At the minute, I’m struggling to think of another “reunion” that would be met with such universal joy as Pepper Keenan back once again with Corrosion Of Conformity. Slash back with G’n’R? Sure, the tour has been a massive success, but who didn’t scoff when it was first announced? Even the teasing of Blackmore saying that he would be willing to work with Deep Purple one last time was met with derision, but Pepper F’king Keenan back with Woody Weatherman, Reed Mullin, and Mike Dean after what seems like an eternity? No matter how you say it, that simply rolls off the tongue and induces involuntary salivating. There was hope of a new studio album when the “reunion” was first announced, and now ‘No Cross No Crown’ has arrived. Come December 2018, every single metal or rock publication will have this bad boy in their top five albums of the year. It’s not just a case of welcome back Corrosion Of Conformity, but what the hell took you so long? Okay, Keenan crushing skulls as part of Down was what took them so long… but you get the picture.
‘No Cross No Crown’ features everything that you would come to expect from Keenan and Corrosion Of Conformity, and so much more. The twin guitar attack from Keenan and Weatherman is back, bigger and better, and hot dog it is amazing to hear them crush again. Crisp production means that it sounds like the pair are right next to the listener as they light up and let fly. The unmistakable voice of Keenan is as potent as ever, and what else can be said about the pair of Mullin and Dean on drums and bass respectively? Arguably one of the strongest rhythm teams in music today, regardless of genre. The short musical interludes are still part of the Corrosion Of Conformity sound, and opener ‘Novus Deus’ sets the scene as it slowly bleeds into ‘The Luddite’. The Iommi-sized riffs explode out of the speakers, but in this case, imagine Iommi-sized riffs times two as Weatherman and Keenan go to town. In the words of Neil Diamond, “Fuck, this is a beautiful noise”. ‘Cast The First Stone’ should be familiar to most, as it has been available on YouTube for a few months now. Chock full of guitar harmonies that tip the hat to vintage Gorham and Robbo from the classic Thin Lizzy line-up, if ever there were 3.43 minutes that needed cranking up, here they are. After the doom-laden interlude of ‘No Cross’, we’re back on familiar ground with second single ‘Wolf Named Crow’. With a little bit of sludge here and there, and a killer vibe throughout, it’s Mullin that owns the moment with his precision drumming. ‘Little Man’ has a slow, nasty groove to it that is irresistible, and again, the guitar harmonies are towering. Just one standout on an album of many.
The acoustic instrumental, ‘Matre’s Diem’, leads into another highlight. ‘Forgive Me’ is basically the angry offspring of Thin Lizzy’s stone cold classic ‘Emerald’. It’s amazing to hear the influence of Lizzy forty years on. ‘Nothing Left To Say’ begins with a Sabbath ‘Planet Caravan’ trippy kind of vibe, which soon gives way to a wall of noise. Heavy, sludgy, trippy, and magnificent. ‘Old Disaster’ crushes. there’s no other way to describe it. It simply crushes. As does ‘E.L.M’, which begins with yet more Lizzy-esque guitar harmonies. The powerful riffing lets up on the title track, which goes in the opposite direction, with a gloomy, atmospheric sense of foreboding. Even without the riffs, it doesn’t disappoint. They return on ‘A Quest To Believe (A Call To The Void)’, which is a magical way to end the album.
Make no mistake, Corrosion Of Conformity are back. It might seem foolish and naive to mention a contender for album of the year when we’re only in the second week, but ‘No Cross No Crown’ is that good.
Available January 12th on Nuclear Blast. Pre-order details here.
Review: Dave Stott