vocals, grinding, relentless riffs and drums that keep hitting and pounding whether there is or isn't something to hit and pound.

Finally there's just one door, one door unlocked and to be opened and that is Host. All the tension and atmosphere of the album finally culminates on this last song. As is often the case on Grin - the album, everything gets off to a laid back start, Royce's bass taking the lead. It plays a much larger part on this song than others. As things wind down with the bass still in lead, Royce's calm, spoken voice comes in to murmur a few nerve-wracking lines. A guitar - slightly more distorted than before - joins in with the bass and a tom-fill slowly cascades to the surface and as it reaches its zenith, everything is burst loose. The bass and guitar hit the riff full on, drums fully join in and Broder's rough, distorted vocals kick in with a snarl. "It breeds! It lives!" The second half of the song, with the nightmare done and dreamquest completed, the lounge band finally gets its real lounge moment. Broder whips out a fretless bass and really slides up and down those strings while Vetterli stays away, only briefly joining with a vibratoed riff in the background. There is also some lyricless female singing in the background giving the sense of still being in a dream. But at least the nightmare is over. Or is it? As the song nears its end, background keyboards become evident and turn dark with their dissonant riff and as the band fades away, only the dissonance remains and is joined by the sounds of the Host as you realize entering this was all a mistake.