Corrosion Of Conformity – ‘No Cross No Crown’ (Nuclear Blast) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Mark Ashby   
Wednesday, 10 January 2018 04:20

Corrosion Of Conformity artworkTwelve years. Twelve long fucking years. Twelve dry, arid, desert-like years. Twelve years too fucking many.

 

What the fuck am I talking about? Well, that’s the length of time we’ve had to wait for a new album from the muthafuckin’ godfathers of the modern southern blues-meets-doom/sludge sound, Corrosion of Fuckin’ Conformity, baby.

 

Now, for those of you are pedantic luddites (sic) of the worst type, yes, I know there have been two CoC albums in that period – but I am talking about the classic line-up of Mike Dean, Reed Mullin, Woody Weatherman and, most importantly, Pepper fuckin’ Keenan. You know, the line-up that produced two of the greatest blues/sludge albums of all time, in the shape of ‘Deliverance’ and ‘Wiseblood’, and the song that quite possibly defines that particular sub-genre, ‘Clean My Wounds’. Yes, that line-up. The one that got back together at the beginning of 2015, levelled my local club twice in successive years and delivered showstopping performances at the 2016 iteration of Bloodstock (absolutely levelling the field despite Mullin being out injured and their guitars being stuck back in the States) and again at last year’s Download…

 

The good news for longtime CoC fans is, as has been hinted at at live shows where they have previewed the new material, ‘No Cross No Crown’ picks up more or less where the quartet left off back in the mid-Noughties, coupled with the feeling that the four guys are genuinely enjoying playing, and recording, together again – something which came across on the above-mentioned live outings. Part of the reason for this may be the fact that the initial “split” between Keenan and his three brothers in musical arms back in 2006 was in not, in any shape or form, hostile or unfriendly: as the frontman put it, the band “kinda fizzled out” when their record company went bust after the release of ‘In The Arms Of God’ and he moved back to New Orleans to hook up with Phil Anselmo and his Down project…

 

‘No Cross…’ (the album apparently takes its name from a stained glass window in a dressing room in a converted church where the band played during the its gestation period) contains all the hallmarks that made CoC the progenitors of that heavy blues-meets-doom-meets-sludge-meets stoner sound that now generally has been tagged, if somewhat inaccurately given the wide geographic spread of the bands delivering it, as “NOLA”: big down-tuned guitar riffs that punch their way through your chest cavity and out through your spine, underpinned by snappy percussion and huge swamp-grass laden bass rhythms, all overtopped by Keenan’s understated yet acidic vocal, which is surprisingly low in the mix in many places (such as opener ‘The Luddite’) but all the more effective for being so, as it makes his voice one of the instruments rather than overly dominant in a way which spoils so many releases in this sub-genre.

 

The album also has a beautiful flow to it, each song moving effortlessly into the next, a feel accentuated beautifully by a series of brief instrumental interludes, starting with the heavy-bottomed overture of ‘Novus Dei’, before the baleful swagger of ‘The Luddite’ flowers into the punchy, thrash-tinged brawl that is ‘Cast The First Stone’. The Sabbath-esque bell toll of ‘No Cross’ in turn prefaces the fiery ‘Wolf Named Crow’, the first song to be written by the rejuvenated foursome after their reunion and a clear marker of their rediscovered energy for writing and performing together again: it’s classic CoC in every regard, as is follow-up ‘Little Man’, which stomps like a petulant child dancing in a muddy puddle.

 

 

‘Matre’s Diem’ provides a nice acoustic interlude before Keenan begs ‘Forgive Me’: why, when you’re producing stonking pit blitzers such as this? There’s a Thin Lizzy-esque vibe to the background riff and main melody, but, hey, that ain’t a bad thing in my books, seeing as I’m from the Emerald Isle of Erin. ‘Nothing Left To Say’ sees the boys take their foot off the gas for the first time, albeit briefly, as its remorseful intro explodes like a firework, before the song retreats, introspectively back into itself and then punching its way out again, as the song ebbs and flows with a gracious malevolence delivered through a wonderfully distorted wail of dissonant vibrations.

 

The last of the interludes, ‘Sacred Isolation’, suitably preludes the psyche-tinged stonerism of ‘Old Disaster’, which envelopes you like a cloud of smoke and slowly works its way through your pores into every fibre of your being with its hypnotic groove, which makes you just wanna ease back in that there rockin’ chair and take another smoke of that poke… ‘E.L.M’ pumps iron like a bodybuilder on an acid trip, the adrenaline coursing through its veins and out of the speakers with a gnarly grind: again, there’s a hint of Lizzy in the background, but that’s just helpin’ this ‘ere whiskey slip down all the smoother!

 

The title track is one of the most menacingly evil soundtracks you’ll ever hear: dark, menacing, with a Tom Waits-ish almost whispered vocal from Keenan, it’s dank, dreary and evokes the spirit of walking down a dark alley at night with that feeling that someone is staring at the hairs on the back of your neck as they stand upright. Creepy as fuck, and it’s just as well they change the mood to round things off with the broiling ‘A Quest To Believe (A Call To The Void), which sees the band once again evoke the spirit of early Sabbath with a dense, dank groove that exudes dark energy and consumes that around it at the same time.

 

All in all, this is a magnificent return by a band who helped shape a sound which has been hijacked by so many worthy successors during their overlong hiatus, at least from recording, but sees them rightfully reclaim their place as one of the most prominent, and creative, of its proponents.

 

‘No Cross No Crown’ is released this Friday (12 January). You can get your copy HERE.

 

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