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Corrosion of Conformity's 2005 record would be the one where COC shows a return to the form of albums like Deliverance and Wiseblood. In that, it showcases a new form of progression and maturity not seen in older Corrosion of Conformity releases, resembling a true underground metal album as opposed to the much more catchy and commercial albums of their classic era in the 90's. It's also certainly a rebound from America's Volume Dealer which was a rather flat and tame recording. While still okay, it was nothing noteworthy or ear-catching, especially with it's decline into Reload-style generic southern rock. In the Arms of God brings back the heaviness and aggression while accenting it with more unusual song structures, varying riffs of the thrash, doom, and groove styles, classic rock hooks and progression, and the still fresh, charismatic, and reinvigorated voice of Pepper Keenan.
The big lineup change here is that of the well-known old drummer Reed Mullin being replaced by Stanton Moore, the drummer from famous New Orleans jazz/funk act Galactic. He fills out the job the Reed left behind quite well with adding bombast and punching power to the beats of each song, especially on faster songs where he can really show off his chops like "Stonebreaker" and "In the Arms of God" with extra speed and gusto. Stanton Moore gives plenty to the band and to this particular album with his jazz skills and more than sufficiently fills the void left by Mullin.
COC's ventures into more complex, stylized, and extreme metal with In the Arms of God as a way of keeping this album sharp and entertaining as well as being able to tie a central theme to the album, damnation. The damnation theme encompasses nearly all of this album lyric-wise whether it be personal destruction or something much more apocalyptic. A feeling of either crushing, ominous, impending doom is one feeling to be taken away from this album, another would be a mournful feeling of loss and grief emphasized on the slower songs such as the very emotional and very sorrowful "Rise, River, Rise" and "It Is That Way." These two contrasting feelings make up most of the dramatics of this album and it really meshes well into this miasma of despair that seeps out and overwhelms the senses.
Song-wise you have yourself a diverse and palatable setup with COC giving us some of the grooves they've always been known for with the added factor that many songs now have these signature changes that make the songs a little more complex, especially when those signature changes mean speeding the song up for a charge(Dirty Hands/Empty Pockets) or creating an incredibly dark and hellish breakdown accompanied by screams (Paranoid Opioid). Classic rock patterns are used to set up most of the rhythms especially on the longer songs with "Never Turns To More" throwing out a rolling, long winded epic with powerful rumbling riffs and a few rays of power and hope shining through with Keenan's vocals flying high alongside the riffs. It's a great song to ride around to. The classic rockage also goes on in the other songs with riffs that recall Black Sabbath (Backslider) and Led Zeppelin (So Much Left Behind) and various 80's rock acts (World On Fire) with COC emulating their influences so well, they could almost pass for songs made by the real guys, and they are great for any metalhead looking to get his classic rock fix.
The other songs do plenty for the album as they manage to establish themselves as formidable songs in their own right with their own unique traits. Stonebreaker's virtuoso introduction and pounding riffs coupled with Keenan's fiery vocals and demonic lyrics set the album off to a brilliant start. Paranoid Opioid brings forth the thrash tempos and blends them well with even more fire and brimstone speak from Pepper about a junkie experiencing hellish near death experiences while on heroin. That song's break two thirds in where the guitars slow down to a threatening churning pace and pepper lets forth a barrage of multi-layered yells to make it as though the listener is descending into hell at that moment, it is beyond jarring and fearful. Dirty Hands/Empty Pockets starts off very slowly with a rolling blues riff for the verse and a plunging sludge riff for the chorus to add buildup in the first half of the song, then it speeds up into a battle ready, charging, thrash riff that propels the song swiftly through with driving rhythm and rousing army shout from Keenan. It's sense of battle coupled with the theme of hopelessness in war makes me think of it as the doom/groove equivalent of the famous Metallica song Disposable Heroes. But the real kicker is the song at the end, the self-titled In the Arms of God. This song gets started on foreboding echoes which quickly turn into a savage, maniacal thrash whirlwind with a sound that gives the impression of falling straight to earth out of the sky. The whole song is centered around the theme of rapid and sudden descent, descent into hell if you'd like to be specific. The whole thing batters and beats you until you're all built up waiting for the climax of the song in which Pepper Keenan chants out the lyrics in a "prophet of doom" style. Before he reaches the end of his speech, the drums build up and he lets out a giant scream riddled with feedback, the guitars rev back up and end the song with the crushing riffs slowly fading into the background, as if to say the fall from heaven is finally complete, ending the album, leaving the listener outright devastated. With the way it's structured, what it talks about, and the sheer level of violent mania involved I could almost compare it to Raining Blood, as the thrash influence here is very thick. The songs on this record are monstrous and awesome.
