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Well here we are with another Thrash act's "sell-out" album. Actually this is not a "sell-out" album by any means (that title is reserved for other acts), it's just a curse that happened to just about every thrash band during the 90's; Band X releases some now well-renowned album, builds a following, enjoys success, and then comes the changing of the tide. Band X tries something different or tries to keep up with the times and then so hits the "what used to be a good band but we still love them" feel amongst their fan base which is usually divided into two camps: Camp A being the ones who fucking swear by their masterpieces and want nothing to do with anything else and simply won't acknowledge or forgive a band for changing...(which I think not every band deserves these types of conservative-minded douche bags)...and then there is Camp B which are the ones who were never around during the band's heyday and later on found out about them and somehow find that the majority of their music both their best and supposedly worst music is all good by their ears. I'm more of a Camp B type of metal head. Variety is the spice of life, that goes with food, music, sex, etc. Y'know it keeps things interesting and never stale or banal or same ol' same ol'. Truth be told only certain bands can put out the same style of music for over 30 years and get away with it, others do and they try to convince themselves that they are still relevant, and then there are those that just are doing everything in their power to stay active by whatever means possible. Coroner doesn't really fit any of those 3 options.
Coroner were one of those here today/gone tomorrow type acts who found some success and released some really technical thrash albums during when thrash was still able to reign with ease. Meaning they weren't a trendy type of mundane thrash, they were quite the opposite actually. They definitely had their own style, sense of personality, sense of originality, and sense of following their own path. Plus they also had help from fellow Swiss Celtic Frost main man Tom G. Warrior to add to their resume. This all helps Coroner in the long run. Kinda like the black sheep of the thrash metal genre. Not so much hated, but they were doing their own thing when everyone was trying to sound like the big 4 of thrash. So after 3 excellent albums of them showing how well they were able to progress by leaps and bounds, the 90's come with "Mental Vortex" and it's not as thrashy or over-fucking-technical-with-a-million -riffs such as "No More Color" which is seen as an unspoken masterpiece (my vote goes to "Punishment Of Decadence" on that topic). But it's still a legitimate thrash album. Slightly more toned-down but still thrash....a couple years later and it's 1993. Thrash is officially fucking killed off. Coroner releases "Grin" and like a lot of bands, they simply got tossed aside.
"Grin" is not a bad album by any means. No. "Grin" is one of those type of albums where the band starts saying "Well, guess we better start playing something more modern if we want to keep some sort of success"-type thing. Didn't work. I think after "Mental Vortex" they had progressed so much that they done everything within their means and limits that they just couldn't do it. Even when they do with "Grin", you can hear the band is simply not as energetic or enthusiastic as they once sounded. The sound production is nice and warm sounding. Every instrument is well-sounding. Drums? Pounding. Bass? Throbbing. Guitars? Crystal clear. Vocals? I hear'em. It's all there. It's just the style had differed. Coroner sounds even more toned-down and more mid-90's sounding. There's more groove. There's more quasi sampling. Not as technical. Not as blazing fast. Riffs? Simplistic. The lyrics? More cryptic in a way. "Grin" is just a tough nut to crack. It sounds more Prong-influenced than anything else....specifically Prong's "Beg To Differ" album/era.
The only song that may seem Coroner-like is "Internal Conflict" with it's speed. But this speed is more Ministry-esque. There's no drum machines or any Industrial of the sort, but the song resonates a strong Ministry-tone. It's a good riff. Damn good riff. But it's extremely simplistic. Songs such as "Paralyzed, Mesmerized" and "Status: Still Thinking" are slower, more lurching and heavy on being moody where as others such as "Caveat (To The Coming)" which is simply put one of the weirdest intro melodies ever to a Coroner song, weaves in and out of a simplistic Prong groove. I would have liked to see Coroner take that intro riff and built something around it because it stands out as one of those melodies where you could have seen the band do something better with rather go into something that is not as exciting. "Serpent Moves"...mmm....oh yeah that's Prong alright. Even going past Prong to a Helmet vibe. I mean, yes it's 1993, but Nu-Metal hasn't even hit yet. Yeah it does get a bit testy in some areas. Even the instrumentals see the band struggling to put something in there to add as filler and unfortunately that's all they are. They're not memorable. The only other song that seems to stick-out is the title track which is minimal thrash.
All and all, "Grin" is just a weird album. It's a good weird album, but a weird album nonetheless. Another example of how thrash died a silent death in 1993 when Black and Death Metal were dominating the landscape with more sonic/brutal/eviler forms of metallic distortion. I wouldn't advise a person who has never heard of Coroner before to start with this album as a form of introduction. Start with their first 3 albums then progress forward only if you have an open-mind.