Music

Corrosion of Conformity: Corrosion of Conformity

Corrosion of Conformity may have changed a few members, but the band as a whole have not lost any of their muscle. With the band's venerated Animosity era line-up back together, the group's latest self-titled album has all the strength and integrity of their very best work.


Corrosion of Conformity

Corrosion of Conformity

Label: Candlelight
US Release Date: 2012-03-06
UK Release Date: 2012-02-27
Artist Website
Amazon
iTunes

It would be impossible to overstate the crucial role Corrosion of Conformity have played in the evolution of heavy metal. COC's blend of gravel-rash hardcore, doom metal and Southern rock played a pivotal role in defining the '80s crossover scene, forever altering metal's parameters. Since the band’s inception in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 1982, they has become a firm favorite among fans and critics alike. Incorporating a raft of heavy elements -- a bit of punk here, a touch of dirty thrash there, and Black Sabbath-inspired riffs everywhere -- COC have spent their career rumbling forward with a ton of downtuned swagger and a decidedly unruly bite.

Following COC's last release, '05's acclaimed In the Arms of God, the band went into hiatus. Pepper Keenan, the band's primary vocalist during its peak period of commercial popularity, went on to dedicate his time to the cannabinol-fuelled Down. In 2010 it was announced that the very same venerated trio that recorded COC's seminal album Animosity were regrouping. Vocalist/bassist Mike Dean, guitarist/vocalist Woody Weatherman, and drummer Reed Mullin began playing shows with the ultimate aim of recording a new album. After touring to much acclaim, COC's newest and self-titled album brings to a close an excruciatingly long period of recording inactivity. With a line-up reflecting a classic period of the group's history, expectations are rightly set at maximum.

The first and most obvious issue about the new album is the lack of Keenan. His vocals and guitar work were a defining feature of the band, and there's no denying that his spirited tones will be missed by many fans. But while his often-soulful vocals clearly played a part in the band's success, to suggest his absence renders the album or the band incomplete is wrong. While stalwarts Dean and Weatherman provide the vocals this time round, with an admittedly gruffer timbre, the tracks have all been written to accentuate COC's strengths as the band stands today.

COC's discography is filled with albums on which the viscous heaviness has been expertly rendered. Blind,Deliverence, Wiseblood and America's Volume Dealer are all much loved albums to varying degrees. But fans concerned that Keenan's absence means COC's Southern temperance has been discarded for the coarser hardcore of its early years can rest easy. Admittedly, there is a paring back of the strutting stoner groove COC became so famed for, but the band ensures there’s still plenty of bolstering sludge in the mix. And correspondingly, while there's an abundance of belligerence to the album, drawing a great deal of lyrical inspiration from the band’s formative period, there's a lot more going on here than rote revisiting.

A recent quote from bassist Mike Dean sums up the album succinctly: "This is every stage of the group's career, filtered through the lens of this particular moment." The opening track, "Psychic Vampire", bursts forth with a feigning doom riff, quickly detours into some breakneck dirty punk, before transforming again as swampy tempos are counterpointed by bursts of speed. It's a fine beginning, and perfectly emphasizes Dean's suggestion that the album unifies two distinct eras.

Throughout the album the band's earlier hardcore methodologies are merged with its latter-day Southern metal, yet both styles are weighted and measured so that no one style engulfs the other. This coalescing of genres sits at the crux of what makes Corrosion of Conformity such a gutsy effort. While the band could have placated fans by either fashioning an old-school hardcore album or continuing on with its boggy metallic rock, they have taken the more difficult path, attempting to find some sense of balance between the two. Thus, you get the speedy hardcore and mucky d-beat of "Leeches", "What You Become", "Rat City", "The Doom"and "The Moneychangers", but counterbalancing all the fury is plenty of the slow-baked smoky grind COC is famed for. "Newness", "Time of Trials", "Your Tomorrow" and "River of Stone" could have sat on any of the band’s last few albums comfortably.

A slimmed down band could have hindered the album's impact, but again, COC play to their strengths in this regard. Corrosion of Conformity was recorded at Dave Grohl’s Studio 606 and produced by the band with perennial collaborator John Custer. As expected, the final result is robust and raw, capturing the tight interplay between the members and this was no doubt helped by extensive touring before and during the recording process. The recording may be an issue for fans expecting the molasses-thick guitar from COC's latter-day albums. But the new songs themselves have a scratchier, edgier tone, which suits the production very well. If anything, the fact that COC is now a trio has actually increased its palpability. All the tweaks, scrapes, nuances and that fantastically organic roughness have been captured crisply, giving the album plenty of heft without unnecessary sheen.

Corrosion of Conformity is an album that succeeds on many levels. Firstly, it welcomes back one of metal's most influential bands, which is cause for much jubilation. More importantly, the album builds on the band’s legacy, pushing forward into uncharted territory which is a substantial and admirable feat for a band passing its 30th anniversary in 2012. There's a clue in the album title itself, a salute to an enduring legacy coupled with a bold statement that this is, above all else, what the band is supposed to sound like.

By harnessing the rage and passion of its earliest years, and combining that with the most celebrated aspects of its work from the past two decades, the group has produced an album that genuinely bridges a gap between two formally distinct periods of its career. COC may have changed a few members, but they lost none of their muscle. Corrosion of Conformity is an album with all the strength and integrity of COC's very best work.

8

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image