There’s a storm brewing and it comes in the fabulous form of the eagerly anticipated latest release from Corrosion of Conformity, now once again enhanced by a lovingly applied sprinkling of Pepper.
That’s right, Keenan is back at the head of affairs, a decade or so after he parted company. He’s missed a couple of albums during the intervening years during which he was getting down with Down, so to speak.
Corrosion of Conformity soldiered on as a trio releasing two albums, both via Candlelight, in which Woody Weathermen took over the vocal duties. Without being disparaging to Woody, there’s no disguising the feelgood factor of having Pepper back among the rugged ranks of CoC for the first time in a dozen years, since the In The Arms Of God album.
As if infused with a fresh layer of hunger and enthusiasm his band mates (including Woody on guitar) respond with a rasping album opener in ‘The Luddite’ (after the opening instrumental intro) and then rarely ease off the gas throughout the following dozen or so songs.
Somehow the 14 tracks are shoehorned into 53 minutes but with the dynamism of songs such as ‘Cast The First Stone’ that’s pretty much all you’ll have the energy for. In fact No Heart No Crown is so inspiring and invigorating in equal measure that you’ll be picking chunks of sticky sludge from your hair for weeks to come.
There’s a brief moment of respite for the well measured spaghetti western style instrumental ‘No Cross’ after which the sledgehammer smacks down once more on the thumping ‘Wolf Named Crow’ in which the hirsute riffs land like cannon balls over some great grooving from the Raleigh rednecks. ‘Forgive Me’ has a mean chug that resonates with venom from start to finish, supported by some barbed wire guitar work.
While the old crushing riff patterns still dominate CoC also throw in a more introspective lament, too heavy to quite merit the term ballad, but circumspect all the same, with the prog influenced ‘Nothing Left To Say,’ the album’s longest track.
Corrosion of Conformity have always brought the sounds of the swamp to life and that’s the case once again on the clattering ‘E.L.M,’ although on the penultimate title track they surprisingly veer off in a whole new direction, full of choral harmonies and sleepy rhythms while closer ‘A Quest To Believe’ brings things to a peaceful rather than pummelling conclusion.
Overall No Heart No Crown has echoes of the great early CoC work such as 90s favourites Deliverance and Wiseblood. Currently on a two-month US/Canadian tour with spiritual cousins Black Label Society, when CoC next cross the Atlantic be sure to get along for some finger lickin southern swagger.