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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.