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Man, imagine if you could listen to doom, punk, stoner, and mad blues jamming all at the same time! That would be so shit, right? Wrong. That would be 'Wiseblood'. And it's pretty good, even if this is the most laid back album I've ever heard that's this heavy. Jesus H, these guys make it so natural to sound sloppy as spaghetti sauce hitting a plate with being as tight and on it as...well actually, I don't know any supermodels, but you get the picture.
The most prominent thing about 'Wiseblood' is the bottom end that hits you like a fuzzed-out hoof to the stomach. It's fucking filthy brown sludge, and I'm not complaining. The bass grumbles and croaks like an angry frog under every single riff, which themselves sound mean and crushing in all their different formats. It's really hard to explain what Corrosion of Conformity sounded like at this point in the band's career and I'm going to have to resort to pointing out what happened to Carnivore/Type O Negative as they gradually slid from hardcore thrash to doom metal. There's that heavy crushing power of doom's riffs with a frenetic energy fueling most of the songs, except the slower numbers that go blues/doom/country and sound great on it. To be honest, the drumming is still pretty hardcore influenced: it has that slightly muffled, scrambling sound that is a little alien to traditional heavy metal, but it works on this album by staying in keeping with those stoner amp settings while still providing pace and attack. The vocals are somewhere thereabouts as well. I can't be bothered with another long explanation, so I'll just say they vary to fit the music and are mostly decent, though aren't an absolute focal point.
Shit, that was hard work. CoC don't sound conventional, but it's easy to enjoy the songs on 'Wiseblood'. For this type of music, there are a lot of good riffs played with great energy. The faster riffs are more common and are worthy of a headbang or two, particularly on the aggressive opener 'King of the Rotten' and the title track, both of which win over the listener with a busy assault and bit of jamming groove. The slower sludge/doom songs 'Man or Ash' and the closing instrumental just boom out with great staggering walls of fuzz that put CoC way above the level of most of the stuff Down have released, plus the less riffy songs benefit from a relaxing Southern vibe.
'The Door' gets it own paragraph, because it kicks every ass in the room and I want to mention the lead guitar player, Woody Weatherman (nice name). This song jumps and hops about on a great stop-stop-stop-stop-great lick riff that is pretty characteristic of the band's energy driven numbers, but halfway through it takes off on a set of short solos, breaks into a dizzy rising motif, trades a few licks with the rhythm guitar, then the riff takes off into a new verse. The word "licks" is important to notice, because that's how the lead guitar operates through most of the album: the band didn't really plan any parts for solos to be played over - there are no thirty second gaps, where one riff repeats - so the guitarist makes the most of all his moments. In some songs, the longest solo is probably about ten seconds, which means that all the gaps are filled with a quirky, bluesy fill that is very overdriven and thus big on character, with pinched notes everywhere. The only classic solo I can detect is the longer one on 'Man or Ash' and, although it's not bad, it actually sounds like a parody, so conventional is it in comparison to the others.
I wouldn't like to write off CoC as being merely a refreshing change from some of the more generic bands out there, but 'Wiseblood' does have the advantage of being distinct yet appealing to many different audiences. It's way too heavy and intense for blues and country fans, I admit that, but those styles make the musicianship stand out from the masses without compromising the heavy aspects of the band. The album is overlong at almost an hour, but it's the good kind of overlong where it would be tough to pick tracks to discard, so I'm going to proclaim it a minor triumph.
The sound of COC is shown to have continued to change and evolve with this album. Wiseblood furthers the encroaching groove metal and rock n' roll influences that make themselves apparent on this release. Wiseblood is a natural advancement from the grimy, dirty sound of Deliverance along the lines of COC's signature southern/stoner/groove style. It has the unique charisma and sharp, wisecracking attitude that carried Corrosion Of Conformity throughout the 1990's and gained them a respectable amount of popularity and praise. Wiseblood shows that Corrosion Of Conformity can find a sound, stick to it, and evolve within it. This shows stability and maturity with this band as their early years were rather rough as far as genres were concerned. They went from punk rock, to crossover thrash, to thrash/groove, to finally stoner metal and they've decided to stick with this. This is the sound that would define Corrosion Of Conformity in their prime.
The instruments are all played wonderfully and the record itself is produced with almost a layer of thick sludge on top of it with a low bottom and a heavy bass in the production. The guitars are given a thick, chunky, low tuning with a heaping helping of distortion to only further add the slime to the pile. The bass complements the guitar well and still continues to add to the lowdown impact of the overall sound with a nice thump to keep the rhythm going during the heavily distorted and very skillful solos. Pepper Keenan continues to give excellent vocals that let you know that this is COC's signature sound.
