If you stop and think about how long the band from Raleigh, North Carolina – CORROSION OF CONFORMITY, has been around making music, it’s kinda mind-numbing if you ask me. As legend has it, the band began in 1982, gigged around, did what bands do and with a stir of the Fate’s gangly finger in the Pot of Chance, PEPPER KEENAN joined the band in 1989 and the rest is history, as they say.
With the release of NO CROSS NO CROWN next week, this will be the first one with PEPPER since he rejoined the band in 2014. So needless to say, this is quite the anticipated release for die-hard COC fans. It’s like the second coming. But let’s circle back to the first thought about the band’s beginning in 1982. Y’all!!! That was freakin’ 36 years ago, for the love of rice!! Ghaadd! Incredible, really.
My first encounter with COC was in 1995 when they appeared on METALLICA’SESCAPE FROM THE STUDIO TOUR. THAT show was killer. Probably one of the best true-to-form arena rock shows I have ever been to. In 1995, a concert was like a holiday. People took the next day off from work, lined up outside of record stores to buy tickets sometimes days in advance (or if you couldn’t go wait outside in a line for 3 days, you just had the ticket line on speed dial and just kept trying until you finally got through). I bought my friend floor seats for her birthday because METALLICA was her favorite band.
So much of this concert seems like a scene from a movie now. I haven’t been to a show like that probably since then. That anticipation, the excitement at the show, the thought of rock stars actually being backstage about ready to perform…all of it. There were even a couple of real-life Roadies wandering about in the crowd, that had different colored plastic wristbands that were being handed out to some people – not all, just some. We were handed one and truly, I’m not kidding, did not know WTF it signified or what it was for until the encore of METALLICA’S set. All this to say that my introduction to CORROSION OF CONFORMITY was really an epic experience. I remember hearing “Clean My Wounds” at that show and it was goddam cathartic. There is just something about the cadence and beat of that song and the way PEPPER delivers it alongside those glorious guitars was just kick ass; one of those back-breaking moments where you know that music was sent directly for your ears, you know what I mean? From that point on, COC was on my radar and in my tape deck or CD boombox on the back of the toilet playing while I got ready.
Let’s jump in a wormhole and scoot on back to 2018, where, in less than a week, NO CROSS NO CROWN will be released like the Kraken upon the planet’s population of anticipating fans. I think fans want to ensure that with the return of PEPPER to the mic, it might still be like those good old days. That the band has remained true to the sound of the beginning, and that PEPPER was to reclaim the wheel at the helm, you know? I can say this about PEPPER’S abilities on stage with WOODY, MIKE, and REED; they have not changed one iota. Their set at PSYCHO VEGAS was so f’ing great, so great!!
So, when I accepted the mission to review NO CROSS NO CROWN, I wondered what parts or elements would translate over to a recording now or would it tug on my insides like before? Would there be that depth, for me, to these songs, like what was on Deliverance? I mean, IMHO, that day the Fates stood stirring the pot of the Future, began the almost mystical appointment of the singer that was meant for COC, right? Are you following me, or is this hypothesis a tad bit on the hokie side? Regardless, it’s how it is playing out in my head so…ya. Just smile and nod Lovelies, smile and nod.
NO CROSS NO CROWN is a 15 track, prodigious tale derived only in the way that COC can; heavy chugs of guitar tones from KEENAN and WOODY, a percussive, permanent mantra that digs in from the jump and grabs on tight, and an irresistible bass tone that just makes a mush pie in the pit of your Root Chakra.
For this Birdie, the record had a faint echo of progress or evolution, of sorts. Now before you roll your eyes and skim through the rest, this isn’t my opinion, necessarily. It is just what came to the surface while I listened. Y’all might hear something different. But this progressive evolution could be construed as the band’s from 2005 to 2014, or it could be the change of something totally different – check out the tracklist and some of my notes I scribbled down while listening and see if you get where I’m coming from:
- NOVUS DEUS – sets the stage with deep, distant chants, dark tones that really tell what we’re about to hear in the under 2-minute song
- THE LUDDITE – barbaric beats that continue to resonate or latch onto your eardrums, kind of calling something inside of us, up to pay attention. Signature COC sound right here Lovelies!
