Corrosion of Conformity
No Cross No Crown
Nuclear Blast Records/Universal Music Australia
Reviewed By Chris Gibbs
It has been 18 years since the classic Deliverance line-up of North Carolina’s Corrosion of Conformity last made a record together. That was 2000’s somewhat mediocre and commercial leaning America’s Volume Dealer and saw the departure of long term drummer Reed Mullin. The band successfully rectified all of that record’s failures and then some with 2005’s superb release, In the Arms of God.
Unfortunately, by 2006 the band decided to go on hiatus whilst vocalist/guitarist Pepper Keenan focussed on recording and touring with the NOLA supergroup, Down. For Pepper, that hiatus turned into eight years, while never officially leaving the band. In that time, CoC recharged their batteries and returned with Reed on drums and the release of two records, 2012’s self titled and 2014’s IX both as a three piece based on the Animosity-era line-up.
No doubt many have longed for a return to the truly excellent Deliverance and its successor Wiseblood or even the aforementioned In the Arms of God. In December 2014 CoC announced Pepper’s long awaited return alongside a handful of shows with the aim to see where things go. Two years of touring later and a new record was finally in the works. No Cross No Crown is their 10th record, their first for Nuclear Blast Records and hails the return of the classic Deliverance line-up of Pepper Keenan (vocals, guitar), Woody Weatherman (lead guitar), Mike Dean (bass) and Reed Mullin (drums).
After a short stoner fuzzy riff introduction, “The Luddite” crashes against the banks of the Cape Fear River swinging southern sludge swagger and muck like the march of the swamp people. Pepper sounds viciously raspy and aggressive here and his vocal performance continues to impress throughout. For a man in his 50’s that hasn’t fronted a band in almost a decade, at least that I am aware of, he has clearly looked after his voice which is on fine display on singles “Cast the First Stone” and “Wolf Named Crow”. Both tasty teasers but there are plenty more in store.
“Little Man” could easily be considered the long lost cousin of the classic Deliverance track “Albatross”. It should come as no surprise that due to Pepper’s song writing credibility and history with the band Down that a song like “Nothing Left to Say” takes you back in time to 1995 to that very first Down record NOLA and could easily fit right smack in the middle somewhere. Album closer “A Quest to Believe (A Call to the Void)” is an absolute stand out bringing those welcome Down vibes even closer to the surface. As a bonus there is a cool cover of Queen’s “Son and Daughter”.
Out of 15 songs 5 are interludes or spoken word passages that just don’t add any value and are essentially throwaway items. With that aside, I could not really fault No Cross No Crown. As far as music and straight up songs go, they’re all southern rocking killers, well worth your time. I’ve spent a number of months with this now where it feels like a favourite release of 2017 but I must remind myself it is only just now a 2018 release. For a group of dudes that haven’t written and recorded music together as this line-up since 2000, it is astounding what they have managed to achieve with this release and a welcome return indeed.