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.