About PhillipC

Guitarist, Metal Enthusiast, and General Misanthrope.

Coroner – Mental Vortex

Now I’ve already done a review for Overkill’s Horrorscope that came out roughly the same time as this one.
However Coroner is a totally different brand of thrash than what most people are accommodated to.
They blend a lot of progressive elements into their music which in itself is not alien to thrash metal given the level of musicianship sometimes present in bands of the 1980’s thrash movement, but they most certainly manage to convey it in an original way that stands them apart from just about everyone else.
Coroner are probably the least recognized as far as pure, raw talent is concerned in the genre which continues to disgust me to no end, and giving this album a listen might clue at least some of you into just why that is.

A three-piece from Zurich, Switzerland and former roadies of Celtic Frost, Coroner first emerged with their album R.I.P which is a pretty straight forward thrash album with a heavy neo-classical influence which was directly expanded upon in their following album Punishment for Decadence that also happens to be a personal favorite of mine.
The guitar work of Tommy T. Baron (Thomas Vetterli), and bass lines of Ron Royer (Ron Broder) had already been showcased in both albums, putting them in terms of musicianship up, in my opinion, with the all the guys commonly referred to as being the best in their respective craft, their third album No More Colour saw them step away from the near constant 4/4 time signatures that dominated their first two albums, but for the most part continued with the thrash style of the first two albums but in the case of No More Colour with a more blues influenced style of songwriting.
These more abstract time signatures and tonal progressions were more heavily explored in Mental Vortex (minus the blues influence of No More Colour) at a time when bands like Metallica, Megadeth, and Testament were gravitating towards a more radio friendly and stripped down approach to their music, bands like Coroner and Kreator (in which Vetterli was later a member of in both the Outcast and Endorama albums) were not particularly concerned with being commercially viable, but more with following their own musical exploration.

Coroner in particular followed a natural progression of the band’s sound, and unlike the aforementioned thrash contemporaries never encountered a want or a need to change their lineup.
The trio’s formula remained very much intact but progressed naturally with the influences and stylism of each respective member at the time the albums were written.
With Mental Vortex there was all of the elements of thrash metal which they were known for by their fans, but at the same time they had slowed down their breakneck pace even more so than on the previous No More Colour, and recovered a greater sense of melodicism, and the aggression of their first two releases.
The final product was a varied and distinctive blend of musicianship and abrasive tonal and atonal riffs ranging from a steady 4/4 to more uncommon time signatures formulated into almost hypnotic grooves.
Vetterli shows in my mind beyond a shadow of a doubt in his performance on the album that he is the single most underrated guitarist in thrash metal, and Broder with his ever-present and evident solidifying bass playing that he too should be right up in the metal pantheon of the era.

How this band is consistently ignored is absolutely beyond me and Mental Vortex in particular epitomizes why that fact is an absolute crime.
While I’m not one of their fans who are put off by the more industrial sounding follow up Grin, to me they had managed showcase why the band is so absolutely fantastic both musically and lyrically with the release of Mental Vortex.

Some songs to check out from the album include the album’s first track (And a favorite of the band) Divine Step, a seven minute ass kicker ranging from a choppy tonal/atonal groove to fast paced triplet driven shreddery.
My own personal favorite is the third track Semtex Revolution that to me personally bridges the gap between their early albums R.I.P. and Punishment for Decadence, and the experimentation’s of No More Colour that they at this point had absolutely nailed.
Tommy Vetterli’s leads in both tracks are certainly nothing any self-respecting guitarists could turn their nose up at.

Again, check it out, and get down with some criminally over looked badassery.

Sting – The Soul Cages

Like I said before I lost my password and went AWOL for a while, a curve ball.

Say what you’d like about the man himself, but in my mind Sting is brilliant, and I can honestly say without hesitation is my favorite song writer due to his diversity not only musically but thematically.
From medieval poetry put to music to a transvestite prostitute saying “don’t judge me, you could be me.” From Jazz to Country, and Dance music.

This particular review is about likely my favorite album from Sting, written about a boy named Billy from Newcastle, largely drawing parallels to himself and his own strained relationship with his father.
The Soul Cages like it’s predecessor …Nothing Like The Sun was written in a kind of self reflection following the death of a parent.
…Nothing Like the Sun was largely written about Sting’s relationships with the women in his life following the death of his mother, and was a largely moving and overall well written album.
The Soul Cages in my opinion was not only written during a period of reflection, but self realization and understanding as well as being a period of finding peace with his recently departed father whom he had struggled to communicate with throughout his life, and even into his fame with The Police, and his early solo albums.
After a somewhat alien bout with writers block, Sting wrote “Why Should I Cry For You” which is arguably one of my favorite songs.
It deals directly with the closed, distant and often hidden mutual affection, as well as a kind of resentment that was borne from that difficult relationship.
I also feel that he is more or less acknowledging the similarity between his father and himself, and perhaps reflecting on his own relationship with his children.
Following his triumph over the slump he wrote a series of songs ultimately to a theme of a young man from Newcastle, the son of a shipbuilder who had injured and died as a result of an accident on the job.
He outlines early on the kind of hopelessness he saw in the community and the dreams of both father and son that seemed and were likely ultimately doomed.
Billy eventually ends up on something of a supernatural odyssey to save and redeem his fathers soul, and in the process comes to understand himself, and gain a kind of peace with his father.

