March 19, 2012 by Dan Swinhoe
Corrosion of Conformity fans can generally be split into two camps; the old, angry and balding punks who worship 80s-era C.O.C when they were punk/thrash crossover pioneers, and the younger long hair and denim guys who prefer the southern metal & rock sound instigated by the arrival of singer/guitarist Pepper Keenan.
The split between fans is more extreme than any Dickinson/Blaze Bayley or Roth/Hagar arguments. It’s not a stretch to say the two incarnations of the band have a completely different fanbase. But the hardcore fans haven’t had anything to satisfy their thirst since 87’s Technocracy, so the prospect of a self-titled album with the same line-up as the punky Animosity is reason indeed to get your angry face on.
In the seven years since the excellent In The Arms of God, Pepper has been busy with Down (oh sweet anticipation for their next releases) and while still technically a member of the band, the remaining trio of bassist/vocalist Mike Dean, Drummer Reed Mullin and six-stringer Woody Weatherman decided to go out and tour the old stuff, and then record a new album.
My induction to C.O.C was a second-hand copy of 95’s Wiseblood, a prime slice of the Pepper-era, full of dirty grooves and still has a regular place in my CD player. It was Dave Grohl’s vanity project Probot that gave me my first taste of the Mike Dean-fronted early days. Good though it was, when I finally got those early albums, they were a long way from the polished outfit they had become; fast, raw and recorded in the shed.
So in a lot of ways this is where the two meet, a band that has evolved going back to their roots. It could have been easy to rest on the laurels and spew out a rehash of the old days and label it ‘even more angry than Animosity!‘ But C.O.C isn’t a simple album, peel back the awesome sleeve, and you find a punk album being channelled through men who stopped being punks years ago.
On the whole, the album is a draw for both fans, a compromise of sorts that acts as a bridging album that never was between the jekyll and hyde sides of the band’s catalogue. On the first run through, your level of enjoyment will hinge on whether you’re a middle-aged and wearing a ripped and faded punk top, but more listens reveal that there’s enough big riffs to keep the news fans interested.
Opener Psychic Vampire begins with a slow chunky groove, then picks up the pace before reeling things in again. Likewise Rivers of Stone forges Sabbath and punk into one big mess, always threatening to run off on a tangent. For most of the album, this is a chance for guitarist Woody Weatherman to flex his creative muscles to great effect and show of why he’s often celebrated as the coveted ‘most under-rated guitarist in Metal.’
The guitar has a real eighties tone to it, and much of the music taps in to the spirit of the early days. But the last twenty years have rubbed off, creating a gritty mix of stoner-aggro. Your Tomorrow (first seen last year as a 7″) and The Doom are excellent examples of mixing the two, the later a non-stop ride of riffs and tempos drenched in Sabbath worship.
From El Lamento de las Cabras (Spanish for The Cry of the Goat) onwards there’s very little to pick out as wrong. The Moneychangers, Time of Trials, pretty much all the songs stand toe-to-toe with previous records. That being said, just like all good punk albums should, it’s got a few ugly parts. While most of the song writing is top-notch, when they go all out on the punk (Leeches & Rat City) the results are disappointing, especially compared what’s on offer elsewhere on the record.
Dean does a decent job on vocals, his raw bark and whine suit the music and remain in tune, but never quite get up to what could be called singing. There’s a host of points where you’re left thinking, ‘I bet Pepper would sound great singing this.’ That being said, the likes of Weaving Spiders Come Not Here and What You Despise is What You Become couldn’t sound any better no matter whose pipes you were using.
The bonus tracks, Canyon Man and The Same Way are decent, nothing more. Carrying on the general style of the previous tracks, they both just lack that spark and energy that makes the rest of the album so listenable.
There’s no Clean My Wounds, likewise no Eye For An Eye. But what is on offer is a surprisingly good album that has enough about it to bring two sets of fans together in a way they’ve not been before. It’s got riffs, energy and a huge amount of urgency from a group of guys well into their forties.Well worth picking up.
C.O.C Spotify playlist: http://sharemyplaylists.com/corrosion-of-conformity