In the Arms of God is a heavy, destructive release that works to expand the musical horizons of Corrosion of Conformity. While not a timeless, unforgettable classic like albums such as Blind or Deliverance, it certainly manages to show Corrosion of Conformity exploring their music and taking it to another level even if that's at the cost of catchiness as the songs are still of great quality. While many people may consider this album a secondary part of COC's catalog, It proves itself to be much more than that and stands well on it's own musical quality. I could easily recommend In the Arms of God to anyone into the doom, thrash, or groove genres, because much like their classic release, Blind, this album takes those styles, amps them up to their extremes and blends them together into one delicious potent mixture. With the added complexity and longer, more extravagant songs, this will still prove to be a treat for anyone who gives this album the time of day.
In 2005, CoC released In The Arms Of God. Their first album in 5 years. A few things had happened to the band in those 5 years: Pepper was off writing/recording/touring with Down, Reed had left the band, and Woody and Mike seemed to just be sitting on the porch. I mean, they did release Live Volume in-between that time, but there was nothing new creatively from the band. The future looked bleak. Then In The Arms Of God was released and thank fuck for that. This album shut up the naysayers, all the people who thought the band was through, those who said Pepper wouldn't return to the fold because Down was too much of a good thing. Well, they can all suck a big one.
Now, America's Volume Dealer was a decent enough album, song-wise anyway. It's just that the production the band decided to use on that album was used against them. Triggered-sounding drums. Compressed as hell vocals. Shit guitar tone. Nope, this would not do. The whole thing just sounded over-produced. So when the band decided to get back together and record In The Arms Of God, I think they made a conscience decision to make this album sound as natural and organic as possible. Well, it seems to have worked for them as everything on this album gels so well. The band had never sounded so natural and seemed to be well within their (southern) comfort zone with this one (lol, see what I've done there?).
The production is probably the best production the band has ever had. Pep and Woody have achieved the best guitar tone of their whole careers. Warm-sounding but still with tons of bite and attack. Mike's bass is clear and perfectly audible and provides a stupidly heavy bottom end.
And the star of the show, Mr Stanton Moore, is unfucking-relenting behind the kit. He unleashes on those fuckin' drums as though his life depended on it, breathing new life into songs that I don't think even Reed Mullin would be able to pull off.
With this album, the band seem to be experimenting more with time changes, longer passages, and slow, drawn-out stoner-esque section, all of which are excellent and a joy to listen to. The band have never been one to write long songs in the first place. They kinda like to get straight to the point, but with this release I think they thought "Fuck it! Let's take our time with this one".
Now for the songs. The album kicks off with Stonebreaker. Well, I say kicks off. More like cruises in with its all-out bluesy-based intro, then smashes in with a cool-as-fuck riff that would make Iommi proud. Pepper also sounds amazingly hellish on this track. Pepper actually sounds better on this album that any other album he's sang on. The man is on fire throughout.
Now I know that CoC has always been a "riff" band, but this album seems to be chock full of riffs more so than ever before. Blazing in from left, right and center, Paranoid Opiod, It Is That Way, and Infinite War are prime examples of this. Piledriver riffs with awesome solos to boot.
Pep and Woody aren't your typical metal soloists. They use leads as part of the song, to expand it rather than just blazing through hundreds of notes a million miles per second.
