It begins, as it inevitably always does, with a riff. A smokey riff, a dark riff, a lingering riff; part downtrodden delta blues, part Mississippi muddied sludge. And even thirteen years since their last record recorded as a foursome, this time there’s simply no mistaking this juicy riff’s creators – CORROSION OF CONFORMITY are back with frontman Pepper Keenan all saddled up and ready to roll once again.
‘No Cross No Crown’ isn’t really a comeback effort at all, it’s the continuation of what COC are and have been doing solidly now for decade after decade. Mere moments after intro track ‘Novus Deus’ hits your speaker cones and that beckoning jam room riff seduces you back into Mike Dean and Reed Mullin’s cosy rhythmic lair you’re kicked full throttle by the driving resurgence of Keenan and Woody Weatherman’s chugging, raging slabs of guitar, just like the good ol’ days once again. ‘The Luddite’ resurrects elements of past anthems ‘The King of the Rotten’ and ‘Stonebreaker’ in equal measure as Pepper soars back to form behind the mic, croaking and rasping above every shudder of the speaker stacks quaking to his rear. What an epic, epic throat.
The likes of ‘Cast the First Stone’ and ‘Little Man’ continue to combine COC’s ability to add a blood-curdling crunch to what are essentially a brand new batch of soul-infused, festival-rocking metal anthems. ‘Forgive Me’ carries that red-eyed craziness to Pepper’s screams and some rollicking, fun-heavy riffage straddling Dean and Mullin’s skin-tight swaggers and swings. The title track and ‘Nothing Left to Say’ both hit more of a ’13 Angels’ style vibe that make you yearn for the days when both Down and COC had that swampy ‘Spirit Caravan’ Sabbath feel all to themselves that would just ooze over every inch of you like a whole new wave of soul-cleansing, head-banging pleasure.
Criticisms? There are but very few. Do COC reuse too many old ideas from the past records of old? At times yes perhaps. (I mean, c’mon, ‘E.L.M.’s lead riff is just a ‘Stonebreaker’ reboot, right?!) Is ‘No Cross No Crown’ as a complete record too long-time lingering without enough true punch at fifteen tracks in length? At times yes perhaps. But then ‘Wiseblood’ was thirteen, ‘Deliverance’ was fourteen and, hey ‘Blind’ was as many as sixteen, and I don’t recall ever thinking that COC outstayed their welcome there either. Is a cover of ‘Son and Daughter’ an odd way to end proceedings? Yes, perhaps it is. But you know what, COC still manage to go out punching their weight and then some.
Put simply if you’ve enjoyed COC at all since their earlier, more primitive, punkier, Pepperless moments in the mid ‘80s on ‘Animosity’ and ‘Eye for an Eye’, then you’ll likely fall for ‘No Cross No Crown’s graces and charms almost instantly. It’s probably not ‘Deliverance’ good, or ‘Wiseblood’ good, nor does it swing with all the wrecking balls of the criminally underrated, but slightly over-polished ‘America’s Volume Dealer’. But it certainly gets damn near close enough to be able to just crack open a couple of cold ones, kick back and enjoy it for what it is – a brand new COC album from a revitalised four-piece who always end up right where they belong; peddling riff after riff after glorious riff. Welcome back gents, we didn’t realise you’d ever been away.
Last modified: 26 February 2018