Where to Start: C.O.C.

Before we get into this, let the record show that I didn’t start with the album I’m about to recommend. I began listening to Corrosion of Conformity (C.O.C.) with 1991’s Blind album. I was roughly 10 years old, and it was one of the first CDs I ever owned (as much as one can own something stolen from one’s older sister).

Some will say right off the bat my opinions on the band are skewed because of that — specifically since bassist Mike Dean didn’t appear on Blind — but I think it gives me a unique vantage point. I didn’t come aboard after the radio success of 1994’s Deliverance, and I don’t get all reminiscent for the reckless early days of C.O.C. on albums like 1985’s Animosity or their 1984 debut, Eye for an Eye.

The question at this point, especially since 2010’s reformation of the Animosity trio lineup of Dean, guitarist Woody Weatherman and drummer Reed Mullin, is which is better, the Southern metal style the band began to take on with Deliverance, or the crossover hardcore punk/thrash of their first two full-lengths?

Guitarist Pepper Keenan — who came aboard for Blind and wound up taking a leadership role in the band across subsequent albums until this latest C.O.C. incarnation — would seem to be the divisive figure. Also of Down, his growing involvement in C.O.C. could be seen as the impetus for the shift in direction, and I know there are some who think of the band in terms of pre- and post-Pepper.

Nonetheless, in looking at the long, storied, decades-spanning career of Corrosion of Conformity and trying to pick a single album to recommend to newcomers to the band, it would be easy to say, “Listen to Animosity,” since that album and new material in that same vein (they released a 7″ called Your Tomorrow on Southern Lord this year) is what they’re currently touring. But frankly, as someone who’s listened to C.O.C. for nearly two decades of his life, I can’t in good conscience do that.

Start with 1996’s Wiseblood.

There. I said it.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also check out Animosity or support Dean, Weatherman and Mullin as the current version of C.O.C., just that, if you’ve never heard them before, Wiseblood is the place to start.

For what it’s worth, their last album with Keenan in the band (to date; one never knows what the future will bring), 2005’s In the Arms of God, was also fantastic — maybe their best work in the Southern metal style — but without Wiseblood to put it in context, I don’t think it can be fully appreciated. Wiseblood refined the process Deliverance started, offered better songs in tracks like “King of the Rotten,” “Born Again for the Last Time,” “Goodbye Windows” and “The Snake Has No Head,” and gave us the quintessential C.O.C. ballad in “Redemption City.”

Especially for an album released on a major label (Columbia), it was gritty and raw and genuine — which the band would lose sight of on the 2000 follow-up, America’s Volume Dealer — and all parties, Dean, Weatherman, Mullin and Keenan, were present and accounted for. I really do believe that if you’re a new listener to the band and you want to figure out what the appeal of C.O.C. is, Wiseblood is going to help you get the best idea. It was a special moment in the band and some of the best heavy Southern metal ever written. Whatever happens with their lineup, future releases or reunions, nothing is going to change that.

Any arguments, cases for other records to be made, or agreement, please, leave a comment.

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9 Responses to “Where to Start: C.O.C.”

  1. Ollie says:

    Wow, too close to call really. I was a huge fan from when I first heard Eye For An Eye in the 8o’s and loved all the hardcore stuff. By the time Blind came out I’d been getting into Trouble and St Vitus and still dug thrash so that album was perfect for me but the one that really nailed it was Deliverance…that one for me has the perfect balance of totally heavy but massive grooves and still laid back. When that came out I’d never really heard anyone marrying the southern grooves of Skynyrd with Sabbath heaviness so pretty influential. That said I love everything the band has ever done including Volume Dealer and they’ve blown me away the 3 times I’ve seen them so I can go with Wiseblood as well.

    Righteous Fool featuring Reed and Mike is well worth checking out as well, their 7″ on Southern Lord is awesome.

  2. Pope JTE says:

    No argument here. Wiseblood is a wise choice.

    Eh, you can even say Deliverance. I think both are good jumping off points.

