Corrosion Of Conformity – Blind Review

220px-COC_BlindBlind is a very interesting and unique record within the C.O.C discography both historically and musically. A transitional record for a band who have had several very distinct and separate sounding periods and musical-directions over the years.

In the ’80s C.O.C were a raw, gnarly Hardcore Punk band (but with Sabbathy doomy tracks here and there too) and gained more and more Thrash influence with each release. In the 2012-2015 one of the earlier line-ups reformed but made more sludgy stonery Metal. The band are most famous however for their 1990s period especially the fan favourite Deliverance and Wiseblood albums which saw them add in Southern Rock, Groove Metal and Stoner Rock elements together into one big melting pot resulting in some of the best music of all time (real top 100 albums to hear before you die type stuff, seriously, if you don’t own those two albums yet, drop what you are doing and explore!).

In 1991 however, C.O.C had an interesting and one-off change of pace, direction and line up. Usual bassist and occasional singer Mike Dean was out (he’d be back again) replaced by Phil Swisher. Karl Agell joins the band and takes the mic, about their fifth singer alreay. For the first time guitarist Woody Weatherman finds himself in company as a second guitarist is added to the line-up, a big step in changing their sound from ramshackle Punk flavour to something else, something more metallic. That guitarist was none other than Pepper Keenan. Pepper of course being famous not only as the guitarist in supergoup Down nowadays, but also the band leader and singer of C.O.C for their most famous and beloved work in the ’90s.

Well, all that history and line-up information is certainly interesting, but it really doesn’t give you any guide as to what this particular record sounds like and if you’ll like it or not. Let me ask you a few questions. Do you like Chaos AD? Do you like Burn My Eyes? Do you like Vulgar Display Of Power? Do you like Cleansing? …if so then you’ll probably love Blind too!

The music is a far cry from the early Hardcore Punk and Crossover Thrash directions. It has yet to gain the Stoner Rock vibes, bounciness or Southern Rock influences that meshed into the sound of their most famous stuff. It is a strange pure perfect early Nineties Metal record. The intro and outro tracks are noisy-ass Doom-sounding sludgy dirges; otherwise however, the rest is a little harder to define. I know some people argue that Groove Metal or Post-Thrash or whatever you want to call it is not a real subgenre. I’ve heard this album called all sorts from Thrash (not really right) to Sludge (no…not right either) to Doom (…nope, not right either). The only one that really fits for me is Groove Metal. Take those above-mentioned four albums, Blind sits somewhere in a cross section somewhere the middle of all of them.

Karl’s vocals are James Hetfield/Chuck Billy influenced, semi-barked and semi-melodic, often very reverby and very, very well-suited to the music. The drums are very rumbly and varied. The guitar is very raw and heavy, never Slayer-fast but with a nice Thrash-style chug mixed in with hardcore fueled long ringing chords. Imagine a Supergroup that was half Black Label Society and half High On Fire trying to cover one of the deeper cuts from The More Things Change. In terms of production, it doesn’t have the warm Hard Rock ready sound of the next two records or the tinny budget-sounding job of the earlier stuff, instead it has a very distinctive early-’90s sound, the kind of thing that Pissing Razors had before the millennium. Something somewhere like Demanufacture only without the futuristic robotic vibes. Its a real charming sound.

Highlights include the ridiculously catchy single ‘Dance Of The Dead’ (Seriously; why don’t the band play this live more often!?) as well as the excellent drum-powered ‘Damned For All Time’ and of course the concert favourite ‘Vote With A Bullet’ which has the interesting point of having Pepper sing lead vocals, a hint of what was to come.

Overall; there’s no band quite like C.O.C and there’s no C.O.C release quite like Blind. If you like the band you really ought to check it out if you haven’t already, and if you don’t like the band yet but are a fan of the albums and bands that I’ve been mentioning throughout then this is a serious gap in your collection, do yourself a favour and give it a try!

Machine Head – Bloodstone & Diamonds Review

Machine Head - Bloodstone & Diamonds

Machine Head – Bloodstone & Diamonds

In 2014, Nuclear Blast records released the eight full-length studio album by the now-legendary Bay Area based Heavy Metal band Machine Head, entitled Bloodstone & Diamonds.

It was their first without longtime bassist Adam Duce (a huge part of the band’s sound) and the first with new bassist Jared MacEachern. This line-up shift leaves frontman Robb Flynn as the sole original member. Luckily long-time drummer Dave McClain is still on board as he has been for everything except the debut, and Phil Demmel is still there as he has been for the last three exceptionally good albums, leaving a feeling of consistency and cushioning the blow of such a big loss.

Produced by bandleader Robb Flynn & Juan Urteaga, mixed by Colin Richardson (with additional work from Andy Sneap and Steve Lagudi); sonically, this is an exemplary record. The instruments are crystal clear, the mix is crushing and well balanced, and this only serves to highlight the superb, passionate performances and some of the best vocals in the band’s history. Its a real treat for the ears, as violins swirl warmly around and the gorgeously-recorded drum kit hammers proudly across the spectrum.

When I first got into the band, public opinion had turned on them, every magazine and website claimed they were on the way out, people spoke of them either with contempt or with rose tinted nostalgia and an “only Burn My Eyes was any good” historic revisionism. It nice to see how much the band’s star is on the rise now. Every album keeps getting better. They keep getting the recognition they deserve from critics. Live shows are full of adoring fans. This even ended up being, to date, the band’s highest charting record ever.

It deserves it. This is one stone-cold gem of an album. Almost flawless. There’s no filler, no weak songs, nothing out-of-place. The choruses are memorable. The solos are scorching. The fills are impressive and satisfying. The album is chocked full of riffs that sound like all eras of the band’s history and still move things forward to the future. There’s a bouncy scrappy Hardcore-influenced sound to “Game Over,” a haunting epic feeling to “Sail Into The Black,” a melancholy melodic feel to “Damage Inside” a big dirty sludgy sound to “Beneath The Silt” and more rampant Blackening-esque Thrashy aggression to the likes of “Killers & Kings” and “Eyes Of The Dead.” The titanic 71-minute record is full to the brim with all different sorts of ideas and directions but still feels like one cohesive whole.

The quality of the songwriting tips everything over the edge. Its not just immaculately produced, furiously performed and stylistically satisfying… but its also just plain brilliant in and of itself. It stands up remarkably well to repeat listens. All the little clever structuring decisions, neat flourishes and all the orchestral extras reveal themselves more and more with repeat listens. There’s an immense depth to this one. I’ve seen over half of it live in concert and it absolutely crushed and felt “right” beside stuff from all positions in the band’s discography. It felt incredible even without the lush production and the extra orchestral instruments. These are just brilliant songs, plain and simple.

It must have been difficult to live up to the impossibly high standards the band have been setting themselves for the last twelve-or-so years, but somehow Machine Head managed it, once again. This is an incredible record that will stand up well against any Machine Head record you care to name. Get yourself a copy if you haven’t already!