Review Summary: amazingly perfect
Up until this point Coroner had released three excellent albums, each one being more innovative and accomplished than the last, but it wasnt until their fourth outing where they truly utilized their full potential. Mental Vortex marks a big step up in musicianship and a more progressive direction, there is a much greater focus on odd time signatures and unconventional chords which wasnt a common place in thrash at the time but it blends here brilliantly. Guitarist Tommy Vetterli really knows what hes doing, unlike many thrash guitarists his lead playing isnt purely about how fast he can shred, but more how it can add to the atmosphere and mood of the song. The sound of the guitar is spot on too, it has the perfect amount of distortion applied, neither too little or too much which gives the album real clarity. Vocalist and bassist Ron Broder compliments the music greatly, his growls are aggressive but are rather low in the mix as to not take the focus away from the music itself. Although the bass guitar isnt all that audible, it often breaks through the wall of guitars and makes a great impression.
The opener Divine Step is an exceptional track and gives a great idea of whats to come. It is probably the most typical thrash song on the album during the first few minutes, but the bridge section is where Coroner achieved something few other bands in the genre did, true innovation. The song writing is much improved too, even with the increase in musicianship there is no pointless wankery to be found, the riffs are consistently awesome, as are the drums. Marky Edelmann gives his best performance to date, through great use of off beat cymbal work and his tasteful use of double bass, About Life is a good showcase of his skills. The production is ideal for this kind of album, this was a time before every metal album was brick walled and raped of all dynamic range, you can make out small details that would normally be buried in the mix, such as playing imperfections and ghost notes, these things keep the album sounding raw and real. The final track on the album I Want You is a cover of The Beatles classic song. A surprising choice for a thrash band but it makes sense considering how far ahead of other thrash bands they were in terms of variation. It is easily the best cover Coroner ever did and is what a lot of people know the band for.
Mental Vortex as a whole still has the distinctive Coroner sound but ends up pushing it to a new level of complexity and individuality. Every song has something unique about it which keeps there from being any dull moments throughout. This is the album that made sure of the fact that Coroner were unique and most of all, highly significant to the genre. The albums successor Grin marked a departure from technical thrash and moved towards a groovier sound, and for the most part, was a step down in quality. This album remains the bands magnum opus and is easily one of the best albums the genre has to offer. Lets hope their recent reunion brings another innovative masterpiece and saves thrash from the sterile revival scene that is so popular today.