If you follow the band’s timeline and line-up changes, it was inevitable that this release was always going to be a return to the days before Keenan helped tweak their sound. So it is that much has changed, one of the agitators being the harsher recording which has been stripped back to the barest of bones. However, what this shift of stance has done is kickstart that 80s punk/hardcore vibe which so set fire to their early career; back when their albums bulged with virile, feisty ragers that gobbed in your face. The trio have also found time to chuck in a 70s rock n’ roll vibe to boot, perfect fodder for Woody Weatherman’s hungry guitar, until they’ve reached, by hook or by crook, the crossroads where Terror meets Voivod via Orange Goblin, Black Sabbath, Saviours and Wolfmother. Yep, try sticking that lot on at once and see what you get.
For the old school metal warrior with a penchant for retrospection, this self-titled will be like being wonderfully dragged back in time. The flurry of hardcore aggression that crawls over “Leeches” and the snot-smeared punk attitude of “Psychic Vampire”, “River Of Stone” and “Rat City” (God only knows why Tenacious D’s “Car Chase City” keeps coming to mind when I hear this) properly kick out the jams to connect with the spirit of those early COC albums. Dean’s reverb-soaked vocal goes on to peak at cosmic levels for “Your Tomorrow” before reaching a disengaged, querulous low during “What You Despise Is What You Have Become”. It’s all an experience that may prove a little confusing for those newcomers to the band. Fear ye not though, my stoner friends, for there are still little moments of bliss to be found – here, within the wallowing, mellow blues of “The Doom”, then here, following the curiously Soundgarden-like swagger of “Weaving Spiders Come Not Here” (where Dean summons some fiery Cornell passion into his aging vocal cords), and here, attached to the luxuriant, twangy instrumental of “El Lamento De Las Cabras”.
Try comparing their last release and my personal favorite, 2005′s In The Arms Of God, with this collection though, and the whole charade begins to fall apart. Dean’s sharper, less-attractive howl is a tough thing to accept when you consider what might have been. That hole left by Keenan’s linear guitar skills and deep, throaty power (the perfect accompaniment to the band’s more recent shift to breathing forth heavy-lidded, dirty blues and gurgling psych soliloquies) is gaping. It’s all to do with personal taste, of course, but Keenan just seems the far stronger singer, even when it comes to smashing up the neighborhood and breaking the speed limit. With Dean dredging the music of times past, this just feels so… dated.
So it seems, then, that your level of enjoyment is probably going to be dictated by when you first fell in love with Corrosion Of Conformity. If you’re someone who prefers a dash of Pepper with your chow, then this crackerjack-strewn skid-pan might be a bit too much to stomach. However, if you’re a fan of that early-COC punch, then this will be exactly that, a shot in the arm.
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