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Its not often that a wide array of musical styles can come together so well. If such an album is not well written, these styles have a tendency to clash and make the whole album tank awfully fast. One could suggest that is exactly where Sepultura's Roots went horribly wrong, among other things. Corrosion of Conformity isn't really a band many people look to for such blending, but they pulled off it quite well in 1991.
Corrosion of Conformity is a band I've took a liking some time ago and quite honestly are one of the more underrated bands from my home state. The reason for this is not so much that they didn't have any successful singles (such as "Clean My Wounds") but by what standards C.O.C.'s best moments are measured. Most would look to "Deliverance" as this band's best moment, or maybe even the worthy "Wiseblood" which comes as a close second. I personally say "Blind" takes the cake here, for reasons I'll discuss below.
On this album, C.O.C. dropped a good deal of their hardcore sound for more that was more accessible, throwing in a little thrash to create something known as crossover. On top of that, you also get dashes of doom metal and Southern rock, particularly bands like Molly Hatchet or maybe the Four Horsemen (the band, not the apocalyptic figures.) What results is an album of fine songwriting and genre mixing, one that I find hard to pass up.
The vocalist here is Karl Agell, who I personally prefer to Pepper Keenan in most respects. For one, I believe he is more of a professional singer and able to carry the music better, but this is just my opinion. He doesn't carry a particularly impressive range, reminding me a little bit of James Hetfield or maybe Phil Anselmo, as someone else already mentioned. Still, his voice is perfectly at home in the music and he always carries himself well.
The instances of pure Southern influenced rock are evident in songs like "Dance of the Dead," which is one of the better songs to be found. The thrashier influences come into play on "White Noise" and "Damned for all Time," the latter of which is pretty damn aggressive. During this time of toning down aggression in alot of thrash bands, its good to hear material like this.
There is also a hint of post-thrash going on in "Great Purification" and it works considerably well given the stagnated tendencies of the groove metal genre. The song "Buried" is one of my favorites, and throws in some doom metal influences on top of some harder rocking tendencies. Its also one of the heaviest songs here alongside "Damned for all Time," albeit at a slower tempo.
Even at their heaviest, this album still takes time to weave in some catchier, more user friendly moments. This is still a pretty accessible album, as is alot of crossover metal. It remains my favorite C.O.C. album, surpassing earlier material through maturity and is superior to their later material through the songwriting choices. The only album that comes close would be "Wiseblood" but I'd argue this album is still better based on sheer quality music and riffage. Not only is this album superior to other C.O.C. efforts, it also trumps the nonsense known as grunge that was swiftly taking over at the time. I rank "Blind" very highly and is one of the better albums of the early 1990's here in America.
1991 was the beginning of a whole new decade of possibilities for metal in general. As far as everyone was concerned thrash metal was still riding it pretty swell and had not yet experienced the complete disintegration of a wonderful genre that would be felt within the next 2 to 3 years. Outside the big four who were at that time still putting out material that still mattered, there really didn't seem to be anyone outside of those 4 that could match the progression. Or was there???
Corrosion of Conformity had actually kind of ridden along side of the big 4 safely by going from total hardcore punk to total crossover thrash where they could easily make social commentary and not be stuck with the fallout of the classic Hardcore Punk years of '81-'85. So they were still able to essentially use their socio-political punk lyrics but also be able to survive by getting kudos from the Metal genre. Not to mention they had an advantage to themselves; they were southern and they even rented out their own club in Raleigh, NC to bring in other well-known acts from various scenes (Black Flag, Saint Vitus, Suicidal Tendencies, Bad Brains, etc.) so that wherever they went, they wouldn't have to worry about anything. C.O.C. seem to have their cards laid out perfectly and they raked in the good with their 1991 album “Blind”.
“Blind” not only features the on-going continuing saga of revolving band members(exit COC’s punk main man Mike Dean) but also the introduction of future COC singer and guitarist Pepper Keenan and the only-time studio output from the amazing Karl Agell. We’ll get back to the performers later on. Also they got signed to Columbia shortly before this album which was probably due to word-of-mouth and their cult following. If their first two albums proved they could be as fast and heavy as the majority as the bands around them “Blind” proved that they could go their own path without worrying about flak from whatever scene they were from or got kudos from. The sound production is a definite boost for COC’s sound giving it that extra ‘umph’ behind everything. For once you can hear Reed Mullin’s powerful backbone drumming and also the guitars by Woody Weatherman and Pepper Kennan. Bassist Mike Dean aint here which is a bit of a let down considering what he might have contributed to this already amazing album, but the unknown Phil Swisher doesn’t do anything outside of the ordinary. But for stand-out performance is none other than the new singer Karl Agell. When he sings, man he hits not only the notes but FEELING of the songs as well. Overall a round of applause for these southern boys.
