Corrosion of Conformity In the Arms of God
by Scott "Dr. Music" Itter

Track listing
1. Stone Breaker 2. Paranoid Opioid 3. Is It That Way 4. Dirty Hands Empty Pockets (Already Gone)
5. Rise River Rise 6. Never Turns to More 7. Infinate War 8. So Much Left Behind
9. The Backslider 10. World On Fire 11. Crown of Thorns 12. In the Arms of God

Corrosion of Conformity:
Woody Weatherman (Guitar)
Reed Mullin (Drums)
Pepper Keenan (Vocals and guitar)
Mike Dean (Bass)

Sanctuary Records / Release Date: April 12, 2005 / Overall rating: 6

Corrosion of Conformity is a band that I have seen go through many phases. They came up in 1984 as a kind of hardcore "skater punk" band with their album, "Eye For An Eye". It was the kind of hardcore punk/metal that maxed out at two riffs, and two minutes, for each song. Add a lot of screaming to the mix and, well, you get the idea. In '85 they released "Six Songs With Mike Singing," and it was basically the same formula with bass player Mike Dean screaming. Some change in style was coming about with 1986's "Animosity" album though. Songs were getting a little bit longer, and they even ventured into three chord territory once or twice. Still the same screamo punk metal, but the tracks were actually starting to resemble songs somewhat. The "Technocracy" album in 1987 was a similar offering to "Animosity", also. It wasn't until 1991 that this band really came to be. With the release of "Blind," C.O.C. became a viable, straight forward metal band. They abandoned their street punk roots and penned a precious metal album. With "Blind" came the release of their first ever single, "Vote With A Bullet," which, arguably, remains the best song they've ever written.

You had to ask yourself what happened. What happened in the four years from the "Animosity" album in 1987, to the "Blind" album in '91? Well, let me tell you. Pepper Keenan happened. Sure, the guy brought his guitar playing to the band (and I mean real guitar playing), but most of all he came with real songs. The style of his writing was a perfect match for the direction that the band was ready to travel. But, we still needed to prepare ourselves for one more contribution from Pepper Keenan. It was on 1994's masterpiece, "Deliverance," that Pepper took over the lead vocal duties - and the rest, as they say, is history. Keenan's looser, deeper, and ultimately more punishing vocal style was yet another perfect match for the band's overall sound. This is the point where the band could've conquered the world (if it wasn't for Pearl Jam, anyway). Their follow-up LP, "Wiseblood," was not quite the force that "Deliverance" was, but it was still far above the average metal album of the time. This band was set to explode, it was only a matter of time. In between C.O.C. albums, Pepper Keenan combined forces with Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo to bring us the Down project. By cutting one of the best metal records of all time, with that first Down disc, Keenan had proven himself to be a premier songwriter and guitar player in the metal scene. After returning to the C.O.C. fold, the band released "America's Volume Dealer," which was, again, much better than your average metal record, but not quite what "Deliverance" was. The band released a live album in 2001, which shunned all of the releases before "Blind" entirely; which made it perfectly clear that they had found their calling. The band was now poised to carry on with their top notch, straight forward metal formula, and release the centerpiece of their career. Let's see if "In The Arms Of God" is that record.

The disc starts off with a spacey organ sound that plays as background to a beautiful and passionate guitar solo. Yes, they start the song, and the album, with a guitar solo - God bless them. The solo comes to an abrupt end though as it ushers in the chugging riff of "Stone Breaker," a loud and heavy opener that sets the pace of the album nicely. This is a song that finds the band doing what they do best; laying down a heavy groove, while supplying a raw and fiery vocal track. With Pepper Keenan's trademark of turning almost every word with an -er or -re suffix into an -ah sound, this song is so hot it's on "fiah"! The only negative thing about a song like this is the difficulty that comes with recapturing the same intensity later in the record, something C.O.C. doesn't really manage to do here. As the album pushes on with "Paranoid Opioid," the guys show their Black Sabbath influence proudly. This is a song that has a bubbling bong water backing vocal, and a bridge that has a cadence similar to that of Sabbath's "Snowblind". Sixties psychedelia, and Seventies free-spiritedness has always been an integral part of C.O.C.'s sound, and this track is a great exhibition of those qualities. That "spacey" quality continues through "It Is That Way," and finds it's way back throughout the rest of the album also. It isn't until "Dirty Hands Empty Pockets / Already Gone" that we return to the best C.O.C. quality though, and that's the heavy groove. "Dirty Hands..." starts out with a sly, sneering vocal which leads to a crushing groove. But, even on this track, the grooving is short-lived as the song segues into the thrashy "Already Gone" portion of the song. As we continue to "Rise River Rise," we find the band doing an edgy, swirling, psychedelic acoustic thing. Not bad, just not great. I really like this band when it lays down a groove, simply because they do it so well. The idea of giving the air a right hook and a guttural growl of "Ooh!" appeals to me, and there's not a lot of opportunity to do that here. "Infinite War" and "In The Arms Of God" represent a slight return for the band to their roots of thrashy punk metal. "So Much Left Behind" is another tip-of-the-hat to Sabbath. And "World On Fire" is just a good C.O.C. track that almost (that's right, almost) recaptures the "groove magic" that I was so yearning for with this record.

So, let's make this long story short (yeah, right!). If you like past C.O.C. songs like "Vote With A Bullet," "Clean My Wounds," "Senor Limpio," or "Zippo," you'll only get about two tracks that are anywhere near as good as those are here. If you prefer the more stoned, spaced out, or thrashy C.O.C., as opposed to the groove heavy C.O.C., this disc is for you. The band can lay down a brutal metal assault, there is no doubt about that. This is a seriously heavy outing that any fan of power metal should find some enjoyment with. This album has not diminished my faith in their musical abilities one bit. The band is tight and solid, yes, but they are just not doing the style of songs that I would prefer to hear from them. Yeah I know, picky, picky.