Now I've read a few reviews, not just on the archives but on various sites and in magazines stating that the second half of this album is were the album starts to get boring. This is fuckin' bullshit. The second half of the album is just as good as the first. There are no lackluster songs. No half-arsed, little interludes (Deliverance, I'm looking at you). Never Turns To More, The Backslider, and World On Fire all contain some of the band's best musicianship and never get boring or tedious to listen to, and Crown Of Thorns, while a short n' sweet acoustic number, seems to act as a precursor to the title track. The last track, In The Arms Of God, is awesome. The intro is very epic sounding and grand. Multiple guitars help the buildup until Pep comes screaming forth with the harshest lyrics he's written in a long time.
The whole songs dip and dives with distorted, chaotic sounding riffs and the short acoustic section sets the track up nicely for the hellish outro. The outro could be the angriest, most metal-as-fuck riff the band has ever laid down to tape. I think I read somewhere that Pepper sang the last line of the song after he heard that Dimebag had been murdered.
All in all, this album is a return to form for CoC and could possibly be their best album.
I know there are people who will never accept CoC as anything other than a hardcore band and some that believe their album Deliverance is the southern metal equivalent to the Holy Bible, but this album is a true masterpiece and shouldn't be snubbed at. Buy it. Enjoy it. Light one up.
Being the long time avid fan of Corrosion of Conformity that I am, I did not take a very high liking to "America's Volume Dealer." Aside from the obvious and already overstated fact that it was C.O.C.'s version of "Load" and "ReLoad," it was an overproduced gamble for some attention. I felt personally let down by the band, particularly one I had held in such high esteem before hand, and when C.O.C. went on hiatus with Pepper Keenan re-leading his role in Down, some wondered if this band was through.
While I'm also a big fan of Down's work, its always good to know Pepper Keenan and the boys will usually reassemble for something good. Considering their last good album was in 1996 (nine years distance between that and "In the Arms of God,") I for one was hesitant to hear it. The title sounded like something you'd expect out of this band, a mocking jab at religion and an obvious irony resembling modern times. Since this record was released in 2005, the age of halfwit political opinions in music, you can best believe C.O.C. make some statements here. Fortunately, as usual, they sound more intelligent than your average hipster punk rockers who couldn't formulate a respectable political opinion to save their own asses.
However, "In the Arms of God" does give us something a bit different about ol' C.O.C. While the Southern influence is still here, it seems to be scaled back a little bit in favor of a heavier sound overall. This album is heavier than "Wiseblood" was, and parallels some of the hard hitting moments off "Blind," except with Keenan on vocals instead of Karl Agell. The production helps bring this out, arguably some of the best sound quality out of any C.O.C. album. The drums are very prominent, aiding the guitars in packing some aggressive goodness into this recording. While every instrument stands out very well, it still possesses a raw charm to it, and this is personally my favorite kind of sound quality to have as it makes everything clear, but without the sappy overproduction of "America's Volume Dealer."
With the great sounds we're hearing on this album, we're set for a great time. Unfortunately, while C.O.C. do re-establish some of their former glory, we hit a different kind of snag here. Most of these songs are over 4.5 - 5 minutes in length, some extending into six, seven and even eight minute ranges. I was not expecting anything mind blowing out of this, as C.O.C. are not a name that comes to mind with progressive music. Instead, some of these songs work well and some of them do not. "Paranoid Opioid" is an example of the former, riding some good riffs for most of its 6+ minute duration. It does slowly begin to run off fumes as it nears an end, but its an excellent song overall. "Never Turns to More" is an eight minute track, and it shows, because its too damn long. Same story with "So Much Left Behind" and the complete throwaway in "The Backslider." Ironically, the seven minute title track possesses enough ideas to keep it moving smootly without resorting to tedium, even if it is uncharacteristic of the band.
