CORROSION OF CONFORMITY
"Corrosion of Conformity"

(Candlelight)

01. Psychic Vampire
02. River of Stone
03. Leeches
04. El Lamento de las Cabras
05. Your Tomorrow
06. The Doom
07. The Moneychangers
08. Weaving Spiders Come Not Here
09. What You Despise Is What You've Become
10. Rat City
11. Time of Trials
12. Canyon Man
13. The Same Way

RATING: 7.5/10

With the delay between COC records trudging ever further into "Chinese Democracy" territory, the O.G. lineup of Woody Weatherman, Mike Dean and Reed Mullin decided to see what it'd sound like if they got all 1985 again and didn't have Pepper Keenan using up all the oxygen in the room. Love the man's work in this band and in DOWN, but especially after 1991, he kinda made the whole thing seem like it'd been his deal all along. With him still ensconced in the DOWN camp, and amicably so, the other guys stretched their limbs a little and knocked out a record that does just about every winding, twisting curve of their convoluted legacy proud, and re-establishes each man's individual importance to the overall COC sound.

It's still got plenty of their SABBATH and TROUBLE worship of old, really pulsating out of Weatherman's guitar work, and that overshadows the moments of real breakneck hardcore thrashing that old-school lineup fans may have been looking for. This is a dark, swirly, moody kind of record, and even its full-throttle moments ("Leeches", or the forceful "Your Tomorrow") give way to murky, warm guitar tones, unexpected chords and rhythmic shifts that drop the ground out from under the listener. The result is heavy, doomy, cranky and sinister, acquainted groove-wise with the band's Southern rock era but steeped in both the extended jams and navel-gazing epic weirdness of the "in the Arms of God" period and the tinfoil-trebly bite of their early squalls.

It ain't all fantastic -- the vocals are a pungent weak link at intervals (say what you will about Pepper and his flange-y, swagger-y Hetfield thing, but you can pick it out of a lineup within seconds). Bogged down in fairly typical lyrical damn-the-man stuff and rote, first-take's-a-keeper melodies, they let down the instrumental tracks in a few places, especially on the latter songs. And a few cuts just don't go anywhere -- sure, average COC would be a career high for a lot of bands, but stack "What You Despise Is What You've Become" or "The Same Way" up against any of the band's legendary past work, and they seem a little threadbare in comparison.

But when this record is on point, it's unstoppable - "Your Tomorrow" is an urgent, ferocious jam, "Psychic Vampire" is disjointed and startling in the best way, and "The Doom" provides some great unhinged thrashing welded to a primal SABBATH throb that'd seem like a trainwreck if anyone else tried to pull it off. And if your pulse doesn't quicken at the live, loose, on-the-floor feel of "The Moneychangers", rock and roll's probably not the game for you in the first place.

"Corrosion of Conformity", the album, is about 3/4 of a flat-out classic record, and it's good enough all around to avoid being just a nostalgia cash-in or a cheap excuse to tour more. It's funny, the first couple spins through it, you start hearing bits and pieces in the stew that make you think of everyone from TORCHE to EARTHRIDE to PRIESTESS, and then you really start realizing just how many people these three dudes have influenced, if not outright corrupted into a life of decibel worship. They deserve your respect and attention based solely on that legacy, but as this album attests, they're still more than willing to give you new and compelling reasons to get on board.

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