In these days of all things “metalcore”, it is worth remembering that Corrosion Of Conformity was one of the first bands to conceive of hardcore and heavy metal as being two sides of the same coin.
Eye For An Eye and, in particular, Animosity and Technocracy – all released between 1983 and 1987 – are seen by many as classic metallic hardcore released by a band who, in contrast to their music, constantly namechecked Black Sabbath and Sabbath-influenced, doom metal merchants like Trouble in press interviews.
1991’s Blind, featuring the infamous single Vote With A Bullet, saw the zenith of COC’s crossover, and by the time of the mid-’90s albums Deliverance and Wiseblood they’d turned into a fully-fledged, Deep South-flavoured metal band. Whether they should have still been calling themselves Corrosion Of Conformity by that stage is a moot point…
And so to the 21st Century, which started pretty badly for COC with the forgettable, America’s Volume Dealer. In The Arms Of God, on the other hand, while not being a groundbreaker, is certainly a lot more memorable.
In The Arms Of God sees Corrosion Of Conformity taking their love of Sabbath, Trouble et al and turning it into a stoner, doomy metal-fest – and thankfully without too much of the hoary, Deep South stuff. Once the misleading bluesy guitar solo intro to Stonebreaker has wafted through, the grooving, muscular riffs and Pepper Keenan’s huge voice tell us as much and remind us that his days in Down with Pantera‘s Phil Anselmo were well-spent.
Paranoid Opioid goes even more towards tribute band territory (the song title kinda gives it away) but it’s sterling stuff and also happens to contain the only vestige of hardcore left in COC these days, with Keenan’s quickfire, repeated vocals during the verses.
The slow and heavy It Is That Way, complete with hooky chorus, brings to mind Loud Love-era Soundgarden (another Sabbath-influenced act), while elsewhere, COC spread their wings in the jazzily rhythmic and spoken word verses of Dirty Hands Empty Pockets, the flamenco guitars of Rise River Rise, the Hotel California-aping dual guitar solo at the end of World On Fire, and the Led Zep-pier than thou Crown Of Thorns.
Lyrically, COC have also still got plenty of interesting things to say, and thankfully nothing that involves assassinating politicians. Paranoid Opioid sounds like a warning voice of experience (“Burned by the spoon / Now for dying too soon… / Bow down to the one that has cost you”), Dirty Hands Empty Pockets is an articulate diatribe against their homeland (“As we bleed another nation so you can watch your favourite station”) while the remainder of the songs continue their penchant for utilising religious terminology in the midst of anger (Crown Of Thorns, Backslider etc).
In The Arms Of God is a welcome comeback from a group of seasoned musicians whose influence on today’s heavy music scene is under-publicised and under-appreciated. Many of its songs are too long and it is no must-have album, but in 2005, Corrosion Of Conformity still have plenty to offer.