Not surprisingly, the best moments off this album play on the best characteristics of the band. "Stone Breaker" and "Dirty Hands, Empty Pockets" are excellent examples of C.O.C. rock done right. Both of these songs are longer than usual, five and four and a half respectively. Yet "Stone Breaker" funnels off some great Black Sabbath worship and charged energy while "Dirty Hands, Empty Pockets" brings us some memories of the Southern inspired metal of "Wiseblood." Both songs are great numbers and two of the best here. "Rise River Rise" is another good example, with some clean guitar passages to add variety and make it a memorable song. "Infinite War" and "World On Fire" are also shorter numbers that indeed rock hard, but neither of these are truly great but certainly nothing bad.
As you can probably tell, "In the Arms of God" is not an incredible album but it is definitely noteworthy for the band. It marked an unusual ambition to create some epic songs with longer song durations (a concept that is flawed in itself, right, Opeth?) but they could have done much worse. "In the Arms of God" did leave me smiling for the most part, with only a couple of real downers here and there. On the wide scale, however, this album doesn't reach great heights like "Blind" or "Wiseblood." Its actually better than "Deliverance" and certainly better than "America's Volume Dealer" in all areas. The musicianship is certainly commendable, thanks largely to new drummer Stanton Moore. I can't even complain about the politically inspired lyrics of a White House administration who is now a memory in history, as C.O.C. did at least make some intelligible points. They avoided shoving an opinion down your throat like how Disturbed and Green Day did with their brand of political jack-assery, so I can still respect the band for that, and also because they've been a political band from day one. That all said, I can recommend this album to C.O.C. and Southern metal fans alike, just don't expect anything to make you forget this band's better days.
In the booklet that comes with this album they have a listing of songs and they're divided into two sets of six songs each--sides A and B as it were. That's kind of ironic, because the material might well be divided in roughly the same way as far as quality goes, with the first seven songs being excellent, and the last five songs being a slight step down. And really, the first seven songs add up to thirty-nine minutes of music, which would have been a fine length for an album. I guess part of the problem is that I loved almost every song on 'Deliverance' (except the title track), and loved every song on 'Wiseblood', so I want to love this entire album as well. I don't just want to like Corrosion of Conformity songs, I want to love them. I have a COC Skull tattoo for a reason, and I want only the best from these guys. Anyway, with those comments out of the way, on to the review proper.
This album starts with a cool, bluesy lead guitar bit, which then goes into a nice flowing riff. The guys generally pick a riff and then build a song around it, especially in the earlier songs. The riffage on this album is definitely above-average, and even outstanding at times. In fact, the opening riff on 'It Is That Way' is perhaps my favorite riff of all time. It's a fairly simple riff, but it really hits you in the gut in the sludgy, sabbathy way Tony Iommi often could. Admittedly, the song does seem to stall sometimes for lack of guitar work, but that first riff always comes back in to save the day.
There are some time changes on this album, but it never feels like a section of a song is out of place. There are some nice acoustic guitar parts on 'Rise River Rise' and 'Crown of Thorns' as well. As for the solos, they aren't overly technical, but when they appear they always add something to the songs. There are never solos just for the sake of having solos. The solos have a nice bluesy tone to them, but with a metallic edge. The guitars in general have a nice tone to them as well, crunchy when necessary, and with a powerful, almost soaring, melodic tone when necessary.
Unfortunately while the bass isn't inaudible, I don't hear Mike Dean as much as I'd like at times. I wish he was pushed to the front a bit more. Of course there are exceptions, such as the bass intro to 'Dirty Hands, Empty Pockets'.
I'm a fan of Pepper's vocals, and I like what he does on this album, for example the galloping singing in the opening verses of 'Paranoid Opioid'. Pepper has regained some fire and aggression after the 'America's Volume Dealer' let down. There is a good deal of variation in the vocals as well, enough to keep you interested throughout (e.g. on more than one song Pepper has a slight echo on his vocals, and it works well). The lyrics are not quite as good as some past albums, but they're still decent.
On the last five or so songs on the album the band seems to lose focus a bit. Or maybe they just put their lesser songs there, I don't know. There's also some material in the last five songs that sounds similar to work they had already done previously on the album. The only really poor song on the album is 'World On Fire,' which has some nice guitar work, but which seems out of place on this album, mostly because of the vocals.
