Corrosion Of Conformity
30 June 2014
by Rob McAuslan
Lest we forget, Pepper Keenan’s almost defacto appointment post-‘Vote With A Bullet’ to the position of lead vocalist of Corrosion Of Conformity was greeted with a huge collective cheer. And as nice as it’s been to see this CoC line-up play shows, and as nostalgically-pleasing as it was to get an album from them, I don’t think I’m alone in wanting the four-piece CoC to make a return now, am I? Keenan-keening aside, IX doesn’t even nearly scratch that itch, but the highs do handily outweigh the lows of yet another Pepper-free excursion.
There’s the loose swing and crushing end section of ‘The Nectar’, for one – a song that the band felt good enough about to reprise at the end of the record, even. Then there’s the wild, almost freeform guitar of a fully-unleashed Woody Weatherman to take into account too – he rarely sounds as good as he does on IX, with space and license to go spiralling off around the riffs. Of course, Reed Mullin’s laid-back yet brutal drumming anchors everything as deftly as ever – the man hits harder than just about anyone I’ve ever seen, but always in the most musically-sympathetic manner. This means that when the three-piece CoC lock in and hit the ‘GO!’ button (as on ‘Denmark Vesey’), it’s as vital and thrilling as it ever was back in the Animosity-era but it comes with the same caveats as it did back then.
Whilst Mike Dean is a fantastic bassist and an electric stage presence, the one thing he’s never been is a great vocalist. When his nasal yelp suits the music as well as it does in ‘On The Way’ it feels a little churlish to criticise his singing, but then there’s always a more melodic passage around the corner that he misses by a fair way.
Ultimate precision is kind of not the point of this version of the band, though. As an insight into CoC at their most raw and unpolished, this and the self-titled record from a couple of years ago are both hugely instructive and pretty much essential to understanding where the likes of Wiseblood actually come from. It’s the sound of good friends that happen to jam and sound damn fine doing so rather than the weightier, more “serious” outfit that Keenan led so mightily. The four-piece wouldn’t put out something as charmingly ramshackle as the Deliverance-meets-Fu Manchu racket of ‘Tarquinius Superbus’, and that would be a real shame for us to miss out on – old-school crossover attack running into Weatherman’s stunning harmonies, over which Dean gets as soulful as he can manage – and it’s a proper highlight at the same time as being a gloriously disjointed mess.
‘Tarquinius Superbus’ as a microcosm of the whole sums up the album, pretty much – in linking the band’s hardcore roots with the stoner outfit they eventually became, it showcases the best points of this looser version of CoC across the variety of styles they’ve become so synonymous with. IX would have likely worked better as an EP, as with some of the excess fat trimmed these songs would have vastly more impact, but whilst it feels a little unfinished (and somewhat paradoxically, occasionally even overwrought) and not all of it hangs together perfectly, it sounds pretty good overall. Take it as a snapshot, a peek into the inner workings, a rehearsal room tape with a decent mix, and it all makes so much more sense than if you try to judge it as a full release. The good bits are brilliant, the less-good bits utterly disposable; buy it with an open mind.
Sounds Like: A Corrosion Of Conformity jam session, for better or worse.
Standout Tracks: Denmark Vesey, The Nectar, Tarquinius Superbus