Blues influence is all over this album and that gives it a very rock n' roll sound, especially on such tracks as Long Whip/Big America and Goodbye Windows. Classic rock sound is also very prevalent in Wiseblood on not only the title track, but also other rousing headbangers such as The Door and Born Again For The Last Time. The ballads on this album are also pulled of smoothly and with a southern-fried rocking charisma that only Corrosion Of Conformity can deliver. Redemption City is beautifully mournful and has this dusty texture to the song that just feels right, like walking through a desert with a decaying city ruin in the middle would be the most appropriate place for it. Drowning In A Daydream, the other ballad, is also very uplifting; and like all the songs on Wiseblood has a rocking rhythm that pushes the song along and makes it all the more memorable to your ear. You angry? Man Or Ash, with it's sacriligious lyrics and chilling vocal techniques (helped along by guest James Hetfield) make this song super heavy and a real scarer. Or do you just want to thrash out? Then Fuel's your song; crushing, fast, and driving, it's just perfect for that.
Wiseblood, while not quite as heavy as Blind or as groundbreaking as Deliverance is still an excellent album and I could easily recommend it to anyone who enjoys metal in general. I'd still recommend this most to sludge, groove, and traditional metal fans. Southern and classic rock fans will also find plenty to love on this release. If you ever see this album and it strikes your interest, listen to it. You won't be disappointed.
Corrosion of Conformity's previous album Deliverance showed that the band's journey from hardcore band to sludge metal overlords was complete. With Wiseblood they tweaked a few things and created their masterpiece, even managing to rope James Hetfield in on the fun.
Deliverance may have scored the band some US chart action and elevated their status somewhat, but while it had plenty of moments there weren't nearly enough memorable songs and it was obvious COC was still trying to perfect its Southern rock/sludge thrash crossover. Where they had failed there, on Wiseblood they nail everything perfectly. "King of the Rotten" gets things underway with a scorching riff and Keenan's snarling vocals and mid-way through the running order is a knock-out trio headed up by "Born Again for the Last Time", leading into the pure gem that is "Drowning in a Daydream" and following through with "The Snake Has No Head".
There isn't really any filler on here, just one killer cut after the next as COC veers effortlessly from Southern-style sludge to doomified rock to ultimate bottom-feeding drone (titled, erm, "Bottom Feeder", no less!) while delivering nothing less than an thoroughly enjoyable and consistent album. Keenan and Woody Weatherman fire off some truly tasty riffage with Mike Dean's huge bass sound rumbling along underneath. The debt paid to Black Sabbath here is both obvious and enormous, but that could be said about lots of bands, and Corrosion of Conformity adds a well-honed groove to it that Pantera would not only envy but admire. Another admirer was Hetfield, who chimes in with some backing vocals on "Man or Ash", marking one of few musical contributions outside of Metallica.
Put simply, Wiseblood is just musical dynamite, a fantastic album from a band at the very top of their game and one that should find a home in the collection of any devoted listener of quality heavy music.
Originally written for Pyromusic.net
One of the things that gets me about Corrosion of Conformity is by what albums they are judged. The casual listener will usually drift towards "Deliverance" or "America's Volume Dealer," since those two had reasonably successful singles in "Clean My Wounds" and "Stare Too Long" respectively. I wouldn't categorize as either of those two albums as bad by most measures of quality, but what you end up getting is an overlooked gem sandwhiched by two lesser, but more well known offerings. "Wiseblood" is that album out of C.O.C.'s catalog.
Though "Drowning in a Daydream" did respectably well as a single, penetrating the Top 20 in the late 90's, this album did not sell very well. Even now, after being "re-discovered" by a number of new C.O.C. fans, its sales ranking is pretty low. This strikes me as troubling, since most casual listeners will point to "Deliverance" as their best album, and no undue disrespect to that release, but its far from what "Wiseblood" offers.
In terms of music description, this is something of a blending of various C.O.C. albums, I can hear parts of "Blind," "Deliverance," and even "America's Volume Dealer" in here. There is the definite Black Sabbath influence running rampant here, just like on "Deliverance" but without the goofy gimmicks of the title track for that album and no pointless interludes. Not to mention, "Wiseblood" stands alongside "Blind" to be the only two C.O.C. albums completely devoid of filler material. It also stands with that album as having dense Southern rock influence, something that was present on "Deliverance" but often masked by the rough and gritty sound quality of that album. "Wiseblood" is cleaner, not to mention more satisfying to the fans of "Blind," albeit I would rank this album a close second to that one and we have Pepper Keenan on the vocal front instead of Karl Agell.
We can break this album into a number of different directions that each song takes. This is similiar in the way "Blind" played out, with a variety of different styles on display, but here there are no true thrash songs and those influences are a bit on the short scale. This has more in common with the Southern rock base of Down's "NOLA," without the overt sludge tendencies of that album. I'd even say this throws a little "Load" and "ReLoad" style in here in terms of Southern influenced hard rock, but C.O.C. did that style in an enjoyable way, so "Wiseblood" doesn't play out like the total shit fest both those albums were. Even James Hetfield shows up to provide backing vocals on the slow stomper "Man or Ash," just too bad he didn't take away some of C.O.C.'s magic to keep "Load" (released this same year) from becoming a steaming pile of mediocrity.
