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I've been a huge fan of Corrosion of Conformity for over a decade now. That statement, of course, needs some clarification. In the days when CD burners and Napster were first becoming commonplace, I was in my freshman year of college. I obtained burned copies of Deliverance and Wiseblood, the band's seminal recordings in Southern-style sludge metal, and I LOVED them. I bought America's Volume Dealer on CD, and I actually liked it (though popular opinion is against the record). I got several tracks from Blind and Animosity off Napster, and didn't know what to think. I certainly didn't like them, so they were promptly deleted. Since then, I also enjoyed In the Arms of God a good deal.
I've never bothered to look back into their seminal crossover thrash records since the Napster days. (Yeah, the band has plenty of seminal recordings. Well, they're called COC, so what do you expect?) I don't know what I'd think of them if I heard them today. So when I heard COC had gotten the Animosity lineup back together to release a new album, I was skeptical. As reviews started coming out, I got to know the opinions of others who came to it with the same attitude, but had their minds changed. So, my skepticism gradually turned to ambivalence, and ambivalence to cautious optimism, and I decided to check it out.
The first track is the very promising "Psychic Vampire." It reveals a band that has neither returned to its 80's incarnation, nor remained in its 90's-00's phase. Instead, it's a synthesis of Southern sludge with crossover thrash, and one with some killer riffs. Mike Dean's vocals are much better than my decade-old memory of them; although he's still no Pepper Keenan, he's a hell of a lot better than Blind's Karl Agell. The remainder of the record stays in this style, sometimes going further to punk ("Leeches") and sometimes further to sludge ("Weaving Spiders Come Not Here"). They even throw in a Spanish-titled mellow instrumental. Indeed, it's fitting that the album is self-titled, and bears only a version of the band logo on the cover. In many ways it's a statement of everything the band has ever stood for, straight through to killer closing cut "Time of Trials."
I mentioned the amazing opener and closer, which stand up to the best tracks in the band's discography--short of "Clean My Wounds," of course, but on par with anything else. On the other hand, I could do without the rest of the record. Not that tracks 2 through 10 are bad, but there's nothing to write home about either. So I won't bother writing anything more about them.
Maybe it's not the songs, but a weakened lineup, being down (pun intended) to a three-piece. Maybe it's just the baggage I'm bringing into this. Then again, maybe the record will grow on me.
The Verdict: And so I move back from cautious optimism to ambivalence. There are two really excellent songs here, bookending a bunch of moderately good ones.
originally written for http://fullmetalattorney.blogspot.com/
Corrosion of Conformity were once flirting with the crossover eugenics at one time, way back when the band was just a trio of ravenous rockers. Many things have changed under their banner, but on the band's self-titled full-length record, we get the essential gist of what Corrosion of Conformity truly stands for. A pause of seven years since the great "In the Arms of God" and the absence of longtime vocalist Pepper Keenan does little to slow the band down here; the reunited trio of Mike Dean, Woody Weatherman, and Reed Mullin explode in a punkish exploitation of classic metal giving nods to every monumental album released in the thirty-year rampage of their signature in-your-face madness only Corrosion of Conformity could manufacture. Hell, this album is so unbelievably catchy and consistent that it may well be the magnum opus of this timeless band; it's my opinion that they've never looked so rejuvenated and fresh.
Corrosion of Conformity has a history of changing sounds quite dramatically throughout their extensive biography, but this puppy is a lot more well-rounded than most and not so extreme; in essence, it sounds like an amalgamation of almost everything they've done scattered in varying degrees. Of course, the biggest obstacle here was the transition from the southern/sludge sound the band had practiced since Pepper overtook the role as Corrosion of Conformity's vocalist, and there's a big shift from his gruff tone back to Mike Dean's tenor that suits the old-school punk/crossover coat of Corrosion of Conformity's early days and this album just fine. His ability to perform as a vocalist is really magnified compared to "Animosity" or other primordial efforts; it's almost surprising how good he sounds upfront and in your face.
How's the sound? Well, above and beyond the call of corrosion, that's for sure. A lot of folks were banking in on a hardcore/crossover-inspired juxtaposition like the squad's first few releases. It's not necessarily the base of the album, yet there's more than enough samples showing signs of a time long past through the hammering attitude of "Leeches" and haymakers circa 1984 on "Rat City." Anthems like "The Doom" and "Your Tomorrow" conjure an image of Sabbath sins lightly caressing the southern tints of "In the Arms of God" or "Wiseblood" to a mild yet noticeable extent; both are fantastic despite being a bit of a departure from the punchy tunes, and are probably the record's finest creations. They find appropriate unions between the southern/sludge approach and the sensational punk attitude on the busty "Psychic Vampire" and "The Moneychangers," two remarkably fun numbers. Enjoy having both in your head forever. All eleven tunes are unique and dazzlingly powerful, certainly one of the most consistent achievements Woody and crew have ever achieved.
In the end, "Corrosion of Conformity" isn't punk, crossover, sludge, southern rock, or heavy metal. No, this is Corrosion of Conformity, and they jerry-rig each sound in mechanical perfection. Overall, this release completely rules by any measure or scale, a true testament to the group's impeccable longevity and originality reaching a new prime over three decades after the conception of what would be Corrosion of Conformity. Here's a final thought: don't withdraw your investments because it's without a certain spice commonly found in restaurants. It connects so many sanguine facets that it really doesn't matter in the end, and "Corrosion of Conformity" lives up to its name. Kids, this is Corrosion of Conformity.
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com