CORROSION OF CONFORMITY – Deliverance (1994 Sony)
Gre-ea-easy! That’s how the molton hot guitars sound on this landmark album. Greasy, in the most complimentary way. Six-stringers Woody Weatherman and Pepper Keenan have a way of making their guitar licks sound slippery and heavy at the same time.
Corrosion of Conformity (“COC”) did something really smart when they set out to record this album. After the departure of bassist Phil Swisher and singer Karl Agell (who both turned up later in Leadfoot), they promoted Pepper Keenan to lead vocals, and brought back founding member Mike Dean on bass. Pepper scored a hit for COC last time out with a lead vocal on “Vote With a Bullet”, so it was a logical move. As for Mike Dean, his punk roots and busy bass are important to the sound of this band. Dean was also COC’s vocalist from time to time in the past, and gets a lead vocal once again on the title track.
The resulting album Deliverance is 14 tracks (give or take an instrumental or two) of heavy, dirty metal they way they make it in Raleigh, North Carolina. Pepper’s vocals lent them a southern edge. Metallica are fans — Pep auditioned for them on bass when Newsted left the band. (What a sound Metallica could have had, with James Hetfield backed up by Pepper Keenan on vocals!)
Regardless of who’s singing or playing, COC nailed all 14 songs. None of the proverbial “filler”. This is one hell of a trip, an album that demands to be listened to from start to finish, no skipping. John Custer’s crisp and chunky production brought out the metal side more than ever.
“Help me Jesus, help me clean my wounds. He said he cannot heal that kind.”
Check out the choppy riff on the single “Clean My Wounds”. The song is a tour-de-force, a textbook example of all the right ingredients. The riff is outstanding, but the verse and chorus melodies slay. Drummer Reed Mullin has a spare groove, but he knows exactly when to accent it with some heavy hitting. The multi-tracked vocal in the chorus (“Knock it down!”) is the perfect fit, but the Lizzy-ish guitar solos are an additional layer of perfection.
Another key track, “Albatross” is too heavy to be a ballad so let’s call it a dirge. You can hear what Mike Dean brings to the table — a slinky, Geezer style of bass that provides subliminal melody. “Albatross” flies on the wings of a strong melody and heavy performance. It has a vibe similar to “Outshined” by Soundgarden but more mournful.
The aforementioned instrumentals are integral parts of the album. Remember how a Black Sabbath album had key instrumental bits, usually introducing another song? That’s what COC do here. “Without Wings”, a dark acoustic guitar figure, leads into the heavy-as-fuck “Broken Man” exactly like a Sabbath song. Later on, “#2121313”, an electric guitar piece, is joined directly onto “My Grain”. “Mano de Mono”, another acoustic piece, is basically the front end of “Seven Days”, a mid-paced groove single.
Speaking of “My Grain”, it’s the most punk rock track, but even so it features a kickass bass solo! Other noteworthy tracks include the wah-wah inflected title track (Mike Dean on vocals). Jittery, jumpy riffs dominate “Señor Limpio”, another blistering blitz. Finally there is “Pearls Before Swine”, the slowest and bluesiest of the tracks and a seriously heavy closer.
Corrosion of Conformity have made some good (albeit very different) albums over the years, but like many bands they have a clear peak. That is Deliverance, the one perfect album they made.