Corrosion of Conformity
Corrosion of Conformity
posted on 2/2012 By:
There might not be a bigger mystery in metal right now than the absence-but-not-departure of Pepper Keenan from Corrosion of Conformity. He’s still in the band, but he isn’t recording or playing live (regularly) with them, for reasons unbeknownst to fans. In this time, Mike Dean and Woody Weatherman brought drummer Reed Mullin back into the fold, reuniting the Animosity lineup to play shows showing off more of the band’s crossover roots and to record some new stuff. However, as our own Jeremy Witt pointed out in his review of the teaser single Your Tomorrow, this new COC sounds far more like the COC with Pepper than the one that required the three-initial moniker. It’s still a pretty ferocious rockin’ frolic, but it is neither exactly what the Animosity fans want nor what the Deliverance converts are looking for, which makes both the band’s situation, and their current musical output, just plain bewildering. Quite enjoyable and still totally COC, but frustratingly puzzling.
When reduced to its bare riffs and structures, Corrosion of Conformity really isn’t all that far removed from In the Arms of God. Take away the massively echoing production and Pepper’s voice, add a few nods to the crossover past and a heavy grunge element, and the basic framework is set. Other than that, Mike and Woody share the vocals, Reed’s drumming hasn’t lost a thing, and Woody’s soloing is as swaggering and efficient as ever.
While all of the material here is fairly successful, the stuff that works best is that which feels designed for the three-piece playing it. The punkish chorus of opener “Psychic Vampire” is the highlight of the song, “Leeches” is a high octane gasser, and “The Moneychangers” is performed mostly in this zone as well. (The latter also reminds us just how much shufflin’ strength Mullin can bring to an album.) Much of the rest is largely an amalgamation of past COC eras. Interestingly enough, the album’s best track is the one that doesn’t attempt any sort of nod to the past. “Come Not Here,” while undeniably COC, exudes an unabashed Soundgarden worship, stuck somewhere between Louder Than Love, Badmotorfinger, and Wiseblood, with vocals that even take on a touch of Cornell worship.
But, as stated earlier, it’s impossible to avoid that massive what if factor. Put simply: So much of COC would sound better with Pepper at the mic. This is not to disrespect the vocal performances of Mike and Woody, who both perform more than admirably, but Keenan is a goddamn game changer, and one of the most recognizable voices of metal’s modern era. For longtime fans (such as myself – bias stated), it is impossible to imagine how he might enhance the slow, plodding work in “River of Stone” or the doom-to-speed transition in “The Doom,” taking them from merely enjoyable to great. Some fans might be able to turn the expectation switch off, but many will not, and the what if will nag at them the same way it nags at me.
Taken for what it is, COC is a hard-hittin’ combination of the band’s entire past, and a wholly enjoyable addition to their catalog. Unfortunately, unfair as it might be, I can’t help but take it for what it is not. It is not a new album with Pepper. If 1) he and the others had had some major falling out, or 2) this album didn’t just sound like modern-COC-sans-Keenan, then it might be far easier to judge on its individual merits. But he’s still on the fringe, officially a member and occasionally performing with them, and much of the material seems to have been written with him in the room. It’s like Voltron missing one of his lion arm things. A one-armed Voltron can still do a shit-ton of damage to his enemies, but nowhere near the ICBM-level as when fully equipped.
To Mike, Woody and Reed: Keep them engines running, you’re doing just fine.
To Pepper: Please return with Voltron’s other arm.
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In The Arms of God