Coroner never got as much attention as they should have back in the day when thrash metal was on the rise. Well, at least not in the U.S.
The Swiss trio put out some great music, combining the influence of classical, jazz and avant-garde music with the aggression of metal, putting out a complex strain of music that you could say was progressive for the time.
Of course, complexity can be a problem when it comes to amassing wide appeal, as we’ve seen with many bands.
On the most part, Coroner was able to balance the complexity with aggression, though, the thumb was still on the scale for complexity, which I think was a European thing.
Their second album Punishment for Decadence, released in 1988, shows these to conflicting elements. The musicianship is excellent and the composition is challenging, but sometimes you don’t feel a lot of raw emotion that was at the heart of thrash there.
On Punishment for Decadence, we see what is Coroner’s longtime line up, which lasted from 1985 to their disbandment in 1996, then again from their reformation in 2010 to 2014.
Vocals and bass guitar on Punishment for Decadence is Ron Broder (aka Ron Royce), whose vocals are usually a snarl, which is prominent in giving the band its aggressive sound. Tommy Vetterli (aka Tommy T. Baron) adds more aggression with his shredding guitars and being the driving force behind the song. Rounding things off is Marky Edelmann ( aka Marquis Marky) on drums.
When it comes to standout tracks, Punishment for Decadence has several.
One of those is “Absorbed” which follows a rather pointless 12-second long intro track at the beginning of the album. “Absorbed” is a song that’s in high gear from beginning to end, with fast, shredding guitars and steady double bass drumming. It’s fast pace with some crazy melodies and the band showcasing their technical proficiency, which is something they like to do throughout Punishment for Decadence.
“Masked Jackal,” the third track, showcases Coroner’s use of tone, providing not only the fury and speed of “Absorbed,” but adding an extra layer to that.
Coroner go for speed and technique throughout Punishment for Decadence. It usually works, with “Shadow of a Lost Dream” and “The New Breed” being pretty good, if standard, thrash metal tracks.
“Sudden Fall” is my favorite on the album. It actually has a bit of a mosh music in it with a pretty strong rhythm. The band also slows down the tempo for a really good solo. All of that makes “Sudden Fall” stand a head above the rest of the songs.
Coming close to “Sudden Fall” as a close second-best track is “Voyage to Eternity” which sees Coroner take on a near-epic sound that comes near to matching the title. It’s a pretty good combination of speed, melody and rhythm that’ll please most fans of 80s thrash.
There are also a couple of low points on the album.
Of course, this being a European metal album, there’s going to be at least one instrumental song on the album. On Punishment for Decadence, it’s “Arc Lite.” It’s not bad, but it does come off as rather self-indulgent as many instrumentals do. The problem with “Arc-Lite” is that there’s not any climax, just some showy playing throughout.
They also close the album with a cover of “Purple Haze.” Yes, that “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix. Why they chose to put this song on the album is beyond me. Like Metallica and a select few other bands, Jimi Hendrix is one of those artists whose work is better avoided when it comes to covering. Nothing in the minds of the listeners can match the original, which almost everyone that’s picked up a rock album is familiar with. It ends the album on a very amateurish note, which is kind of disappointing.
Just never put a Jimi Hendrix cover on your album. There’s no way you can ever make the song yours. Metallica covering Diamondhead and Anthrax covering Trust are examples of what sort of songs that should be covered, Coroner covering Jimi Hendrix is the opposite.
Punishment of Decadence is a pretty good album and worth a listen. Coroner does lean to the side of technicality and composition over emotion and rawness, so don’t expect anything that really punches you in the gut or makes you raise your fist and say “fuck yeah!”
Not that there’s anything wrong with their approach, it’s just not everyone’s taste. I’d recommend giving the album a listen, particularly a fan remaster by Shreddy Krueger, which is available on YouTube. His remaster sounds great compared to the original version, which suffered from that typical 80s metal production where the sound seemed kind of padded, dulling the sharper edge thrash metal is supposed to have.
Anyway, check it out. They’re one of the most popular European thrash bands of yesteryear and the album is a must hear for anyone interested in the sounds of heavy metal history.