For those who have never heard COC before, they're like a modern version of Black Sabbath from the southern United States. Or as I titled one of my reviews of their material, they're "southern sabbathy goodness". I'd recommend this album to anyone who likes sludge metal, bluesy metal, or just plain old metal ala Black Sabbath. Actually I'd pretty much recommend this album to everyone.
In the Arms of God is a very good southern metal album. The album is mixed amazingly with not too much emphasis put on any particular element. Pepper Keenan's lyrical and instrumental ability are greatly seen between his shouted singing to his bluesy solos. The majority of the acoustic playing and clean singing is heard in Rise River Rise.
My only complaint on this album is that some of the songs run together, and sometimes it just sounds outright bland.
The album however does have some spaced out standout tracks such as Paranoid Opioid, Stonebreaker, Rise River Rise, Infinite War, and the title track. The title track blew me away with it's intensity which I hadn't heard in any of the albums previous material. It's inclusion alone on the album is the only reason I don't give this album a 60. When Keenan screams in this song you just want to shake your fists towards the heavens. The riffs, the intensity, the vocals, everything on the title track just screams epic song and should be heard.
This album is very well mixed, putting key tracks well spaced so as not to make a lopsided album. If your a fan of southern sludge or heavy metal in general this album should be high on your to get list.
I’ve had a sort of love affair with bayou bruisers Corrosion of Conformity ever since I heard their 1994 masterpiece, "Deliverance". That love affair was threatened in 2000 when they released the ridiculously polished "America’s Volume Dealer" and followed it up with a hopelessly lifeless live album. I thought they were done for. They had only released two studio albums since "Deliverance", one being the slightly less-good "Wiseblood", the other being AVD. So what was I to expect? Maybe "Deliverance" was a fluke? I didn’t want to believe it, but for a band that has changed styles as much as COC, it wouldn’t be that much of a stretch.
Fast forward to 2005, and Pepper, Woody and Mike return armed with a new drummer (the talented Stanton Moore) and this absolute beast of an album. All questions are answered on this one, and you can pull your COC T-shirt out of the rag-pile.
The first thing you’ll notice listening to this album is the production, which is great. Huge, gritty and totally live-sounding, the production is a much needed breath of fresh air in a world full of ultra-compressed Nevermore and Lamb of God albums. It has a very in-your-face sound to it, so much so that when I crank it in the Corolla, I could swear Stanton is crammed in my back seat smashing away, and Pepper sitting beside me, screaming in my face.
As for the songs themselves, they are totally lethal, with very few dull spots. The band doesn’t waste any time in smashing your skull in with the very NOLA "Stone Breaker" and they don’t let up one bit until the fifth track, the spacey "Rise River Rise". "Paranoid Opioid" is one of the better tracks, a very punishing drug rant, with Pepper’s distorted voice in the chorus reminding one instantly of "Iron Man". Other bright spots are the lengthy "Never Turns to More", "Infinite War" with Woody Weatherman handling lead vocal duties quite well, and the epic title track. The second half of the album isn’t as great as the first, with a couple of weaker songs, but any one of the songs still shits all over anything on AVD.
All I can say now is thank you to Pepper et al. for recording this wonderful slab of dirty, bluesy swamp metal. I’m salivating at the thought of what they’ll do next. Hopefully it’s more like this than not.
Leading up to the release of "In the Arms of God," Pepper Keenan stated several times that he and his bandmates had listened to their old-school hardcore and metal albums again. This led to some speculation that this album would perhaps be a return to one of their previous incarnations; either the hardcore punk of their 80's releases or the thrash/alterna-metal of "Blind." But while there are a few almost thrash moments present, most notably in the album-ending title track, the fans expecting a return to either of those two sounds were pretty much disappointed. Thankfully, they fixed alot of the problems of "America's Volume Dealer," leaving "In the Arms of God" to sound most similar to "Wiseblood," yet calling this "Wiseblood II" would be an insult to the sound that COC have achieved on this album.
