BaggageI've been a huge fan of Corrosion of Conformity for over a decade now. That statement, of course, needs some clarification. In the days when CD burners and Napster were first becoming commonplace, I was in my freshman year of college. I obtained burned copies of Deliverance and Wiseblood, the band's seminal recordings in Southern-style sludge metal, and I LOVED them. I bought America's Volume Dealer on CD, and I actually liked it (though popular opinion is against the record). I got several tracks from Blind and Animosity off Napster, and didn't know what to think. I certainly didn't like them, so they were promptly deleted. Since then, I also enjoyed In the Arms of God a good deal.
I've never bothered to look back into their seminal crossover thrash records since the Napster days. (Yeah, the band has plenty of seminal recordings. Well, they're called COC, so what do you expect?) I don't know what I'd think of them if I heard them today. So when I heard COC had gotten the Animosity lineup back together to release a new album, I was skeptical. As reviews started coming out, I got to know the opinions of others who came to it with the same attitude, but had their minds changed. So, my skepticism gradually turned to ambivalence, and ambivalence to cautious optimism, and I decided to check it out.
The first track is the very promising "Psychic Vampire." It reveals a band that has neither returned to its 80's incarnation, nor remained in its 90's-00's phase. Instead, it's a synthesis of Southern sludge with crossover thrash, and one with some killer riffs. Mike Dean's vocals are much better than my decade-old memory of them; although he's still no Pepper Keenan, he's a hell of a lot better than Blind's Karl Agell. The remainder of the record stays in this style, sometimes going further to punk ("Leeches") and sometimes further to sludge ("Weaving Spiders Come Not Here"). They even throw in a Spanish-titled mellow instrumental. Indeed, it's fitting that the album is self-titled, and bears only a version of the band logo on the cover. In many ways it's a statement of everything the band has ever stood for, straight through to killer closing cut "Time of Trials."
I mentioned the amazing opener and closer, which stand up to the best tracks in the band's discography--short of "Clean My Wounds," of course, but on par with anything else. On the other hand, I could do without the rest of the record. Not that tracks 2 through 10 are bad, but there's nothing to write home about either. So I won't bother writing anything more about them.
Maybe it's not the songs, but a weakened lineup, being down (pun intended) to a three-piece. Maybe it's just the baggage I'm bringing into this. Then again, maybe the record will grow on me.
The Verdict: And so I move back from cautious optimism to ambivalence. There are two really excellent songs here, bookending a bunch of moderately good ones. I give COC 3 out of 5 stars.
Buy Corrosion of Conformity