Musically while there is a large array of musical variance it is not quite as diverse as his following releases Ten Summoners Tales or Brand New Day, but is consistently good, and quite honestly does not have a weak track in the slightest.
It ranges from slow and somber storytelling, to soft but energetic rock, to somewhat jazzy but not quite to the same extent of some of his earlier work where he had a full ensemble of seasoned jazz musicians playing alongside of him.
Another thing to note is some of the hidden complexity of the music itself, particularly in the rhythm section which became a more reoccurring and more apparent feature in his music in the aforementioned following albums.
Lyrically if you can’t appreciate the quality of the storytelling or the cleaver wordage and presentation I’ve got to say I pity you a little.
There is plenty of humor, metaphorical play, and emotionality, but always presented tastefully, and almost awe-inspiring in terms of quality.

To anybody who appreciates a bit of diversity beyond metal and appreciates a bit of progressiveness without veering into virtuosity and likes a good bit of songwriting, check it out.
You might like it a lot more than you think.

Severed Savior – Servile Insurrection

What can I say? I love me some death metal.
But this is not a typical death metal album in the slightest as in my mind it’s one of the best examples of the California technical death metal scene, and my personal favorite.

Severed Savior’s 2008 release Servile Insurrection is start to finish brutal, but tastefully done in the sense that is well written, musically challenging and aggressive.
All of these things in my mind are often pretty lacking in one department or another in this particular subgenre. You either have pure wank, or you have something that is musically pleasing but lacking in the overall balls that in mind are absolutely necessary in putting out a solid tech death album.

Severed Savior is not lacking in any of the above departments, in fact they more than deliver given a relatively small production that could have been provided by Willowtip pounding out ten impressively punishing songs, and a jazzy, and entirely instrumental track to boot entertaining the listener from start to finish, that is if this music is your cup of tea.

For one just getting into death metal you might want start with something more easily digestible, but for one who is looking to expand their more extreme cd/digital collection this will make a solid addition.

In particular for me personally Question, Acts of Sedition, and the title track absolutely deliver, and if you get the chance to see them live. Do it.
The show I attended was one of the more enjoyable I have attended in the last few years.

Check back here in the near future, and I think I might have one of those curveballs I mentioned before that might be a rewarding (non-metal) listening experience for those of you who might be interested.

Overkill – Horrorscope

Being my first album review ever, I wanted to start off with something that wouldn’t be a typical review in 2013.
(Which I doubt you’re going to find from the other authors on this particular page anyhow.)
The odds are I’ll be sticking to mostly metal albums, but who knows I might throw in a few curve balls along the way.

I took a little while going over albums on my iPod, and half way through one particular work day I slap on some Overkill and one of my favorite thrash albums ever, and decided this was it.

New Jersey Thrash Metal Legends Overkill’s 1991 faceraper ‘Horrorscope’ is arguably the darkest, and at the very least one of the heaviest albums in Overkill’s extensive sixteen album catalog and that really is saying something. The album also came at a very critical time for both the band and metal in general.

Coming off of the significant success of their previous album ‘The Years of Decay’ which is considered by many their very best in terms of both songwriting and production having worked with the iconic Terry Date. The album featured fan favorites E.vil N.ever D.ies (Overkill IV), Elimination, and my personal favorite, I Hate.

The band however was not content with following the same formula, as ‘The Years of Decay’ had offered several significant experimentations in of itself.
Firstly Bobby Gustafson, long time guitarist, and primary songwriter was asked to leave by founders and band leaders D.D. Verni, and Bobby ‘Blitz’ Ellsworth prior to and was quickly replaced by Faith or Fear guitarist Merritt Gant, and Gustafson’s own guitar tech Rob Cannavino.

Though the songwriting itself remains familiar largely due to the album being credited entirely to the writing team of Blitz and Verni, the new guitar duo swap solos that work well with the famed ever present attitude and aggression Overkill is known for, and Sid Falck offers his best drum work during his tenure with the band (though he would leave shortly thereafter), easily solidifying ‘Horrorscope’ as one of Overkill’s absolute best efforts.

Unlike ‘The Years of Decay’ there were no songs in particular that came anywhere near to flirting with ten minutes. What it does offer is a more refined, and heavier evolution of the Overkill style of the late 80’s, early 90’s, often replacing break neck speeds for crushing riffs that the band would continue to experiment with throughout the rest of the decade though maintaining a respectable thrash standard pace through much of the album.

The singles Coma, and Infectious, and the delightfully crushing title track along with the bands cover of Edgar Winter’s classic ‘Frankenstein’ have made ‘Horrorscope’ the bands most popular and bestselling album to date.

Bottom line, pick this shit up.

Phill