John Custer's production has moved the guitars farther back in the mix, giving Corrosion of Conformity a chance to focus on two aspects of their sound that had previously been underutilized; those being Keenan's vocals and the drums. Stanton Moore does a fine job filling in, and although I first hated his jazzy style of playing, I now think that his impressive technical drumwork is one of the highlights of songs such as the title track and "Paranoid Opioid." Keenan always had a cool way of singing (I wish he was given more vocal duties in Down) and now he adds more variation than just his southern croon that he had mainly used before this. He spits out the words like venom on "Paranoid Opioid," adapts a more "macho" style on "Stonebreaker," and goes for a more laid-back approach on "Rise River Rise." Don't get me wrong though, the riffs are still there, and they're still awesome, they just aren't as crushing as they were on older cuts like "Broken Man."
As for the songs themselves, I think that "In The Arms of God" has the best 1-2-3-4-5-6 punch out of nearly any album I've heard. "Stonebreaker" kicks it off with an organ and a surprisingly melodic solo before the almighty riffing takes over. Keenan shines on both vocals and guitar, while the chorus is impossible not to sing (yell) along to. Next up is "Paranoid Opioid," a song where COC inculde a jam section reminiscent of Black Sabbath, one of the band's biggest influences. Not to be outdone, they show how much Black Label Society has affected them on the following song, "It Is That Way;" Keenan's howl at the beginning of the song is taken right from Wylde's textbook. While BLS haven't done anything innovative in several years, it would be folly to deny their strong influence on this type of metal (Biker metal? Stoner metal? Your guess is as good as mine). Even so, this song is a winner. The next song is a two part, "Dirty Hands Empty Pockets (Already Gone)" the first half being slower before the song speeds up and Keenan spits out awesome lines like "Soon you will see/when you're six feet down like me" and "KILL THAT SONOFABITCH!!" Soon after we are treated to the acoustic based "Rise, River, Rise." Keenan's vocals trade off with an echo-tinged lead guitar to create an eerie melody that is different than anything COC has done before. Following one of the highlights of the album is the best song of this session, "Never Turns To More." The verses are nearly impossible not to sing along with, and Keenan once again delivers a top-notch performance, making this rank right up there along "Heaven's Not Overflowing" as COC's best song. After this, the album gets weaker with the throwaway "Infinite War" and the overlong "Backslider." "World on Fire" starts out okay but fails to take off while "Crown of Thorns" is a useless instrumental. "So Much Left Behind" is pretty good but doesn't measure up to the first six songs. The album finally picks up again with the pounding closer "In The Arms of God." After a short intro which features some great drum work by Stanton along with the rhythm guitar, a near thrash riff come out of nowhere. Then Keenan's vocals enter the fray and it's impossible not to receive an adreniline rush. I want to bust a piece of wood or smash my head through the wall, it is that exhilarating. Out of nowhere the heavy metal mayhem ends and a sole acoustic guitar begins to play. Where did that come from?! But fear not, the distorted guitars come alive again and the album and song end on a high note.
It's nice to see a band that makes a misstep acknowledge their mistake and return to the sound that their fans have come to expect. Yet, once again, this isn't "Deliverence II" or Wiseblood II," the band continues to evolve without screwing over their listeners. I like the fact that the band writes longer songs with several ideas to mix along with their shorter, more concise numbers. Sadly, for COC at least, Pepper Keenan has said he won't play on the new COC album, opting instead to record with former side project, Down. This isn't to say that the next album will suck, but Keenan is such an integral part of their sound, it's difficult to believe that they will be able to top this. But Weatherman, Dean, and company are no slouches either, so we'll see what happens. In the meantime, get "In the Arms of God" and prepare for the forthcoming sonic assault.
Corrosion Of Conformity have played more different styles and succeeded in it (!) than any other band I know - they jumped from furious Hardcore on “Eye For An Eye” to Metalcore/Crossover (in 80’s terms) on “Animosity” to Alternative Metal on “Blind” to Southern Metal on “Deliverance”. Since then they have changed their style - i.e. 70’s Hard Rock in the vein of BLACK SABBATH, LED ZEPPELIN and THIN LIZZY mixed with Southern Rock and Sludge while incorporating their own musical history - only marginally from album to album.
