Part 3 of 3
In the Arms of God (2005)
In 2005, Corrosion of Conformity was finally ready to re-enter the studio. That is, after singer/guitarist Pepper Keenan was finished with his diversions playing with Down and… auditioning for the bass slot in Metallica. Of course, everyone who suffered through the punishing two and a half hours of Some Kind of Monster saw a brief snippet of that audition.
“[Pepper]’s a good player and a solid guy,” Metallica’s James Hetfield told Kerrang! magazine. “I had such high hopes for him. But when it came to jamming with the band, I knew that it wasn’t going to work. It just didn’t feel right.”
“If I would have gotten the gig… They didn’t need me. [Metallica] needed a yes man in that band, that’s what they needed”, said Keenan. “They don’t need another Hetfield or another Lars, and that’s what would have happened. My ego couldn’t have handled anything remotely close to that… In terms of songwriting, I’m not a genius, but I think I’m pretty good at it at this point in the game.”
“He wasn’t going to make it as a bass player, let’s just be realistic here,” COC bassist Mike Dean said in an interview in 2011. “So, it might have been like, not that he can’t play the bass but it’s not something [Metallica] would go along with.”
For the drum throne, the band chose Stanton Moore of New Orleans’ jazz-funk-jam band Galactic. Moore added a new dimension for the band, as he was not experienced in metal or hardcore. “We didn’t have to talk about it too much. I knew exactly what they meant. Of course, the riffs were heavy, maybe a little bit heavier than Zeppelin, but I knew drum-wise they were going for that heavy-Bonham thing, and that’s what they wanted.”
The result was In the Arms of God, an album mired even more in Sabbath worship (if that were possible), and most traces of southern rock were buried deep. The album is one of their best, and Moore’s swing on the drums helps that a lot. “I think Stanton did a great job,” former drummer Reed Mullin said later, “I’ve heard some people say it didn’t quite sound like COC. I think it did.”
The album opens with the statement of stoner rock intent, “Stone Breaker”, which is a great song, but kind of a lethargic choice for an opening track. “Paranoid Opioid” is a more up-tempo number, and the title track has some outstanding drumming.
Unfortunately, the touring activity was cut short by Hurricane Katrina. The scheduled tour with Motorhead was cancelled, and Keenan and Moore returned home to help evacuate family members. No one really saw it coming, but it pretty much signaled the end of the band, at least for now.
Pepper Keenan continued on with Down, released a third album and 2 Eps into 2014.
Mike Dean and Reed Mullin played in Righteous Fool, with guitarist Jason Browning, and released one single in 2010. Dean also worked on producing other bands (Earthride’s 2005 album Vampire Circus).
In 2009, Mullin and former COC and current Leadfoot vocalist Karl Agell reunited to form COC-Blind, a touring version to play the Blind album in its entirety (presumable, without “Vote With a Bullet”). The band was rounded out by Scott Little from Agell’s band Leadfoot on guitar, and Jason Browning and Jerry Barrett of HR from Bad Brains solo band on guitar and bass respectively (former COC bass player Phil Swisher, who played on Blind was out of Leadfoot by this time, which I assume is why Agell did not invite to join).
Not everyone was psyched about the development of COC-Blind.
Your Tomorrow Parts 1 & 2 (2010) / Corrosion of Conformity (2012)
“I wasn’t really into that. I mean, if they had a good time doing it, that’s totally cool. Karl and Reed with some of their buddies,” COC guitarist Woody Weatherman said.
Dean added, “I remember suggesting in jest that we should do a three-piece lineup reunion, then upon further inspection it was actually a pretty legitimate suggestion. Reed, having been out of playing music for a while, was really ready to try to make up for lost time and have a creative outlet.”
Weatherman continued, “It did get a little confusing whenever Mike and Reed and I decided to get going, because that was already confusing because people were like, ‘Where’s Pepper?’ but then there was also this COC-Blind going on. They were like, ‘Wait a second, there’s too many COCs running around’.”
The Animosity line up began by playing scattered dates around Raleigh. At one show, Weatherman and Mullin invited former singer Erik Eycke to come on stage and do a few numbers. The pair didn’t tell Dean, knowing he would say no, and when Eycke jumped on stage, Dean began fighting with Eycke because Dean didn’t recognize him, and the bouncers hauled him away. Soon, the mistake was sorted out, and Eycke came up and sang a few songs.
