Given the eccentric and very interesting history of Corrosion of Conformity, it almost makes sense that the original COC trio continued on without Pepper Keenan onboard. Keenan's role as guitarist and vocalist from "Blind" to "In the Arms of God" was an absolutely vigorous shift for the band, but hearing the self-titled record brought yet another fascinating change to a fascinating project. The trio of Mike Dean, Reed Mullin, and Woody Weatherman did wonders bringing together an amalgamation of COC's many flavors in a contemporary light. "IX" is the sequel to the self-titled album's style: a predictable listen, but ultimately satisfying. The source of the goods stems once again from the band's innate knack for throwing down hardy riffs and polygonal songs that sound alive and full of depth.
"IX" and the self-titled are crash courses in the Corrosion of Conformity experience. Both records chronicle faster bits echoing shades of the group's punk/crossover era while employing the slow, sludgy drawls and grooves of another COC incarnation. "IX" is the diet version of this mixture, where the songs don't flow with the same impact and the structural integrity of numbers such as "Leeches" or "Your Tomorrow" is harder to find. The band is still firing on all cylinders, of course, and providing more than a fair share of steady anthems high on a potent brand of quality. The balance between the three amigos is far from strained, as the tunes are robust and the performances amplified by surrounding support. Mullin's drum work, Dean's bass support, and the rich variety of riffs provided by Weatherman bake a product layered with punky attitude, southern bliss, sludgy goo, and a jam-based atmosphere organized neatly and ready to serve.
The record is more of an elastic representation of COC than the self-titled. "The Nectar," for example, makes due by touching base on up-tempo elements while using slow, muddy arrangements when the chorus comes around; it's the best song here. It seems "IX" has a surplus of sludge/doom metal elements as opposed to rapid numbers like "Denmark Vesey," which is perhaps more suitable for a band whose golden years were largely based on taking it slow. "Tarquinius Superbus" and "Brand New Sleep" are both other highlights worth noting, with the trademark creeping riffs and grooves leaving no stone left unturned. The vocalist situation is usually handled by Mike Dean, but both Mullin and Weatherman contribute their voices here as well, apparently. On all fronts, solid as expected.
The production is very organic, and pretty much captures Corrosion of Conformity jamming in a studio without all the tricks and manipulations that are now the rule and not the exception. This incarnation has hit the nail on the head covering the many facets and directions of Corrosion of Conformity without forcing the issue. "IX" is more forward-thinking than it is backwards-looking, bracing the present while keeping the past in mind. Some of this style's charm fails to match the consistency of the self-titled album, but in no way is "IX" remotely undersupplied. Once again full-bodied tracks that reflect the great chemistry between musicians who know the ups and downs of their musical intentions, junk not included. 8.5/10
Interview with drummer Reed Mullin
How have things been going for the tour so far?
Awesome. It's been really fun.
You guys joined the tour with it well underway. Is there a lot of chaos joining a tour like that?
No, not at all. Gwar have their sh*t totally together. They've been doing this for a long time, and they got it down to a science. We've known most of those guys for a long time, because the Raleigh hardcore/punk rock scene in the 80s and the Richmond scene were kind of like sister cities, so we knew all those guys and all those bands. Back then, the scenes were very small. If you had a show with 150 people, it was a big show. We all became good friends, so it's cool. It's been really fun.
We've got three weeks to go. We're going to do a New Years' Eve show, and then the three-piece is going to be put on hiatus for a while, and we're going to do some stuff with Pepper Kennan. I don't think we're going to start playing until March, though. And that's going to be in Europe. We might do a warmup show in Raleigh, or something and try to get ready for everything. So that'll be cool.
That's definitely in the books, then?
Absolutely. We'll hopefully record an album. He does really well with Down, and they're one of those kind of bands where they can do just little tours and festivals. The guys in Down are super supportive of him coming back to COC for a while. So, I guess for the next year or two, he's going to do Down stuff, but he's going to be spending most of his time with COC.
It seems Corrosion of Conformity and Gwar have sort of evolved in a similar way.
