Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Corrosion of Conformity - Corrosion of Conformity

Remember when you were a kid and you had that group of friends that did everything together? But there was always that one guy that had a little more going on. The group would want to go shoot hoops, or hang out under the bridge throwing rocks at trains, or some other such sport or shenanigans. But that guy was too busy playing video games, watching porno, or (gasp) hanging out with his girlfriend. The typical exchange: "Hey man, you comin' or what?" "Nah dudes. You go ahead and I'll catch up with ya later." And everything is cool.
Now take that scenario and apply it to Corrosion of Conformity. Bassist/vocalist Mike Dean, guitarist Woody Weatherman, and drummer/vocalist Reed Mullin wanted to make a new album. But guitarist/vocalist Pepper Keenan was too busy with Down. (That's a way better excuse than porno or a girlfriend.) That's cool.  They made the album anyway and Pepper will just catch up with them later. (i.e. no animosity) What that means, is that this album was made by the "classic" Animosity line-up. (I know. I know. I couldn't resist.)
Now, the last time I listened to COC in any capacity, if I recall correctly, was September 17, 2009. I don't have some crazy memory (quite the opposite) but it was the day after a night I will never forget. The COC material was actually Six Songs With Mike Singing. The night before must have had some effect because although I know I listened to it, I can't remember a damn thing about it. Point being: To my frequently misfiring mind, COC sounds like "Albatross" and "Clean My Wounds". Corrosion of Conformity sounds nothing like either of those songs. In fact, this new album sounds nothing like Animosity either.
I expected the Pepper-less COC to sound like the crossover of their early days but that's not the case. The dish we are served instead may actually be spicier than the pre- and Pepper-ed eras. These seasoned vets have thrown the proverbial curve ball. For the most part the album sounds almost like a COC record with the obvious difference being in the vocal department. I say almost because it has more, shall we say, balls, than "modern day" COC. The guitar tone is close to what I would expect but overall the album is more dynamic. Mixed into that southern hard rock vibe is more edge. More youthful enthusiasm. Not near the energy of Animosity mind you, but I can hear touches of that spirit throughout the album. Perhaps my favourite track of the album "Leeches", is by far the song closest to the crossover this lineup is known for. It's almost like this album is at a point in between Animosity and their later works. 
Crossover isn't the only other subgenre that makes its presence known. Throughout the album and mostly in the vocals, a doomy feel seeps to the surface. I hesitate to say it sounds like St. Vitus but that's what comes to mind. Maybe The Obsessed or Spirit Caravan would be a more apt reference point. If that wasn't enough, even grunge makes an appearance. On a couple songs, most notably "Weaving Spiders Come Not Here", a distinct Soundgarden vibe is heard. In fact, if you played me "Weaving.." without telling me who it was I would think it was a lost b-side from Down On The Upside. It's definitely better than the new SG song that is set to appear on The Avengers soundtrack. 
"El Lamento De Las Labras" is an instrumental track that sounds exactly like the laid back southern rock I would have expected from a new COC album. However, the song doesn't really go anywhere and it kind of kills the momentum built by the aforementioned "Leeches".
Detractors might look at the mix of styles as a negative. Perhaps if this was a new band just trying to discover themselves I would agree yet this is a band that been around for almost 30 years. So the fact that they mix it up and incorporate doom, punk, grunge, thrash, and southern rock into a new record is actually quite refreshing. Then again maybe Keenan's absence had something to do with that. For example, when I have the TV all to myself, I get so excited I can't decide what to watch. If there was a pornographic cartoon docu-action horror flick/series, that would make things much easier. (If Heavy Metal was true?) Maybe having the free reigns COC couldn't decide which direction to go so they just amalgamated it all together? Seems unlikely though. I prefer to think that they just made the music that was there to make as the trio. I see it as the band taking influence from themselves and others and making the album they wanted to make. I'm by no means trying to imply that Pepper was a control freak or anything. I can't speculate on the band dynamic.
I believe COC has succeeded in making a solid, enjoyable album with this lineup. Should Keenan rejoin the fold if/when things slow down with Down, so be it. I don't think it would hurt. I've got all kinds of respect for him. But should Dean, Weatherman and Mullin continue as a trio I see no reason to be upset with what they've accomplished and could accomplish in the future.

Corrosion of Conformity is available now from Candlelight Records.


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