COC released a standalone single, Your Tomorrow Part 1 &2, but not everyone was into it. The old fan base was expecting a sound closer to Animosity or Technocracy, but instead they got a slab of grunge influenced Sabbath worship.
The self-titled album was released in 2012 through Candlelight Records (Sanctuary folded in 2007), and did have “Your Tomorrow” (Part 1 only), but in addition to that, it comes out sounding like 90’s era Melvins if they were from below the Mason-Dixon Line instead of the Pacific Northwest. The album is too rough to be bluesy stoner rock, and too mid-paced to be the punk of the 80s.
Truthfully, it’s just more of the same. It’s not to say that it is bad, but there isn’t anything to differentiate this from Corrosion of Conformity, except that it satisfied their contract with Candlelight Records.
Naturally, as it always goes with every band, there were label troubles. “No one has heard about IX. Because they don’t do anything, I don’t know what they do. I don’t know how they make the money. I don’t know how they continue to exist,” Dean said. “I guess they don’t like our music, something like that, I don’t know. No love lost there.”
Teenage Time Killers – Greatest Hits Vol. 1 (2015)
While recording IX at Dave Grohl’s 606 Studios, Mullin lamented not doing more hardcore material. Although the media was very into giving Grohl and Slipknot’s Corey Taylor all the credit for the album (Grohl was on tour when the bulk of it was done), the project is the brain child Mullin and guitarist Mick Murphy (My Ruin, The Birds of Satan – which is Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins other project), and then as many guests as they could get. COC’s Dean and Weatherman helped out, Grohl played a lot of bass on it, other than that, the guests are: Brian Baker (Minor Threat, Bad Religion), Pat “Adam Bomb” Hoed (Brujeria, Assessino), London May (Samhain), Randy Blythe (Lamb of God), Matt Skiba (Alkaline Trio, Blink 182), Neil Fallon (Clutch), Jello Biafra (You already know who he is), Lee Ving (Fear), Mike “IX” Williams (Eyehategod), Tommy Victor (Prong), Karl Agell (He you remember this guy from <i>Blind</i>), Pete Stahl (Goatsnake, Wool, QOTSA), Vic Bondi (Articles of Faith), Aaron Beam (Red Fang), Phil Rind (Sacred Reich), Tairrie B (My Ruin), Tony Foresta (Municipal Waste, Iron Reagan), Pat Smear (Germs, Nirvana, Foo Fighters), Jim Rota (Fireball Ministry), Jason Browning (HR, Righteous Fool, COC-Blind), Nick Oliveri (QOTSA), and probably about 30 others I can’t find out about.
I got the album for Father’s Day a few years back. Greatest Hits Vol. 1 is a fun record, but I think the best songs are the ones with Mullins on vocals.
No Cross No Crown (2018)
Due to overwhelming demand, Pepper Keenan reunited with Corrosion of Conformity for a number of headlining tours throughout Europe. Those tours continued into North America. In 2016, COC’s ban was lifted and they were able to return to Dorton, NC to play the State Fair after 32 years. After the successful tours, the Deliverance lineup entered the studio in 2017, to begin working on the tenth album to be released under the Corrosion of Conformity banner. It was the band’s intent to pick up where they left off with In the Arms of God.
On September 22, 2017, one-time singer Eric Eycke passed away. He had been in the hospital prior to his death, but no official cause of death was ever given.
On January 12, 2018, the band released No Cross No Crown. The album was a critical success, no doubt helped by the emergence of Stoner Rock as a full-fledged genre over the past decade. The album has a return to the short Sabbath-y instrumentals featured on Deliverance. The album also featured a cover of Queen’s “Son and Daughter”, which received the Brain May seal of approval.
The resulting tour spanned the globe, but drummer Reed Mullin had stayed home due to health issues. On January 28, 2020, Mullin died at home. There was no cause of death given, but he had struggled with alcohol and substance abuse issues for years, and had missed several shows due to seizures induced by his alcoholism. The drum stool was being temporarily filled by COC’s drum tech Jon Green, and the band was initially going to go forward with Green. However, since the world tour was cancelled because of the pandemic, the band’s future is up in the air.
If you’re made it this far, you’re reached the end! Thank you for reading about 38 years of this band’s history, it is much appreciated!