The song here have something that lacked in the past COC releases: variety. And yeah I enjoy the hell out of “Animosity” and “Technocracy”, but the songs presented on “Blind” tends to blow those albums out of the water. Right from the very opening of “These Temples Shrouded…”; an intro that is a wall of doom guitar feedback and distortion to the even more darker outro "Remain" are songs that will have you thrashing, boogying-down, raising a fist or two, and just plain good old headbanging. First song and probably most underrated COC song “Damned For All Time” is the proper way to open as the first actual song. And does it have riffs. If you want the link between COC’s past and what they are now, this song is it if not the entire album. Thrash metal with hardcore back-up gang vocals and very political lyrics. I double dare you to not want to circle-pit to this. The next song is just fun. “Dance of The Dead” is just a downright southern rock ‘n rolling boogying song with some hard Metal leanings and bouncy riffs. The way Karl Agell shouts “…you're dead, you're dead, you're dead” in the song drives it home even further. ‘Buried” is where we find more Sabbath “Master of Reality”-era worship. “Painted Smiling Face” has a killer chainsaw charging Slayer-esque riff that gives way to one of the more tech/progressive whatever the hell it is song. They are switching tempos and styles it will give you dizzy spells. “Vote With A Bullet” could be easily the anthem song to the IRA. A hard-hitting pounding song about the electoral process in the U.S.A. where sometimes democracy isn't really heard or proven. But the best part is the catchy-as-hell main riff and chorus with the rebellious “…forgive and forget, fuck no I'm talking about a revolution!” Here we see Pepper Keenan provide back-up vocals and singing duties which he shines through with his chords being sung through a voice box. More molten Metal can be heard on “Great Purification” and did I mention the song “White Noise”? It opens with a Megadeth-ish buzz-saw groovy riff that tackles the touchy subject of black racism in the south. It’s a bold move to show not everyone from the south is a redneck(see Pantera for failing on this part). “Echoes In The Well” is a moody-sounding track that would have any Alice In Chains/Soundgarden fan salivating. For most of the album….COC show you real angst and deals with real issues that a lot of other bands in 1991 weren’t showing or talking about.
It’s a bit hard exposing someone to COC if they aren’t familiar with them. I know when I first decided to sit down and give them a chance a few years back, it was hard to decided where to start. But the one that kept popping-up with their 1991 opus “Blind” and still does. It makes the rest of their discography make perfect sense through the various sounds and members. If you are going to have one COC album, pick-up “Blind” today.
The whole concept of crossover is basically a middle ground between hard core and thrash metal, which has yielded some pretty interesting albums in a fairly simpler and slower version of the latter style in its purer form. But for Corrosion Of Conformity, the term itself applies in a more general sense, as the band seems to be crossing over into a larger variety of styles than most, particularly in the case of their early 90s offering and arguably their strongest offering “Blind“. The punk influences are obviously still in place, though they’ve been augmented with a good helping of Southern rock, doom metal and groove/thrash influences. What ends up emerging is a harder hitting and more interesting variation on the whole idea of half-thrash, a concept which was starting to pick up steam at this point and time.
The principle differences that this album has with it’s two more hard core oriented predecessors is a longer and more varied approach to songwriting meshed with a much more accessible presentation. The principle source of the latter is Karl Agell’s vocals, who essentially listens like a hybrid of John Bush and Chuck Billy, with perhaps a tinge of Southern grit ala Phil Anselmo, at least during the “Cowboys From Hell” era. He doesn’t have quite the high range that either of the 3 aforementioned singers did during their respective heydays in the 80s, but he gets up there from time to time and sound far better than Anselmo’s post-1991 material or anything that Robb Flynn has ever committed to recordings while behind the microphone. Put together with a sludgy doom atmosphere and some nice slowed down but cutting edge thrash tinge to the guitar attack, and you have a lethal though mostly mid-tempo machine to be reckoned with.
From the opening of the overture instrumental “These Shrouded Temples…” the masterful blurring of genre lines immediately becomes apparent. Essentially things just fade in with a darkened atmosphere, with a chorus of guitar feedback that sounds like an orchestra tuning before a concern, which is followed by a gloomy as hell Sabbath meets Candlemass clean guitar theme, which is then surrounded by a two guitar harmony that almost invokes images of Molly Hatchet. Afterward the whole arrangement just sort of settles into a slow, march-like thrash number that sounds almost like a cross between Megadeth circa “So Far, So Good, So What?” and Slayer’s “South Of Heaven”. When the intro comes to an end, “Damned For All Time” comes thudding in like a colossal golem of steel. The first principle riff screams New York Thrash in the vain of Anthrax and Overkill like crazy, while the bridge riff has a definite rock feel to it.
