Corrosion of Conformity-s/t
Strap yourself in because this is liable to take a while. COC started out as a hardcore punk band in the early 80's and then they released their debut "Eye for an eye". "Eye for eye" was full of short bursts or noisy and fast tracks. After that the band parted ways with vocalist Eric Eyke and bass player Mike Dean took over vocals for "Animosity" in 1985. "Animosity" saw the band going to more of a crossover path with elements of hardcore. Then the band added Simon Bob Sinister to be their vocalist for the "Technocracy" EP in 1987 which was similar in style to "Animosity". After this we get into more drastic changes. Simon Bob left and bassist Mike Dean both left as well. The band replaced both guys and added a second guitarist in Pepper Keenan. The next album was "Blind" in 1991 and is was a huge style change. It was a stoner and doom mix which was a huge departure from where the band had been in the 1980's. The revolving door kept moving as vocalist Karl Agell and bassist Phil Swisher were out after one album. Mike Dean came back and Pepper Keenan took over on vocals. This would be the line-up they would have for most of the next decade and the sound would continue in a stoner style with southern influences mixed in. Early last decade drummer Reed Mullin departed and the band knocked out another album before the members left to do other projects although no one involved said COC was done for good. In 2010 it was announced that the "Animosity" line-up of Woody Weatherman, Mike Dean and Reed Mullin would reform and record. Last summer Pepper Keenan indicated he would like to record with them at some point on some "Deliverance" type material. So that brings us to 2012 and the band's self-titled release with a line-up that has not recorded an album together in 27 years and the first album without Pepper Keenan in over twenty years. That's their background and now I need to lay down my thoughts at them before I get to the new material. "Animosity" was the first album I heard by them and this was around 1986. It blew me away, the raw mix of speed and crazed vocals had me hooked. I heard the debut "Eye for an eye" next and admired the energy, but knew Animosity had been a step up. "Technocracy" was almost as good as "Animosity" and many of my friends preferred it, but I liked Mike Dean's chaotic style more than that of Simon Bob. Fast forward more than four years to the fall of 1991 and "Blind" comes out. All traces of hardcore are gone and the band has slowed down. Now I knew that they liked this style because Woody Weatherman always had that Saint Vitus sticker on his guitar in the 80's and he wore Sabbath shirts frequently at that time as well. However the new approach was a shock, it was alright but not what I hoped for. However for me the band got worse after that. Pepper Keenan seemed to take over and all traces of the band's early days were wiped away. Now I love stoner and doom, but` those next several albums from the band calling themselves COC were quite honestly dull to say the least. However they certainly became more popular during this period. I heard that the "Animosity" line-up was returning, but didn't hold a lot of hope that they would return to that style because it had been so long and they made more money going with the slower style. Now after that long rant I'll get to the music here. I have been playing this thing on and off for two weeks trying to pin down what I think. The album is a mix of the styles that the band has done during their long career. There are slow winding tracks and some fast ones, but it's not an even mix because there are definitely more slower tracks. So out of 11 songs we get four where they kind of step the pace up. "Leeches" is the closest they get to the "Animosity" style. They even toss in some guitar squeals on this one, of course the difference is here it was planned. It's a solid track even though Mike Dean's vocals are much more sedate than they were back in the day. "The Moneychangers" is a fast chugging track but nothing like the old COC hardcore. It's more of a southern rock with some charge behind and it has slow parts too. "Rat City" is fast, but slick with a decent groove going. "What we become" is probably my favorite track on the album. It's pace is similar to say material from "Blind" and "Deliverance", but the spirit and heaviness is closer to their mid-80's output. The result is a hard punching song with Mike Dean's vocals leading the way. The other seven songs are slow and of varying quality. Mike Dean sounds far better than Pepper Keenan and there is more of a doom sound mixed instead of just southern fried stoner rock. However some of these songs eventually go somewhere, but there is still plenty of filler. Like much of their output over the last twenty years there are too many songs where what I hear in the first thirty seconds is all I am going to get for the next four minutes. The riffs are decent, but they never really do enough to build the songs but instead just glide along. I have no problem with a band changing styles if they have something to really give in that new style and they attempt to progress. To me COC got worse with each album during the stoner rock period with this new release being the one exception to that. This new album has several good songs and this may be favorite album from them in a long time. However overall it's a rather average album because the number of memorable tracks are about equal with the forgettable ones. They claim it's a return of the "Animosity" line-up and it is just a return of the line-up, but not the sound other than on a couple of songs. Instead it's mixed bag of what they have dabbled in over the years. There are a few sparks, but this band will never be nearly as good as they were around 1985-1987.