There are many bands that have been around for an extended period of time and claimed enough accomplishments that their lifespan can be broken up into eras. And fans of the bands’ music generally will take sides as to which era was the best, which was the most embarrassing, which was just OK. It’s another fun thing about being a music fan.
There are a ton of bands I can name off the top of my head whose entire catalog doesn’t appeal to me but that certainly had times when their music generated my excitement. “Number of the Beast”-to-“Seventh Son” Iron Maiden. Ronnie James Dio-fronted Black Sabbath. Metallica up to and including “Justice.” Mastodon’s Relapse years. And, of course, the “Animosity” period for Corrosion of Conformity. Admittedly, that’s a really short span of time, as they made just one record as that lineup, but that was the C.O.C. I first became aware of and that I’ve been attached to ever since. When I was becoming more aware of harder metal than what the mainstream had to offer and was just starting to collect records with labels such as Metal Blade and Roadracer on them, C.O.C. were one of the bands on my radar.
But that lineup only lasted until 1987 when bassist/vocalist Mike Dean left (he’d return for good in 1993). Simon Bob Sinister popped in and out to do some vocals, and eventually Pepper Keenan joined the fold, basically taking over as the band’s mouthpiece. While Kennan’s status in the band isn’t totally clear (he’s working on a series of EPs with Down), he was out for the band’s new self-titled album, meaning the “Animosity” lineup would be together again in the studio. Thrilled was I. Once the music landed in my inbox and I took several trips with it, my excitement grew even more. This sounds a bit more like the C.O.C. I grew up loving, and some of their other alterations prove they have kept up with the times. I didn’t hate the Keenan years, by the way. Their music of that time just didn’t do a whole lot for me, though I know many people feel differently. Depends on what moves you, right?
So on to the new 11-track album that’s their first since 2005’s “In the Arms of God” and their eighth disc overall. It sounds like a band totally revitalized, as they’re absolutely on fire on this album. And not only does it sound good, it’s also a really fun listen that, even when it takes on more serious subject matters, still gets you going. Dean and drummer Reed Mullin share vocal duties, while guitarist Woody Weatherman helps drive along the melody and intensity. One thing that should quell any fears of C.O.C. fans who did prefer the Keenan era is that the band does carry over some of the musical influences from that period, so we’re not talking a total throwback hardcore/thrash record. Oh, that’s there, too, as is some doom and sludge. These dudes basically don’t disqualify any sound as long as it makes for good material, which is usually does.
The record opens with the awesome “Psychic Vampire,” that reminds me a lot of their earlier hardcore days but also gets a nice helping of muddy rock and a simple chorus that sticks in your head all day long. “River of Stone” is the longest song of the bunch, taking on a stoner vibe, conjuring classic doom imagery, and getting a little swampy at times. “Leeches,” a quick blast of punk-flavored metal, and “Rat City,” a nice, steady rocker, are the album’s shortest songs; “Moneychangers” feels the most vintage of all the songs on the album, and it combines with “Your Tomorrow” as the album’s most bleak, cynical songs lyrically; and “The Doom” is a combination of, well, doom, blues licks and a filthy gallop that kicks the song into high gear. “Come Not Here” and “What We Become” sound transplanted right from the mid-1990s, so if that was your thing, these two are likely to be your favorites.
While the trio doesn’t sound just like they did in 1987, their intensity is there. These are 11 really strong songs that do the C.O.C. name a lot of good. Personally, I hope they continue on in this incarnation, but that’s me being selfish. Regardless of what happens in the band’s future, C.O.C. made a killer record that pleases the hell out of the part of me that still craves those early metallic inhibitions of my youth.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.coc.com/
To buy the album, go here: http://www.candlelightrecordsusa.com/store/
For more on the label, go here: http://candlelightrecordsusa.com/site/