5 years after the highly disappointing „America’s Volume Dealer“ C.O.C. are back with album number 7 which sounds like the direct successor of 96’s “Wiseblood”, although it has a more Stoner Metal vibe to it. Of course this album screams 70’s all over the place - “Rise River Rise”, for example, sounds like the band’s attempt to write a LED ZEPPELIN song like “Four Sticks”, while in the middle of the brilliant 7-minute-plus “Never Turns To More” they included the riff of “No Quarter”, playing it with seemingly as little variation as possible. But like the preceding albums “In The Arms Of God” again incorporates all the different musical styles the band has played in the past (or at least since the 90’s), and “So Much Left Behind” is even highly reminiscent of SOUNDGARDEN and ALICE IN CHAINS.
Among these 12 tracks the only two songs that do absolutely nothing for me are ”Paranoid Opioid” and “Crown Of Thorns”, but to be fair I think “Crown ...” is supposed to be some kind of interlude, so I wouldn’t call it a filler. The other two songs I usually skip are “It Is That Way” (although it’s got an extremely catchy chorus, there is no reason for me to listen through the entire song) and the already mentioned “Rise River Rise”. The rest, however, is really strong material: “Stone Breaker” and “The Backslider” are Stoner Metal at their best, and also the other songs are more up-tempo, with a few sludgy parts now and then.
Last but no least, the production should be mentioned, too. John Custer has produced every C.O.C. album since “Blind”, and he always did an excellent job. Hell, if Brian May ever wanted to know what his guitar COULD sound like, he should listen to “Deliverance” or “Wiseblood”, because on these albums Mr. Custer probably managed to capture the best lead guitar sound on record in music history! But instead of being one of the most sought-after producers in the world, Corrosion Of Conformity still seem to be the only “big name” he has ever worked for. “In The Arms Of God” again is blessed with a brilliant sound - as fat as it gets, but still extremely transparent.
“In The Arms Of God” may not have an instantly recognizable all-time classic like “Albatross”, “Clean My Wounds” or “Vote With A Bullet” on it, but it contains 45 minutes of the finest music this band has written in nearly a decade, which makes it the third great record of the “new” C.O.C. So let’s just forget that an album called “America’s Volume Dealer” ever existed and hope that this is the beginning of a new era for a great band!
If you aren't familar with COC your first listen with Stonebreakers is one of confusion. COC since the Deliverance album have blended Heavy Metal and Southern Rock. On this album imparticular you can hear the confederate old gritty south, it's remarkably unique. Sometimes Sludgy or Thrashy, it's a really unique mix. One thing that's evident throughout the album is the formula always stays pretty heavy and in tune with everything, it makes a great blend for it all. Persistent drumming is always a plus, they use Stanton Moore which is almost a pure jazz drummer. The lyrics on the album are written nicely with good rhyming patterns, more of analyzing society. But plain spoken in the southern kinda way. Most of the songs on the album are longer and have that kind of jam feeling to them, which is nice.
Stonebreakers has that undeniable blues riff that goes along with all of the album, it's for a unique taste, an acquired one. Stonebreakers and Paranoid Opioid are more thrashy and faster and then it gets groovy and more blues based with Is It That Way and the really southern-churned Dirty Hands Empy Pockets/Already Gone. It gives off a really old timey civil war feeling with the lyrics and samples. They slow it way down in Rise River Rise in which Keenan gets out the Mandellion and plays a really nice slow almost pure southern rock song. They keep the same general pace with Never Turns to More, still groovy and then it almost becomes a thrash-fest with Infinite War which is really awesomely heavy. It's got that chorus that'll keep you coming back and coming back. Great use of backing vocals on it too. They slow it back down with So Much Left Behind which is a beautiful song, the guitars are really melodic, just a clean song. They go back to the heavy southern groove with The Backslider, a song about backstabbers. They pick it up the pace of the album again with World on Fire, which reminds me a lot of Clutch and straight Southern Heavy Rock. Crown of Thorns is a beautifully written song, the preformance on the album is unbelievable, the acoustic song has that old school country angry raw feel. They close it out with In the Arms of God which ushers in the Metal, the real almost pure thrash to a point. The song of course still is burnt with the Southern Rock, it's the heaviest on the album.
