Review Summary: Closing the career of a truly progressive band, Grin never ceases to amaze, either by its somehow unexpected change to groove/industrial metal, or the fact that it manages to hit its objective, even with its flaws.
Coroner is one of the most amazing bands, that almost no one seemed to know about (until a couple years ago, when they reunited again), but those few that heard them, were nothing but amazed by their unorthodox mix of thrash and classical influences (as seen on their first and second albums, R.I.P and Punishment for decadence), and tremendous musicianship of the band members.
Following with two more records, the critically acclaimed No more color and Mental Vortex, the band progressed even further, by lessening the classical influences and gaining the elusive and mostly forgotten art of good songwriting, even perhaps perfecting it (on Mental Vortex) on the way. It seemed impossible for a band of this caliber to not achieve the top of the metal crown, at the pace they were truly, advancing and progressing.
But by 1993, the whole musical scene had changed: Grunge and alt. rock were taking over the world, death metal replaced thrash as the true underground scene, and most of the thrash and heavy metal bands were adapting their sounds to more commercial ears, being by combining their style with hard rock, or other influences, or just down tuning their sounds to a lesser form of themselves.
And while this was exactly what happened here, Coroner fusing its core sound with a more "groovy" approach and mixing it with industrial influences, the final result is not as bad as one might think. Following the opener , the tribal-instrumental Dream Path, The Lethargic Age kicks in giving us the first and mostly correct impression of the album. Far more groove and repetition is found on the track than in previous albums openers, the bass is clearly more audible and present, and Ron Broder vocals, while still having that harsh sound, are more laidback than before.
So, if this is a dumbed down version of their better records, what makes the album good in the first place? Well, for starters, the production is extremely good, retaining that thrash vibe while letting the new industrial infused parts breathe. As always Coroner inserts some samples on their music (like the beginning of the second track Internal Conflicts, a spoken quote from Alien), this time paired with their new industrial sound, making the record sound a tad more mechanical, but never lifeless thanks to the vocals and instruments. Broder vocals, still retain that thrashy punch, and the lyrics, while being a mixed bag this time (more on that later), are for the most part pretty good, coming from Marky Edelmann genius mind, like in Caveat: To the Coming, the opening and title track, and Paralyzed Mesmerized.
Speaking of Edelmann, his drum patterns are still really good and fitting. While being a former shadow of what he did on previous album, being more simple all around, he still shows tact on where to hit each snare, bass and cymbal. It's a shame that the general direction of this album restricts his playing, but you´ll leave with the impression that everything meant to be accomplished on the drums front , is finely done . Tommy Vetterli guitar playing is still playful and pretty original, being without a doubt one of the best features of the album. You just have to listen to the intro or solo of Paralyzed Mesmerized, the combative riff of Grin or the super groovy Serpent Moves, to know that even being a far more limited display of his skill, Tommy knows how to RIFF. Combined with Broder bass, that has a lot more of presence on this record, you´ll never feel that even with this being a groove album, it's a boring one. Well.... maybe.
And that "maybe" comes from two unquestionable flaws with the album. The first (a minor) one, is the fact that this is, for the most part, a mid-tempo groove album, so you´re going to hear a lot of riffs and melodies being, well, repeated a lot. This is mainly a curse that comes with the genre, but if you can pass that part, as said before, you won't find a lazy riff or musical flaw. Even there being two instrumental filler songs (Dream Path, and Theme for Silence, a prelude or intro to Paralyzed Mesmerized), Coroner knows how to grab your attention and keep it, something learned in their previous output, without a doubt.
The second , major and unforgivable flaw within the album are the lyrics. They aren't bad at all, but they suffer on some tracks of being REPETITIVE as hell. On some tracks this repetition is somehow well done, like the chorus on Grin and for the most part of Serpent Moves (as it's a sludgy groovy song, after all). But on tracks like Internal Conflicts, Status: Still Thinking, and the never-ending chant on Serpent Moves of "I'm moving.. I'm changing", you might as well bang your head out of anger against a wall, especially if you have listened to Coroner previous albums. It has to be noted that the closing track, Host, is as always being with this band, an experimental song, that has some spoken vocals. It suffers from the same repetitive nature of the album on the chorus, but it's worth to check out just for the weird rhythms and instrumentation that only Coroner pulls off.
Overall, Grin is a pretty good album, not as expected for the same masterminds that made the gems called Mental Vortex and No More Color, but its without a doubt a worthy album for its timeframe, and to close the career (until recently) of this wonderful band. If you can get past its flaws, are fan of groove or industrial tingled metal or are just a follower of the band and haven´t heard this, this is worthy of your time. But if you are new to this group, start with the perfect Mental Vortex or more thrashy No More Color, before getting this.
The Lethargic Age
Caveat (To the coming)