Corrosion of Conformity – ‘No Cross No Crown’

By Kieran Howells

Very few artists have earned the fierce adoration or respect that Corrosion of Conformity have in heavy metal. Intertwined with the incestuous tapestry of artists that defined a generation of alternative music, they’ve had members of Pantera, Crowbar, Superjoint Ritual and Down amongst their ranks over the years. After a short period of aimlessness without driving force and founding member Pepper Keenan, ‘No Cross No Crown’ finds them with rejuvenated strength.

The molten core of Reed Mullin and Mike Dean’s rhythm section still underpins the looser sludgy guitars of Keenan and Woody Weatherman, but much like bedfellow Phil Anslemo, decades of abuse have aged Keenan’s vocals like fine wine. The album opens with an atmospheric instrumental – the first of four placed strategically throughout a record that’s influenced by moments in the band’s history.

‘The Luddite’ is a crushing blues-tinged behemoth upon which Keenan’s impeccably produced vocals soar triumphantly, whilst ‘Cast The First Stone’ harks back to their early beginnings as a hardcore punk act. ‘Wolf Named Crow’ is constructed around a riff that could have been lifted from Tony Iommi, and ‘Little Man’ is a well-crafted southern anthem that channels the spirit of Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Outstanding moments arrive on melancholic six and a half minute anthem ‘Nothing Left To Say’, a song that skilfully slips from intimate, mellow finger picking, to outright thrashing doom metal without breaking a sweat. Keenan’s lamenting wails fit the tone of the song perfectly.

Honkytonk doom opus ‘Son And Daughter’ rounds off the record with a looser take on southern metal, whilst the use of choral harmonies remind us that Corrosion Of Conformity aren’t afraid to step outside their comfort zones to improve their music. This is a central theme on ‘No Cross No Crown’; after 35 years as a band, in which they managed to almost single handily define a genre, the kings of sludge metal aren’t resting on their laurels. The call for convention in the genre has propelled them to create a record that smacks of genuine enjoyment, and this resonates to the core of all fifteen tracks.

KIERAN HOWELLS

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