    I had (maybe still do) have a bit of a problem with Blind and I can’t quite put my finger on why. Love Animosity, can’t listen to Tecnocracy . . . Love all the post-Blind releases, especially the live album. But don’t ask me to pick a favorite. They all rock and speak to a different part of my psyche. C.O.C. is pure awesome.

  3. Scott says:

    “Wiseblood” has always been a “go to” C.O.C. record for me for years. I saw them several times on tour for that record as well. I feel that “Wiseblood” is a near perfect record on all account of the time period, and that it still has an urgency 15 years later for me.

    However, I have been following the band since “Eye for an Eye”, and have all releases to date with exception on the new 7″. I have only recently, since the record’s release, listened intensely to “America’s Volume Dealer”, which after this many years, finally clicked.

    As for “Blind”, I saw C.O.C. play the entire record for the first time in public at the famed Brewery in Raleigh, NC on a Good Friday waaay back in the day. I still remember to this day of how heavy and perfect a performance and execution of each track was top notch, and I left a changed person. It was true metal rapture.

  4. Michael says:

    Wiseblood? It’s a great album no doubt about it but…
    My first COC listen was Eye for an Eye and then Animosity which is probably my favourite COC record (yeah, I know, it’s everybody’s favourite) but Blind comes in at a close second and I mean really close. In the end it’s the B-side of Animosity that prevails but Blind is a better record than Deliverance and Wiseblood and the albums that followed after that but that’s just my opinion. I still don’t like the bass sound on Deliverance for instance.

    I mean, how can you not headbang to Damned for All Time? That drumintro… with the feedback coming in and some cymbal work. The groove on Buried is exceptionally good, it’s better than most on the album but on that song the groove hits you, almost perfection. How Shallow Ground comes before Vote With a Bullet and gives the intro it needs before Keenan releases his vocals for the first time and the main riff is easily one of the coolest ever written. It’s Southern Metal but with still that crossover, albeit more thrashier, touch to it.
    Once I read that Metallica should have released Blind in stead of the Black Album which in the end is an album that could have been great if it was full of songs like Holier than Thou and not filled with ultimately bad songs like Unforgiven.
    COC and especially Blind is extremely underrated imo, I’m gonna put the record on and headbang till my neck hurts. WHITE NOISE!

  5. nachos4life says:

    cool write up.

  6. deaconcrowe says:

    Well said. As a 40 yr. old father, husband and responsible metal head, I concur about “Wiseblood.” What a record. It’s varied and thick throughout and absolutely from the heart, lyrically and musically. Just a badass effort from front to back.

  7. Ricardo Mora says:

    Great choice however I think I’m biased towards Deliverance because of something you mention in your article, it came to me in the right time.

    I just remember watching MTV (imagine, they used to play rock videos) and feeling completely overwhelm with “Albatross”, feeling like a new chapter in riff mastery was written right there in front of me. it was as if Iommi just had this riff in the back of his mind around 1972 and got lost and somehow C.O.C. found a way to pull it out with such power that the whole world would crumble again as it did when Sabbath ruled the earth.

  8. purveyor says:

    Wow… old post but I had to comment:

    I think Deliverance is the quintessential COC album.

    and Albatross might be the quintessential stoner rock song, period.

    also Clean My Wounds ( I think they’ve been chasing this song ever since it was released).

  9. kraftwerkd says:

    I got on through Deliverance, not exactly knowing who C.O.C. were (didn’t have MTV in Canada, Canadian channels don’t play good music), but a mate on a guitar forum i frequented at the time was adamant about them. The only guitar tab I could find was for Clean My Wounds, so I hunted down the album, and loved it almost immediately. Still to this day, nearly 10 years later, I love it.

    Now, coming from somebody who’s used to the more arrangement-oriented Pepper albums, as opposed to the raging trio albums, I can agree with you on choosing Wiseblood. I also disagree with you however, and maybe while I hold it a little too dear, I think Deliverance would be a much better jumping off point. The aggression of Blind wouldn’t seem to out of place, the extra polish on Wiseblood would stand out, and it complement In The Arms Of God.

    The trio material I would suggest for the well-initiated, it’s quite a different animal.

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