Absence not only makes the heart grow fonder, but can also help reappraise opinions.
2006. A twenty year old me discovers ‘Animosity.’ To say that it was a game changer would be an understatement.
Everything from the Pushead artwork right down to the guitar tone hit a nerve with me. I had already been a fan of US hardcore for a few years, but this was something else.
Quickly snapping up the 90’s albums, I was bitterly disappointed with what I heard.
The hardcore/crossover thrash had been replaced with sludgy, stoner rock with Southern overtones. ‘Blind’ got the nod because it was so heavy, it was impossible to ignore. But the rest were quickly filed away.
Years later, I went back to them. And loved them as straight up rock albums. What a fool I was.
And why did I go back and change my mind?
With Pepper Keenan seemingly leaving COC for Down, Mike, Woody and Reed regrouped to tour ‘Animosity’ in it’s entirety and record some new songs. So it was a good time to revisit.
The end result, 2012’s self titled LP, was a brilliant amalgamation of everything they’d done up to that point, as well as a few new direction tracks (Voivod were clearly an influence).
Unfortunately, that momentum was quickly scuppered by the ‘Megaloden’ EP and ‘IX’ album (which, allegedly, the band knocked out quickly in order to fulfil their contract with Candlelight Records).
Both sounded uninspired, leaden and devoid of identity.
Although it had always been well known that the door was always open for Pepper to rejoin, it seemed that the three founding members were desperate for him to come back sooner. Which he did, leading to some highly praised live shows.
Finally, we get ‘No Cross No Crown’ (a neat twist on Amebix’s ‘No Gods, No Masters’ phrase). Very cool looking cover, with it feeling like an artefact from the 70’s. Easily the best cover since ‘Animosity.’
Musically, as you can probably guess, it’s exactly what you’d expect from a Pepper fronted C.O.C.
‘Novus Deus’ is a lead break that takes us into the utterly cracking ‘The Luddite.’ This is the sort of song Orange Goblin should still be writing, riffing aplenty, groove a go go and some unhinged vocal work from Keenan.
‘Cast the First Stone’ kicks the pace up a notch, and give us a Mike Dean vocal.
A much punkier vocalist than Keenan, the music has a certain punk feel to it. Like Bl’ast had gone stoner rock. Will undoubtedly sound immense live.
The obligatory quiet and reflective interludes like ‘No Cross’ contrast beautifully with monsters like ‘Wolf Named Crow.’ Epic, 70’s style riffing going on here. Impossible not to air guitar along to.
Keenan’s energy lifts the band beyond rhythm section and makes them groove.
‘Nothing Left to Say’ is a mellow, blues influenced number that alternates between introspection and monolithic riffing. To say it sounds glorious would be an understatement.
As you can see, if your tastes lean towards ‘Deliverance’ or ‘Wiseblood’, then you’re going to be a fan of ‘No Cross No Crown.’ There are no left field turns, just Southern rock gone Sabbath.
While it certainly doesn’t feel like the band are deliberately trying to re-write these albums, there’s no doubt that they plough a certain furrow that is identifiably theirs, and it’s brought them endless rewards with this LP.
Trends come and go, but C.O.C carry on regardless. The first great rock album of 2018.
4 / 5 – Christopher Owens ::: 06/01/18