Sunday Old School: Coroner
Many are under the misnomer that Coroner got it's start as Celtic Frost's roadies, but that's not entirely true. Coroner had been an established band a couple of years before they served as Celtic Frost's road crew on a U.S. tour. Coroner went on this tour of America as a way of promoting it's "Death Cult" demo in the U.S. back in 1986, and Tom G. Warrior even sang on it. When it came time to release their debut, "RIP," Tom once again offered to do vocal duties. By then, Coroner had bassist Ron "Royce" Broder assume the vocals as well. Ron had never sang before and even surprised himself with how well he rose to the occasion.
Ron was joined by "Marquis" Marky Edelmann on drums and Tommy "T. Baron" Vetterli on guitar in what was to become one of the best technical bands in metal. Being a progressive trio no doubt brought on the comparisons to another act, leading Coroner to become known as the "Rush of metal" later in it's career when they crafted material that demonstrated musicianship that few other bands could ever dream of emulating. While "RIP" was a very good sinister metal release, in retrospect it is primitive when compared to Coroner's later output. But, that album had something about it - an "it" factor of sorts. Songs such as "Reborn Through Hate" and "Spiral Dream" were very interesting when put side by side with the general thrash of the mid-eighties.
The seeds were now sown for the clever and complex second album, 1988's "Punishment for Decadence." Present were great passages and segments of musical interludes that went hand in hand with the lyrical themes of introspection and politics. I recall so well seeing Coroner's first official video for the track "Masked Jackal." This tale of corrupt leaders was one of the first intelligent metal videos I had seen from that era. Also on that album was the Hendrix cover "Purple Haze," starting a long tradition of Coroner covering popular songs intermittently.
By now, it was 1989 and Coroner had started to turn the metal community on it's ear. Their unusual time signatures used in the songs that came out on the third album, "No More Color," were generally something one would only see in the upper echelons of progressive music or jazz. Thus was born the term "progressive metal." Tracks such as "Die By My Hand" and "Mistress of Deception" were both speed metal and technical. It is important to note that this sound was achieved by all three musicians being superb at what they did. Ron's bass was intricate and accomplished, Tommy could play those broken chord arpeggios like second nature and Marky could do a 4/4 breakdown on percussion without breaking a sweat. This album had good themes like the track "Last Entertainment," which was about a society dominated by TV - and was their breakthrough to even more technical music.
By the time Coroner released it's fourth album in 1991, "Mental Vortex," their music had reached a plateau of sophistication that possibly wasn't recognized at the time. The songs had become longer and with epic interludes and all kinds of speeds and structures within. "Semtex Revolution" and "Sons of Lilith" had that hypnotic quality to them. The moment you turned on this album, you were transfixed and mesmerized. The metal community took somewhat of notice at the time, but nothing compared to years down the road when it truly became a classic milestone album. In keeping with tradition, yet another cover appeared on this album - the Beatles "I Want You (She's So Heavy)." They were reaching their pinnacle.
Nothing ever sounded like Coroner, and nothing ever will. Their fifth album, "Grin," proved that right off the bat. The reflective guitar, rhythm and themes present in the songs "Serpent Moves" and "Status: Still Thinking" were the kind of timeless introspective classics that sound even better today than when recorded. Strangely, this album and it's predecessor were misunderstood by some metal fans because they were so original. I found these two to be Coroner's best work. Due to lack of recognition, they ended up disbanding in 1993 (although they put out the "Coroner" greatest hits in 1995 to fulfill a contractual obligation). Success never truly came, so the band called it a day. On said compilation, Marky had only played on a few of the songs due to other projects. Peter Haas from Mekong Delta was brought in to replace him on the album. This greatest hits anthology allowed the members of Coroner to release something and at the same time be freed up to do tours and work with other acts they were involved with at the time.
In 1996, Coroner officially disbanded leaving fans terribly disappointed. Thirteen years in the fold had been enough for them, the members settling into different roles in the private sector. They split because they needed to do something different and Noise Records hadn't been promoting them. Reunion talks a year earlier in 1995 had been scrapped due to lack of time. Tommy had commented to a journalist during this time, about whether talks of a reunion were "heating up." Tommy mentioned that the only thing he was interested in reheating would be a pot of spaghetti sauce. Vetterli then joined Kreator and put out two albums with them, "Outcast" and "Endorama." Marky Edelmann was recruited by Apollyon Sun (a Tom G. Warrior band - what a surprise) during that period as well.
As Tommy settled into his role as Kreator's guitarist, it possibly wasn't the best time in those teutonic thrashers' careers. After ten years, Mille was probably burnt out from playing thrash metal over and over. Almost any musician goes through acute symptoms of this. Maybe that's why at the time Tommy commented that Mille didn't like metal anymore, listening to pop and softer music. He also said that Mille played it because that's how he earns his money. So Tommy left Kreator and did what he liked best - producing. All those comments are water under the bridge years later. Tommy and Mille were very friendly with each other at a Coroner reunion gig last year.
A few years after producing at New Sound Studios, Tommy decided to buy the business. He works with all kinds of artists. He enjoys producing and earns his living that way, but has a problem with the output of many of the bands he works with. He says that all his studio customers act, look and copy the same sounds, lyrics and album covers as popular bands such as Green Day. "I fucking hate that," says Tommy. But he tells his clients, "If you want to sound like that, it's your problem." Sounds like Tommy needs to go back to being a creative musician! He is still involved as a recording artist, though. He met his fiancee, Nina Treml, through his studio work. She is the guitarist/vocalist for 69 chambers, a band with a nice heavy sound. Tommy has produced their music and acted as touring guitarist and sessionist for the band. When you listen to 69 Chambers, you can clearly hear those signature riffs of Vetterli's.
It would be a full fourteen years more before talks of reuniting started floating around. Coroner had no master plan when they got together and began hashing out details in 2010 for live performances at the Maryland Deathfest, The Hellfest Summer Open Air in France and the Bloodstock open air. The three members went into these talks a year before performing in 2011 to give themselves time to rehearse. They had agreed that they would only go onstage if they were as good as they were before they stopped playing fifteen years earlier. Marky said it was a trip playing all those songs live once again, and he found himself cranking out the tracks almost automatically. After all those years he had missed drumming. The fan reaction to those shows was phenomenal, with Coroner bringing the house down. From the Les Docks show in Lausanne to the Greek shows in Thessaloniki, Coroner was a hit. They were as tight and technical as they'd been in their heyday. David Stossel, whom the band referred to as a "fourth member," provided the organ plus documented the shows on 46 cameras for future release on a live DVD documentary and fan page photo gallery. Someday, says Tommy, they might combine this footage with that of Coroner's first show with Kreator and Celtic Frost in Zurich.
Coroner plans to release a live, career spanning DVD of footage recorded at those shows. Tommy doesn't know if they want to make a new studio album, though. He has plenty of ideas for new songs, but has to convince the other two to take part in it. Marky is a dad to a little girl and works at an art gallery now, and Ron has a job in the private sector. Coroner still continues to play live at big events and should be on the roster for this year's 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise. That is something the band is truly looking forward to. On the other hand, the fans are looking forward to new studio material. Coroner needs to come back and show alot of these metal groups just how killer progressive material should be played. Maybe it will happen. One can only dream.
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