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What Do We Know "About Life"? Nothing! - 100%

bayern, December 21st, 2011

The Swiss masters of technical thrash concluded the decade with a great album, which was largely considered the culmination of their career; at least by those who never had the patience to wait for two more years, in order to hear the grandiosity which "Mental Vortex" turned out to be. The trio have already managed to prove themselves as true auteurs on the metal field by the end of the decade: well, they have not added a groundbreaking album of the "Into the Pandemonium" proportions into their catalogue, but at the same time they haven't humiliated themselves beyond recognition with something as degrading as "Cold Lake". The new decade was arriving with new territories to be explored. How would the three youths from Zurich be able to answer to those new demands...

"Mental Vortex" is the musical analogue to the immaculate machines which the Swiss watches have had the reputation to be all these years: the riffs click and clock with the utmost precision until the very end(including on the very individual, kind of frivolous, take on the The Beatles' "I Want You (She's So Heavy)", with not a single note played just for the sake of it. Every riff and lead have been carefully calculated, as though an invisible clockwork mechanism, which makes absolutely no mistakes, has been working behind the scenes the whole time. Well, so where is all this spontaneity with which this genre has been so proud with eversince its inception? The answer in this particular case is: nowhere. But when this perfectly constructed work has been done the Coroner way, it's anything else, but boring and soulless. On the contrary: it has been made into one of the finest albums to ever grace the metal scene in general.

The sample introduction, which is taken from the Stuart Gordon cut film "Re-Animator" (based on a Lovecraft story), may be viewed as a cliche pretty common for the genre, and probably not promising much in terms of originality. But once the clinical, sterile riffs of the opening "Divine Step (Conspectu Mortis)" start cutting, twisting and turning into the least expected directions, one would quickly realize that there is quite a "metamorphosis" witnessed here, and one which is by all means worth delving into. Before continuing, however, one should also leave all his/her illusions behind: there would be neither warm subtlety here nor any lyrical, melodic digressions which worked so well on "No More Colour", giving it another unique, but in a different way, character. With those illusions left aside, one can continue to enjoy the otherwordly technicality on the string of tracks ("Son of Lilith", "Semtex Revolution", " Sirens", "Metamorphosis") which follows, containing the definitive technical compilation of riffs on the whole scene. The compositions are encyclopaedias of puzzling riff-patterns and labyrinthine song-tructures which are utterly logical, and never get lost in a senseless display of mastery, like it has been the case on other, less cleverly "plotted", efforts.

The dynamics is so big that one would hardly notice the reduction in terms of speed, the latter handsomely provided by "Pale Sister" and "About Life", consummate technical headbangers with a unique mechanical feel, which was strange even to Meshuggah at that time; there the band's infatuation with the horror genre springs up again: the closing voice sample at the end of "About Life" has been taken from Clive Barker's "Hellraiser". So far, so perfect... Having already covered Jimmy Hendrix's "Purple Haze" on "Punishment for Decadence", the ever unpredictable trio decide to "massacre" The Beatles this time in their own way, and here comes the already mentioned cover of the Brits' ""I Want You (She's So Heavy)", which is "so heavy" indeed, that it may have tumbled everything, which has been heard previously, down on any other album; but not here. This slightly off-context track scores highly on originality thanks to the "heavy" doomy approach which the guys epitomize as a welcome shift from the very demanding, clockwork delivery served so far. And it works...

This album showed an obvious move towards a more updated, modern sound which, mixed with the still prevailing old school patterns, could only have split the fanbase into two camps: those who would embrace the new ideas whole-heartedly and follow them all the way to "Grin"; and those who would start pulling out due to their conservative views and stubborn devotion to the dying classic formulas. Neither side should be blamed for its stance, of course, but those with ears (and heart; and soul) for the innovative and the pioneering would simply keep silent in wonder before another monument of a musical genius, which literally closed the chapter of classic thrash, along with other works released the same year, by subtly (so there was something subtle here, after all...) drawing paths to be explored in the near future. The band themselves never bothered to follow them, though; instead, they branched out into a less thrashy, industrial direction with "Grin" to wrap it up, thus opening another lane for a further exploration...

So what do we know about life, folks? Exactly.