I think when we first started, it was kind of a new music form. American hardcore and punk rock were new things; there was a small scene, but everybody was tight and knew each other. When we did it, it certainly wasn't a thing where we thought we were going to make money. To us, the biggest bands in the world were Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, The Misfits, and they didn't make that much money. It's not like today. We did it just to do it, and when we were first playing, influences from Deep Purple and Black Sabbath seeped in, and we kind of morphed into this punk-metal flavored kind of thing. We became really good friends with the Metallica dudes and Slayer. Slayer got us our first record deal.
Yeah. We had known them from playing out in LA, and when they went on their first US tour, they played Baltimore, and they asked us to play. It was a great show. They knew we had put out our first album ourselves, and they mentioned getting us signed. We thought they were just being nice. This was the Haunting The Chapel Tour. Tom and Dave Lombardo said they were going to get us on Metal Blade. I gave those guys my parents' business scoop; my dad had a fax machine. Sure enough, that Monday morning, there was a contract for Metal Blade Records. From there, we did a little more stuff. Then, the punk version broke up, and Woody and I put the band back together. We did a one-off with a singer named Karl for Relativity Records-an album called "Blind," which is much more metal. Then, we started doing all the stuff with Pepper.
We've had an interesting career. It gets a little confusing for our fans, particularly those who like certain eras. Some like all of it, but there's a lot of people who just like Pepper stuff or the punk stuff. Our name definitely makes sense.
The band has been running for several decades at this point. Iron Maiden in recent years has done tours with setlists intended to appeal to a newer generation of listeners…
We toured with Iron Maiden once.
Yeah. It was 1992, I think. It was a long tour. It was the Fear of the Dark Tour, so they weren't doing all that good, but they treated us so cool; it was really fun. We became pretty good friends with most of those dudes. I was a huge Maiden fan when I was younger, particularly "Killers" and the first album. Clive Burr was my favorite drummer; that's why I bought the drum kit I still have today. I remember the last show was in Nashville, and we used to do an MC5 cover, and it just happened that one of the MC5 guys was in Nashville at the time. We found him and got him to come up and play with us.
Afterwards, Nicko McBrain comes in to our tent and goes, "Reed, mate, you're a great drummer, but you need new cymbals!" And he had a bag that was completely packed with new cymbals, had to be fifteen-hundred-dollars' worth. Isn't that f***ing cool? What a great way to end a tour.
What has COC done to appeal to a newer generation of listeners?
I really don't have any idea. Obviously that's a bonus to win over younger fans, but predominantly I would say our fans are older. We write tunes we think are badass, and if younger folks like them, then that's cool. Not to sound corny, but we're writing tunes for us. If COC was ever trying to just write stuff that people would like, I don't think we would be COC. In the 90s, a lot of people liked what we were doing. And people have been liking some of this new stuff. It's never been like we jump on trends; we're usually a little before trends, like "Deliverance" was a little ahead of the curb. That has never been part of our plan. Like when I was talking about the punk days, the idea of us making money wasn't part of the equation. We just roll with it, have fun, make music we like to make.
The last few albums seem to translate a live energy. Was that one of the primary objectives that you had writing and recording those albums?
This last one in particular was very live-driven. The song "Brand New Sleep" we ran through two times, maybe. A lot of that album was written right there in the studio, so if it to you sounds live, it's because it was. There wasn't a lot of rehearsing. I don't think there was any demoing. We used to demo stuff a lot in the past, but we didn't do all that much.
What would you say are the best and worst parts of being a three-piece?
I don't know. Playing a lot of these old songs we hadn't played in a while is fun. When we first started doing it, we didn't want it to just only be the novelty of playing the old stuff, so we started writing new material. It's been cool documenting this kind of stuff, but I'm at the point where I want to start playing the Pepper material; I miss those songs. I don't think there's any negative parts of the three-piece, but I'm looking forward to playing with Pepper again.
Check out the band's tour dates and more here.
Pick up the new album here.
Corrosion of Conformity Interview and IX Review
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