Corrosion of Conformity
Reviewed By Simon Milburn
Long-running act falls short of the mark
There was a time that I would look forward to a new record from thrash-crossover-cum-southern-sludge-rockers Corrosion of Conformity. I’m familiar with all of their albums but always found myself gravitating towards their material from 1991’s Blind onwards, and more so the era of vocalist Pepper Keenan specifically. Not long after 2005’s In the Arms of God, Corrosion of Conformity went on hiatus as Keenan recorded and toured with a reinvigorated Down, where the guitarist has remained since. The remaining majority of Corrosion of Conformity eventually reunited with an open door offered to Keenan. The result was the inconsistent 2012 self titled effort which saw the group try to recapture the energy of the band’s crossover era material. It, much like their Megalodon EP from last year, tried to incorporate the sludgier, southern influenced vibe that dominated the Keenan years to varied degrees of success.
So, in the spirit of keeping the momentum going to some degree, the trio of vocalist/bassist Mike Dean, guitarist Woody Weatherman, and drummer/vocalist Reed Mullin have churned out another release clocking up album number nine which is simply and aptly titled IX. Thankfully they’ve put a little more sludge into this one as I think it’s clear they realised what worked for them with their fans. There’s no sign of Keenan returning to the ranks any time soon but the band are smart enough to figure out where their bread and butter is.
Whilst for most, this return to form will be most welcomed, there is one all dominating facet to it that cannot be ignored. The songs themselves aren’t all that catchy. There’s no “King of the Rotten”. There’s no “Diablo Blvd” or “Vote With a Bullet” or “Clean My Wounds”. To be fair, they are engaging enough whilst the album is spinning – just check out “On Your Way” and “The Hanged Man”. But when it’s all over, well, there’s not a lot that sticks around. That there is the biggest problem that Corrosion of Conformity has right now. Whether or not Keenan’s return would resolve that, I don’t know. But as it stands, IX is fun whilst it lasted but after that, well, it’s a case of “What did I just hear?”
If anything, IX feels like, and sounds like a collection of songs from a jam session. Production and mix wise, it’s solid. But musically, at this point in time, Corrosion of Conformity’s IX sounds like a band just getting together to jam on some tunes but ultimately lacking the focus to refine the song writing process and deliver songs of the calibre that fans are used to.
To be honest, there’s nothing inherently bad about IX. I think to say that the band are missing Keenan’s input is a little harsh and possibly overstating Keenan’s impact to Corrosion of Conformity overall. Vocally, yes, Keenan was the man for this band. Riff wise, I think there’s enough ideas on IX to suggest they can survive in their current form. But, IX feels half finished or maybe a little bit more than half finished or somewhere there abouts anyway. It’s disappointing to not be excited about a new Corrosion of Conformity album but, conversely, I’m excited about what the next album might bring if the trio refine the material a bit more than what’s on offer here. There’s potential still at this point. IX is just a bit of a dodgy, stumbling block at this juncture.