- CAST THE FIRST STONE – this is where I felt that a story was about to take shape or begins to, form a wall around you so your insides are stopped from oozing out. There’s a rad AF break and what comes out of that brief confusion are the verses; the clarity in the mid-solo of the guitar, while PEPPER draws from the energy or force of what he is singing about so effortlessly.
- NO CROSS – another brief interlude that foreshadows a dark sadness. The absolution of something that could destroy or define us. I hear this drag across the guitars.
- WOLF NAMED CROW – here comes the bite of what snags COC. PEPPER’S got the gritty power in his voice that I swear their guitars are mimicking. I dig the jumpy tempo that plays right into the movement of the song. This is a song that will twist you up while you try and keep up with the wolf.
- LITTLE MAN – pumps out the groove of how an intro can make you feel like you’re on a cross-country trip in a van with no AC, windows down, smoking a cigarette, while the tires keep time with the drums. The varying tempos just make it a killer track to jam loud – this is what COC rock IS!!
- MATRE’S DIEM – I love the airy acoustic that almost makes you feel like everything is cool. I mean these little breaks are like mile markers in the story, you know? With no lyrics to guess or even interpret what they’re for, you just have to figure it out by what the music says while you listen.
- FORGIVE ME – an unrelenting powerhouse that takes several turns as the guitar takes on the role as the storyteller or for what is going on, you know? I love the cymbals in this track. WOODY slays at the end of the song.
- NOTHING LEFT TO SAY – Very heavy or weighted with emotion is this beautiful plea. Could MIKE get any lower? Damn that bass tone is all the way to my toes! I love the guitars that twinkle in and out of that low growl. The end is kick ass as it speeds up just a bit – and after coming out of that, there’s a resolve because if there wasn’t anything left to say, we wouldn’t have to say that, would we?
- SACRED ISOLATION – and this is what it sounds like after you’re finished running from or to – another brief placeholder that has a shrillness to it that might be comforting, or might not be.
- OLD DISASTER – and then the monster comes out of the dark and breaks you. This song is so frightening, that you forget what story you’re supposed to hear or learn from the journey so far. I love, love, love the vocals, PEPPER’S voice bleats to follow behind or at the least get in for another ride.OLD DISASTER is truly COC reincarnate.
- E.L.M. – this is just some swanky blues that got lost in the wormhole or seeped through the cracks in the foundation of time travel. The punch between measures or notes on the downbeat is molasses. COC proves up, that this is what they do and they’re goddam good at what they do. However trivial that sounds, it’s just a fact. And that fact is what makes their music stick to your ribs, folks.
- NO CROSS NO CROWN – this is the culmination of the record or the crescendo of the tale; the climax. It just so happens that the main course in this primal feast is the marriage between PEPPER’S vocal and the peaks in the guitars that lead that melody by being dragged away by the hair.
- A QUEST TO BELIEVE (A CALL TO THE VOID) – after all’s said and done, coming out of something tumultuous or getting through a process, we want to believe that there was purpose, sometimes we get it upon completion, but sometimes it’s just the journey we were supposed to take to get us to the next place. Whatever the case is this song is perfection in terms of becoming free – the guitar swells can echo that. How the drums are beating a message.
- SON & DAUGHTER – the distortion in this song is a sure shot to bobbing and swaying heads side to side. I love the theatrical high points. I love what happens when everyone just lets go in this song and just as you think, man I could keep rocking this song for another good 20 min…poof! It’s done, over, finished!
NO CROSS NO CROWN will give any COC fan their dose that has been missing for the last four years. I mean true fans might compare listening to NO CROSS NO CROWN to jabbing IV medication in their arm because it has been a minute just to soothe the pain of the last 4 years. Trust me when I say this is a phenomenal offering for the band and it will be so great to see COC on tour again, only this time they’re sharing the stage with BLACK LABEL SOCIETY this winter. I will catch them in Dallas next Saturday and can’t wait to see this go down right in front of my face!!
NO CROSS NO CROWN will be available January 12, 2018, and you can check the band’s Facebook page for preorder information and tour dates. In the meantime, stay tuned for pics from the show with EYEHATEGOD and a show review to boot.
Until Then – MRML