I must say I have never been much of a fan of the Mike Dean fronted version of Corrosion Of Conformity. I much prefer the dirty, grimy 1990’s and early 2000’s incarnation with Pepper Keenan. I just feel like Keenan’s way fit much better with the sludgy southern metal sound the band had taken on after beginning as a hardcore act in the 1980’s. When Keenan left and Dean assumed vocal duties again on the band’s 2012 self-titled album, things to me just did not work as well. Plus with Dean there is always some hardcore and crossover thrash thrown into the mix that just feels out of place.
Fortunately their ninth release, aptly titled IX, just may have made me a Dean convert. All ten full tracks (there are actually eleven tracks but there is a short interlude that really does not count as a song) really brought me back to the band’s southern metal glory days. Even the tracks with hardcore influences actually worked this time around. “Denmark Vessey” is a full on hardcore song that is short, fast and effective with spectacular 80’s style hardcore lyrics and a thrashy solo. The album really shines on tracks like “The Nectar”, “Trucker” and “Tarquinis Superbus” where the band perfectly melds fast hardcore with slow southern grime. These songs also allow Dean to be more forceful and raspy with his singing, resulting in the best vocal performances of his career.
As great as all that is, the riffs are the real star here. In a year where we have already heard a lot of excellent new riffs on albums from Down, Crowbar, Eyehategod and others, the riffs on C.O.C.’s IX may be the best of the bunch. The band has written some seriously catchy gems and Woody Weatherman, who has always played solid guitar, is on a whole other level this time around. You can definitely tell that Black Sabbath and Tony Iommi have had a huge impact on the band, as it really shows in the guitars on this particular album. There are even some occasions where you can hear some early Soundgarden and Alice In Chains grunge style sludge influences. This is the album that many of us have been waiting for since the band released Wiseblood in 1996.
IX kicks off perfectly with the five plus minutes song “Brand New Sleep”. There is a great long guitar driven open to the track which then kicks into an excellent and deliberate sludgy main riff. As with all the songs on the album, Weatherman’s lead guitar work and solo are flawless. Other top riffs can be found on the songs “Elphyn”, “Trucker”, “The Hanged Man” and “Who You Need to Blame”.
Of all the well written and executed guitar work on the album, the best riff comes courtesy of one of C.O.C.’s best songs since “Albatross”, “Clean My Wounds” and “Heaven’s Not Overflowing”. “On Your Way” is lead by a catchy and bluesy riff that is undeniable southern metal. In my opinion, this could be the best metal riff since Crowbar’s “Planets Collide”. If you are going to pick one track to check out in order to gauge the album, make sure it is this one.
My only complaint about IX is that it was just too short. Yes there were a few songs that clocked in over five minutes, but “Interlude” was a short and wasted, yup you guessed it, interlude that did not even contain any guitar licks whatsoever. As good as the short, slow and effective classic southern metal final track “Nectar Revisited” was, it felt more like an outro rather than an actual song. The writing and execution was so excellent from start to finish, but the album definitely could have benefited from replacing these two “tracks” with actual songs.
If you enjoy down and dirty true southern heavy metal, you will go absolutely crazy for IX. The songwriting is great and Weatherman’s riffs, lead guitar work and solos are perfectly executed. Finally we get a return to Deliverance and Wiseblood era C.O.C. except this time it’s with Mike Dean on vocals. I was unsure if this was something that could ever happen with Dean, but thankfully the band finally figured it out. The best part of IX is not only the fact that it mostly returns to the 90’s sound, but that it is a seamless amalgamation of all the sounds and influences from C.O.C.’s thirty year history. I have finally become a believer in Mike Dean and the current manifestation of C.O.C. After checking out IX, I think many Pepper Keenan fans will feel the same way. This is one of those albums you can listen to over and over again without a break. It is definitely one of my personal favorites so far this year. Make sure you do not miss out on C.O.C.’s best album in years.
IX will be released on June 24th. Take a listen and give us your opinion of the album in the comments section. Did we get it right or are there aspects that we missed?