Considering that the band was left for dead after 2005’s In The Arms Of God, North Carolina’s Corrosion of Conformity has been on a fucking roll these last few years. The band’s original trio reconvened in 2010 and embarked on heavy-duty touring, followed by 2012’s excellent self-titled LP and the hastily-assembled Megalodon EP for Scion A/V. Just two short years later, COC is back again with their 9th album, creatively titled IX.
Opener “Brand New Sleep” occupies that nebulous area between “doom” and just “slow”, and takes its sweet-ass time getting anywhere interesting. It’s not a bad track necessarily, but it’s certainly not deserving of the opening slot on a COC record. Follow-up “Elphyn”‘s first riff sounds a lot like “Brand New Sleep”‘s last riff, giving the first 11 minutes on the record a somewhat monotonous feel. I’ve been a fan of this band for 20 years, and this is the first time I’ve made it two tracks into their new album and just said “meh.”
Oddly, this rejuvenated Corrosion lineup seems to excel at more uptempo material. Exhibit A: the two-minute punk rocker “Denmark Vesey,” the band is on fire. “Tarquinius Superbus” is probably the closest COC has gotten to crossover thrash since the late ’80s, with an awesome half-time chorus section that had me headbanging at my desk. Drummer/vocalist Reed Mullin has developed some killer-sounding screams that suit the heavier tracks nicely. (interestingly, both of these songs are named for obscure historical figures that are worth Wikipedia-ing).
A lot of this record becomes a blur of sludgy rock riffs to me, but a few things stand out. “On Your Way” is an upbeat rocker anchored by a melodic Mike Dean vocal and a few hulk-sized riffs. “The Nectar” stitches fast hardcore riffs to slower doom sections, similar to a few of the songs on COC but to lesser effect. Oh, and the obligatory Woody Weatherman guitar interlude is named “Interlude,” probably by the same genius who came up with the album title.
The songwriting is loose, the performances seemingly first takes, as though these were rehearsals instead of the real thing. All 3 band members make audible mistakes, and Mike Dean’s vocals sound like he’s totally winging it at times. The record’s production, handled by longtime cohort John Custer, is also not flattering, with weak-sounding drums and way too much bass. COC has made some raw-sounding records in their day, and IX certainly continues that trend. Combined with an album cover that looks like it was done in Photoshop Elements, one gets the impression that this album was a low-pressure affair (to put it mildly).
So yeah, this is the first COC record of my adult life that I don’t feel a burning desire to own or even listen to. It’s never offensively terrible like, say, America’s Volume Dealer, but there’s very few moments that are exceptional either. It feels like “just another COC record.” There’s almost something charmingly quaint about a band having the longevity to make records this non-essential –think Black Flag‘s Loose Nut, or perhaps Bad Brains post-I Against I. IX is the sound of a band with no agenda and absolutely nothing left to prove, just jamming out some tunes in the garage.