Review Summary: A band start climbing their way into ambitious territories.
The mid-eighties was the most flourishing time for thrash metal, the increasing popularity on both sides of the Atlantic of young acts such as Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer or Kreator inspired a brand new generation of bands hungry to explore some yet uncharted territories. If Testament, Forbidden or Xentrix were more...let's say...Metallica oriented, following a more traditional path influenced by the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, bands like Watchtower, Voivod or Coroner incorporated progressive and innovative elements into their aggressive sound, helping to create a more diverse genre catalogue.
Formed by the Celtic Frost roadies Ron Royce, Tommy T. Baron and Marquis Marky, Coroner soon shown a particular taste for avant-garde and experimental musical concepts, however their debut R.I.P was still mainly based on traditional speed-metal neo-classical structures subtle layered with gothic ambiences influenced by their country mates Celtic Frost. Released only one year later, Punishment for Decadence evolved naturally into a more complex sound structure mainly due to the remarkable technical skills of all band members and the creative will to break the established heavy metal boundaries.
Musically, Punishment for Decadence swing between mid-tempo structures and faster sections properly linked with intelligent musical arrangements that keep a sense of direction throughout the album. If somehow the neo-classic instrumental Arc-Lite built a bridge with the previous effort, songs like Absorbed, Skeleton on Your Shoulder or Sudden Fall are definitely a step forward into more sophisticated grounds based on a dynamic rhythm section conducted by Ron Royce and Marquis Marky, a top level performance from the guitar wizard Tommy T. Baron, that instantly become one of the most respected guitar players of the late 80's and also Ron's unique bizarre vocals that gives an unusual mood to the more political and introspective lyrics.
Even if the unexpected Purple Haze cover deserves an honourable mention, the Punishment for Decadence brightest jewel is definitely the amazing Masked Jackal. This song alone perfectly synthesises Coroner's look and feel at this stage of their career and it's almost a show case about how to make an intelligent and powerful thrash metal song, combining high technical arrangements, diverse tempos and multiple melodic ambiences, without losing itself inside overacting musical performances so usually seen on more technical bands.
Overall Punishment for Decadence is a very solid piece of work and fine example of a band start climbing their way into ambitious territories. Even if the sound engineering sometimes sound dated, as expected in a relatively low budget production, Punishment for Decadence helped Coroner to built a solid reputation among the European demanding audiences and still remains one of the most respectable thrash metal albums of the last century.