As the album unfolds, a number of constant characteristics to the sound emerge to contrast with an alternating approach to style. The most obvious being that the lead guitar work definitely sticks to an older rock approach, drawing influences from various 70s outfits from Deep Purple to 38 Special. This is present not only in the reserved and non-structured nature of the lead slots, but also in the mellower guitar tone employed, which contrasts heavily with the crunchy as hell Thrash affect in the rhythm guitar sound. Songs such as “Dance Of The Dead” and “Painted Smiling Faces” are exceptional examples of this dichotomy of sound, though it should be noted that both of these songs also contain a large number of Southern Rock and Black Sabbath influences than most of the other individual works on here. The latter of these two actually reminds me a lot of “The Wizard” during the verses, and the principle riff has a heavy dose of “Vol. 4” commonalities.
For all of its multifaceted elements, this is a very consistent listen, and choosing a favorite song boils down more to whether you like more thrash or more doom in your metal. As I tend to go a little bit more in a Thrash direction, the strongest work is a tossup between “Damned For All Time” and “White Noise”. Both essentially mix fast, bone crushing riffing with slower rock sensibilities with a nice even hand, all the while sparing not on iota of attitude. But if you like your Metal with a lot of sludge and Southern goodness, served up with a little bit of a Pantera edge, “Great Purification” is definitely a solid groovy slab of sonic goodness.
Though fans of crossover will definitely tilt towards “Eye For An Eye” and “Animosity”, this is the best that CoC has to offer in terms of an all around great album. It’s a superior listen to anything that Machine Head or Anthrax would ever put out in the post-thrash period of the early 90s, and rivals “Cowboys From Hell” in terms of quality groove infused thrash metal. This is real angst, the kind of which the likes that frequented the body odor infested concerts in Seattle would never be able to comprehend, let alone hope to emulate.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on April 8, 2009.
Let's talk a little bit about the phrase "kick-ass". It is used to describe anything that is so undeniably cool that it cannot be described with any other words (hence why it is often used in conjuction with metal reviews). In summation, COC's Blind is fucking kick-ass.
"But why?" you ask. Well, all post-whatever genre-mixing novelty aside, this album is pretty damn solid.
Let's start with the riffage. Chops, licks, runs, riffs, chugga-chuggas, oh my! Blind has it all, and in good form. Pepper and Woodroe are truly masters of their craft! Every riff perfectly complements the swing of the song, as does every solo. My personal favorite moment of rhythm/lead interplay is on "Echoes in the Well", right near the end. Come to think of it, that whole song is guitar mastery. The riffs (unlike most other supposed "riffs" these days) actually show restraint in order to fully complement every other instrument. The bass intro sets the pace of the song, shortly followed by the drums and rhythm guitar, which both personify the word "dirge". But where is the lead guitar? That, my friends is what makes this track special. The lead guitar is actually playing a duet with the vocals, causing a simply sick harmony. I'm talking bluesy, soulful, and yet dismal! It's perfection, I tell you.
I could waste a whole bunch of time talking about why the drums and bass tightly accentuate the guitars and vocals by way of uncompromising thrash and doom layers, forming a unique soundscape that is the rhythmic forefront of every song (yet is simultaneously only the foundation for further groovage)... but I won't.
Finally, the finished product.You want flow? Blind has flow. From the very first sludgy intro track to the very last... sludgy outro track(?), Blind leaves no doubt that it owns your ass. The first palm muted power-chug sets an ultimately downtrodden mood (which one would expect through the duration of the album), but the first actual song (the first track is merely an intro) jumps from thrash mode to an immediate catchy chorus. Actually, whole album is catchy. You can sing along to every part of it if you want to (and trust me, you want to!!!), it's just so damn good. The rest of the album basically follows in the wake of the first two or three, but they never get boring or trite. Each song has it's own mood, swing, even personality. And EVERYTHING FITS! Each note has a purpose, every beat serves to complement the album as a whole. Even the shrederliness isn't arbitrary, it just drives the point home!
Speaking of point: lyrics. The lyrics are not your typical punky, pointless, anarchy fare. There is some solid social commentary throughout the album, but the single best song is "White Noise". The lyrics and feel of the song get you amped up and ready to kick some racist ass. That's all there is to say. You might find yourself screaming (at the top of your lungs, mind you) along with the last line. I always do.
So there it is. Blind in a nutshell. Oh yeah, there are some bonus tracks on the re-release, but they just include a cover and a cool blues song by Pepper. They're great, but overall they are just seperate songs added on the end, so I sometimes don't even listen to them. ANYWAY, the rest of the album is, simply put, kick-ass. Near perfection. I know this is not leaving my c.d. player for a while.
Post-thrash-doom-whatever-core? Maybe. But it just kicks solid amounts of ass.
