Corrosion of Conformity
In the Arms of God
Solid showcase of southern rock
When North Carolina's Corrosion Of Conformity broke their four-year recording drought with America's Volume Dealer in 2000 (The follow up to 1996's excellent Wiseblood), the new moniker (The shortened COC) and sound took many by surprise. Needless to say, some wholly embraced the overtly commercialised southern rock influences that dominated over the bands metallic sound of old, but there were just as many who saw the band selling out their past with a shot at the mainstream success with carefully constructed songs wrapped in slicker production values.
In what was seen to be an effort to dispel fans disappointment in America's Volume Dealer, C.O.C. hastily released Live Volume (Both on C.D. and D.V.D.) in 2001, which to some extent, helped bring out an edge on the new songs when shuffled alongside classics of the past. Since then, little has been heard from the group (Apart from guitarist/vocalist Pepper Keenan's part in Down's sophomore effort Down II: A Bustle in Your Hedgerow in 2002, and C.O.C.'s extensive touring), with fans fiercely debating as to which direction C.O.C. should take next, if continue at all.
But after another lengthy absence, C.O.C. is back to set the record straight with their seventh full-length release, In The Arms Of God. Any concerns that C.O.C.'s southern rock influences would be further experimented within the America's Volume Dealer realm are quickly dispelled with the introduction of the album's lead off track (And first promotional video clip) Stonebreaker. Although taking just over a minute to fully kick in, the four piece act (Now consisting of Keenan, guitarist Woody Weatherman, bassist/vocalist Mike Dean and new session drummer Stanton Moore (Who is also a member of Galactic), who replaced Reed Mullen) mix a raw blues feel with stoner rock riffing, and a production (Handled by none other than John Custer) that brings to mind the off the cuff energy of C.O.C. in their prime (Essentially anything emerging from the band throughout the '90's).
Continuing the relentless momentum is Paranoid Opioid (Which is easily comparable to King Of The Rotten from Wiseblood until the breakdown/change of direction mid way through), while It's That Way (Which first appeared on 2004's compilation High Volume - The Stoner Rock Collection), Backslider and So Much Left Behind take on slower stoner rock paces, and are given a murky/swampy old school feel as they plod along in true C.O.C. uncompromising fashion. Keenan injects some fun into sinister sounding spoken word/bass led Dirty Hands Empty Pockets/Already Gone before launching in the fully riff loaded monster second half, while the expansive acoustic based Rise River Rise is underpinned by a slight eastern feel though the touches of solos overlayed tastefully throughout.
Never Turns To More sees C.O.C. expand upon the stoner vibe to it's fullest over an epic eight minute running length (Without losing it's direction, or the listeners attention), while Infinite War (With lead vocals from both Dean and Weatherman) is simply venomous. The more metallic World On Fire is a little unremarkable (Especially stacked up again the rest of the album), but the closing title track (Preceded by the drifting Crown Of Thorns) In The Arms Of God works in every other way, and is a blistering way to finish things up.
If anything, C.O.C. In The Arms Of God has shown that America's Volume Dealer was but a temporary diversion in commercial experimentation (Which actually resulted in a good album showing C.O.C. as seasoned songwriters and talented musicians), and now they're back to business. This certainly isn't some miraculous return to the bands days of old, but at the very least In The Arms Of God sounds a lot like C.O.C. are once again in touch with the aggressiveness edge that often produced some of their most inspired performances of old.
(Sanctuary Records/Riot! Distributors)