Corrosion of Conformity – ‘No Cross No Crown’

No Cross No Crown Out January 12

There really aren’t many peers when it comes to Corrosion of Conformity. Thirty-five years after they were first spotted hitting the North Carolina pavement, CoC has managed to excel at adaptation. Every single lineup has featured tweaks to the formula that then lead to notable works. With the 2012 three-piece setup of Woody Weatherman, Mike Dean and Reed Mullin, the result was a frenetic-yet-technical duo of albums that saw the group play off of their hardcore roots while still featuring tight pockets and shifts in tempo. The return of Pepper Keenan and subsequent No Cross No Crown sees the band swing back to their blues-ier times — and to great result.

With that put down on wax, don’t go into this one expecting fifteen ripoffs of “Clean My Wounds”. CoC manages to switch things up enough to maintain their well-deserved reputation as hard rock stalwarts.

Yes, there is an emphasis on groove and Keenan’s growl remains as close to a chainsaw as you can get without a thousand dollars worth of effects, but there’s enough here to give even longtime fans pause. One interlude foreshadows some upcoming doom metal riffage alongside guitar interplay that bands would sell their souls for, while another sees the group bust out the acoustics for a track that would have been a keeper from a hazy Muscle Shoals session. Choir-like backing sounds feature later in the album. There is a variety here that showcases a band comfortable with who they are and what they can do, as well as how to take things a step or two further.

The most notable aspect of their experience lies in the attention paid to dynamics and pacing which makes you feel like nothing is pointless here; every track seems to stick around just as long as it needs to and then you’re right into the next one. Their punk upbringing wouldn’t take too kindly to filler after all, and they are better for it.

As a drummer, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Dean & Mullin’s rhythm work. This is a band where seemingly everyone could do everything, but Mike Dean shows he is just as melodic and flexible as the guitarists — the penultimate track a particular standout — while Reed Mullin is excellent at knowing just what each track demands without becoming distracting. This is all while Weatherman and Keenan give a perfect example of what happens when you spend decades jamming alongside one another. Just like the albums before Keenan’s return, the pocket remains tight. There is no rust here.

Through lineup changes, injuries, and maybe because of their road-dog nature (45 dates from 12/27/17 to 2/27/18), they continue to hone their craft as a band born of adaptation. Aspects of their entire history are showcased here, but utilized in a way that doesn’t see the group resting on even their most famous work. CoC’s talent shines brightest in how they manage to make each change and step of the journey – including No Cross No Crown – worth your time.

Check back soon for tHeARTofla’s exclusive interview with Corrosion of Conformity drummer, Reed Mullin.