Now this was a pleasant surprise from COC before they slipped into silly Southern rock admiration. They still maintained their hardcore roots lyrically and musically the metal side of things began dominating more. This was not a bad thing on this album, though, because the metal influence was more the sludgy doom feel.
There is some more melody present in the vocal realm courtesy of Karl Agell (who also put on a great show live when I saw them on this tour) and his slightly more refined vocal approach, and there is an abundance of catchy riffing. Agell really lets go on this album with equal parts soul and rage vying for your attention and his performance makes this album very listenable. The soloing from Pepper Keenan and band mainstay Woody Weatherman is bluesy and soulful, especially on "Dance of the Dead", with thick, squealing notes pelting you in measured doses with molasses-sweet tone courtesy of producer John Custer, who did a great job engineering a clear and not overly produced sound on this album. The bass, as always, is not terribly audible and doesn't add much to the sound. Reed Mullin's drumming is spot on and the production highlights his precise and grooving style nicely.
The lyrics, as I mentioned, still maintain a political/social angle--how can you not mistake the sentiments of the opening lines of (again) "Dance of the Dead": "Heard too much, know too much, don't know if I can take it/If the system had one neck, you know I'd gladly break it!" Also, the sentiments addressing racism, slavery, and overall oppression in "White Noise" (they are from the South, after all) are pretty pointed too culminating in Karl's irate bellow of "WHEN NOBODY SAID ANYTHING!!!" ending the song.
The music is much slower and more structured than before and is heavy, very heavy indeed. Their Black Sabbath influence comes out and how on this album, with monstrous riffs and groaning leads over nimble drumming by Reed making a glorious noise. In fact, I'd go as far as to say this is COC at their apex musically. It still has a uniquely Southern swing to it as well, without being Southern rock or anything like it. It is equal parts sassy, brassy, doomy, bluesy, and powerful overall.
I'd much rather listen to this and call it COC's swan song before they descended into the depths of commercial garbage, honestly. This was their last attempt at acknowledging their punk/hardcore past before they discarded that altogether in a bid for commercial success, and for my money is when they stopped being Corrosion Of Conformity and became a bloated Southern rock wannabe band. Pepper took over and ruined their sound completely after this as well as taking over vocals, and anyhting after this I disregard as anything resembling Corrosion Of Conformity.
Corrosion of Conformity have had a fairly unusual career..... from their inception as a hardcore punk band in 83', C.O.C. have played everything from thrash (Animosity) to southern rawk (Wiseblood). Blind was their American breakthrough, and first record with future spearhead and guitarist Pepper Keenan. Stylistically, it lands somewhere between the southern grooves that would later emerge on Deliverance (Keenan's influence no doubt), and Animosity's thrash oriented riffage.
Karl Agell's vocals are pretty much identical to Pepper's (maybe less crooning..) so fans of latter day CoC won't find Blind too difficult to stomach. The best songs (Damned For All Time, Dance of the Dead..) are thrash tinged straight up metal affairs that also happen to have killer vocal hooks. As alluded to in this review's title, all lyrics are more or less politically based. This is ultimately annoying, because in all honesty who gives a shit about the band's political beliefs. I sure don't.
The groove oriented riffs show up in songs like Buried and Vote With a Bullet (keenan's sole vocal performance), both standout tracks along with the afforementioned Dance of the Dead and Damned for all time. I still pull this CD out every now and then but in terms of killer to filler ratio Deliverance is better.
First off, I'll say I was expecting something totally different when I heard this album. A former almost straight-up hardcore band releases a thrash/groove metal masterpiece! I don't really know what happened to these guys. This album, and this album only is in this style, that being metal mastery.
It starts off strong with Damned for All-Time, after the intro track These Shrouded Temples... Listening to the two tracks back-to-back is most enjoyable as they fit together beautifully. The next track, Dance of the Dead, is another winner, as are most of the tracks present here. Most of the songs have great choruses, full of anger, and fat, beefy riffs. Reed Mullin was a fantastic drummer during his time, which also contribute to the greatness of this album. Other standout tracks are Painted Smiling Face, Mine are the Eyes of God, Vote with a Bullet and White Noise, but there really isn't much of a dull moment on the entire album, save for maybe the doomy sounding Echoes in the Well.
I've heard many people complain about Karl Agell's vocals here, and I can understand that, as he sounds kind of uncontrolled at times. No complaints here, though, I think he fits the music perfectly. If you can find the 1995 re-release of this album, I'd get it, but it's no big deal. The only really great track of the three bonus tracks is Future Now, a cover song. Condition A/Condition B is just a bunch of yelling about politics, and Jim Beam and the Coon Ass is a hilarious southern shuffle.
All in all, a fantastic album. Too bad COC never repeated this as they changed styles once again on their next album. Oh well.