You can't go wrong with this album if you love Southern Rock or Thrash or just really music in general. The time and creativity gone into it is unbelievable, it's one of the greatest rock albums I've heard in a long time. It's got everything anyone would enjoy in it.
Let me just say right off the bat, that all of those reviews that you may have read re this new COC disc being some sort of return to the glory days of ‘Blind’ (1991 – and possibly one of my favourite albums ever!) are not worth the paper (or screen) they’re printed on. Not according to these ears, at least. No way baby! I ALMOST fell for the sycophantic hyperbole myself folks - but considering my reaction to 2000’s America’s Volume Dealer’ was anything but positive, I knew that a return to ‘Blind’ was a loooooooong shot. It’s better to not build up the expectations too high hey?
To say that I was rather apprehensive about listening to the new COC is a bit of an understatement. ‘AVD’s southern fried sludge left an extremely unpleasant taste in my mouth, an experience I am still coming to terms with. For me, AVD represented a band that was but a shadow of its former self. Sure, they tried the more commercial ‘safe’ angle, opted for popularity and MTV rotation, but for me it just didn’t work, let alone appeal to me. If there was one thing I didn’t want ‘In the Arms..’ to throw up, was more of the same. Fortunately, its mission accomplished in this respect.
Nope, this may not be ‘Blind’ but it does bear some similarities to its follow up albums in ‘Deliverance (which I also rate very highly) and Wiseblood’. For me, this is a very good thing. If this period of the COC catalogue appeals to you, then there is immense enjoyment to be had with ‘ITAOG’. Probably the most important difference between this new disc and where the bands head was at with AVD is its more aggressive edge. The bluesy swamp laden sludge is still an integral part of their sound; however there is renewed vigour and energy about their song writing. Most of this disc is up-tempo and hard driving with a greater emphasis on the riff and bottom end groove. Unlike the more sedate and subdued ‘AVD’ this disc sounds waaaay more interesting.
Without a doubt it is the John Custer production that makes ‘ITAOG’ sound like their best album since ‘Deliverance’. Bass heavy, it has a real warm, organic feel to it. And while I miss the brilliance of Reed Mullin on the drums his replacement Stanton Moore (formerly of Funk-Jazz Combo ‘Galactic’) is no slouch. Custer has been sure to give the man’s talents some massive space in the mix of this album. Seriously, this is one of the better drum sounds I’ve heard – its heavy, thick and ‘live in your lounge room’ type feel is a highlight of the album. Moore’s amazing fills and cool hand groove that he establishes throughout only emphasises this further.
I must also make mention of the plethora of understated, yet highly provocative lead work of Woody Weatherman and Pepper Keenan. The riff may be king on this album, but it’s the slight hand of Weatherman that gives the bands compositions added depth and emotive sentiment. Furthermore, with Pepper’s distinctive southern rasp in full voice, ‘ITAOG’ becomes an even more soulful and passionate listen. Having said that, it is the overall consistency of this album that appeals most rather than individual songs – and while this is very appealing, the one thing that ‘ITAOG’ doesn’t have is a set of standout tracks. As good as this sounds, I can’t spot a ‘Clean My Wounds’, ‘Break the Circle’ or ‘Vote with a Bullet’. It’s a minor criticism that I can live with, but if you want a signature track to define this album, it’s a bit tough to find.
‘ITAOG’ finds Pepper and Co finding the rich vein of form they uncovered back on ‘Deliverance’. I don’t think this is as good as that album, but stylistically I’m comfortable with its place right along side it. Confident, self assured and aggressive in nature, this is the way (‘Blind’ aside) I remember COC to be. Welcome back!!
original review for http://www.pyromusic.net