Firstly, we have some shorter songs that run off Southern rock energy and are all around fun. Songs of this nature are "King of the Rotten," "Wiseblood," and "Wishbone (Some Tomorrow.)" "The Door" would also fit here, but it possesses some of the slow, quirky spoken word sections that were on the "Deliverance" title track, but this works much, much better and listens well rather than comically. "Fuel" would also fit here, but this throws in some Motorhead speed metal influences that are indeed welcome. Its a short song, the shortest here at two and a half minutes but just like "We Die Young" off "Facelift," it works incredibly well. Its placement at the end of the album is a bit unusual, but I'm not complaining.
Some of the longer tracks like "Long Whip / Big America" and "Born Again for the Last Time" are good, but begin to drag on a bit much. Similiar to how "Albatross" did on the previous album, but they are superior songs in most respects. "Goodbye Windows" is a particular favorite of mine, throwing in a little doom metal influence as it creeps along, adding some Southern fried moments in the background. The near eight minute closer in "Bottom Feeder (El Que Come Abajo)" is unlike anything this band has done before and I must say it listens very well, though its length is a bit excessive. The sludge/doom tendencies come into heavy play here which adds a new facet to this album's listening experience.
In the grand scope of C.O.C.'s catalog, I must say that while this album is indeed impressive, it comes in close second to "Blind." I prefer that album, which was perfect in almost every way. This album is close, but it has a few lackluster moments like the dragging "The Snake Has No Head." Still, in terms of quality nothing here is revolting or even mediocre. You get thirteen good to great songs in the line of pure Southern metal, and quite honestly one of the best full lengths in that genre. This is possibly the best thing Pepper Keenan has his name attached to, even placing itself above the majority of Down's works and comes just a hair over "NOLA," another essential listen in Southern tinged sludge/doom. This is surprisingly one of C.O.C.'s most accessible albums, alongside "America's Volume Dealer" (their most accessible) but this album is far superior. If you're interested latter day C.O.C., I can easily recommend this as the best offering you can get your hands on.
COC is one of my favorite bands. While I have never gotten the chance to listen to their first two albums, which are more punk/cross-over thrash oriented than their later Sabbath-styled metal, all their albums from Blind to In the Arms of God are good. But if I were to pick an album to introduce a newcomer to the band, it would most certainly be Wiseblood. In my opinion, Wiseblood is the quintessential COC album; it combines everything about the band that makes them good and crams it all into a 13 track package. While the album may not have any huge hits on it like Albatross, Clean My Wounds, or Vote With a Bullet, it is by far COC’s most consistent album.
The vocalist, Pepper Kennan is in peak form on this album. While he may not have the range and pitch of some of the more popular metal vocalists, his voice has a lot of character and just sounds plain good. Think of a mix between James Hetfield, Chris Cornell, and Ozzy Osbourne and you’ll get the idea. The guitars sound outstanding and the entire album is chock full of catchy and memorable riffs, interspersed with some bluesy guitar solos. The drumming is tight, fast, loud, complex (just listen to Bottom Feeder), and generally a lot more prominent than it was on COC’s prior albums. The bass is audible on most songs and is usually catchy and interesting as well.
As far as songwriting goes, the guys in COC know what they are good at and they do it very well. They’ve taken an obvious Sabbath/ 70’s metal bands influence and made it their own. These influences can easily be heard when listening to this album, but you’ll never once think that COC is ripping off any other bands. (Trivium, I'm looking in your direction) The lyrics are also very intelligent and poetic and worth paying attention to, which is not something I can say for a lot of metal bands.
In case you can’t already tell, I like this album. A lot. It’s one of those albums you can listen to from beginning to end without skipping any tracks. That’s a rare commodity these days as a lot of bands focus on writing a few good songs to make singles out of and then crap out a bunch of filler tracks. The fact that there is not a bad song on this album is a testament to the hard work and effort the guys in COC put into their music. I highly recommend this album to all music fans who even have a passing interest in old-school heavy metal.
It is often pointed out that CoC is influenced by Black Sabbath. While that is obvious, it'd be a crime to stop there. CoC starts with Sabbath, mixes that sound with other 70's metal and rock sounds, and then triumphantly brings the whole enterprise into the modern age. It's not a nostalgia act, it's just damn good music that isn't afraid to wear it's influences on it's sleeve.
Pepper's vocals are good here, and he is sufficiently different from other mid-ranged metal singers. The lyrics are very good, ranging in content from politics to drug use to internal conflict. The bass guitar is audible throughout, and plays a nice, pervasive role on the album (as far as bass goes, this album is the antithesis of "...And Justice For All").
As far as the guitars go, there are some solos scattered here and there, but the main meat is obviously the rhythm riffs, and they don't disappoint. Sabbathy, yeah, and also mixed with various southern rock and metal styles; and it's all brought together without sounding dated. There's all sorts of music on the record as well, everything from more aggressive stuff (King of the Rotten), to sludgy stuff (Bottom Feeder), to heavier stuff (Fuel); and CoC mixes all these styles of music together without the album sounding disjointed.
There aren't as many hooks or catchy riffs on this album as there were on Deliverance, but the song writing is better, the music is more mature, the production is much better, and CoC are just a lot more consistent. Definitely a recommended CD.