Sound: This is an album released in 1994 by a band often credited with creating Metalcore in the early / mid-80's, the brilliant Corrosion Of Conformity. Note that this is not a Metalcore album, rather a pure slice of Southern Rock with a lot of heavy metal / hard rock influences and even a bit of country and blues.
This is I guess the band's classic' line up or at least their most successful and recognised which features: Sgt Pepper J Keenan on guitar and lead vocals, Woody Weatherman on guitars, Mike Dean on bass and Reed Mullin on drums. This is their first album with Pepper Keenan on lead vocals, a duty which seemed to change on a monthly basis in the band (three of the previous four albums had three different lead vocalist on each album), but Pepper took his chance by the balls and made it his own on this beauty.
Shedding their pure hardcore and thrash sound from the previous and awesomely heavy "Blind", COC decided to go for a more Black Sabbath heavy metal style' on this album and added country, groove, blues and hard rock influences as well. There is a an obvious Thin Lizzy influence on the guitar work, most obvious on "Clean My Wounds", a bit of Lynyrd Skynyrd ("Albatross"/"Shelter") as well as Grand Funk Railroad (band members were quoted as saying that they were inspired by this band at the time of writing this particular album).
I will go through each track individually as this is one of those albums you can't really describe the general sound without missing a lot of the stuff that's put into each song:
01. "Heaven's Not Overflowing": is a fast, riff laden number with a catchy chorus, numerous metal / hardcore-fused vocals a great Southern rock style breakdown, solos and a fantastic introductory debut vocal performance from Pepper.
02. "Albatross": is one of the singles and definitely sounds like it. With a very Black Sabbath like main riff, memorable chorus and deep lyrics and delivery, makes me think of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird".
03. "Clean My Wounds": another single, often referred to as the "Thin Lizzy track" by band members, and one listen of the opening verse riff and chorus as well as the awesome guitar harmony and solo justifies that reference. Awesome. Memorable. Pure hard rock.
04. "Without Wings": A beautiful acoustic instrumental, reminds me of "Master Of Reality" by Black Sabbath.
05. "Broken Man": The heaviest track on the album built on a brilliant, colossal riff and a great, fuzzy Southern-tinged solo and a quick tempo mid section.
09. "Senor Limpio": Led by a great stoner rock riff with a funky, dirty groove with a shouted chorus.
10. "Mano De Mono": Another beautifully arranged acoustic instrumental which serves as a very fitting intro to the song that follows with a bit of piano thrown in for good measure.
11. "Seven Days": A simple straight forward riff gives way to one of the most beautiful, recurring twin guitar harmony you're ever likely to hear that always seems to give me goose bumps. It features some of Woody and Pepper's finest guitar work and note choice.
12. "#2121313": A rather odd stoner instrumental that wouldn't sound too out of place on an Alice In Chains album.
13. "My Grain": Built on an almost bluesy, stoner riff and a good shouted performance from Pepper with a bit of a hardcore feel to it, feels like COC really cutting loose.
14. "Deliverance": A heavily distorted bouncy riff gives a great platform for Pepper and Mike Dean to scream their heads off in a sort of vocal dual I guess you can call it. Very groove-laden.
15. "Shake Like You": Another heavy one. A great power chord sliding riff, a very Metal verse, screaming guitars and an eerie, almost creepy vocal line and delivery by Pepper. Sounds a bit like Soundgarden on steroids.
16. "Shelter": A melancholic country acoustic ballad. COC at their most heartfelt. Grown men will weep. Pedal steel also included.
17. "Pearls Before Swine": Great bass driven album closer with a whispered verse and a heavy Sabbath-esque chorus with some quite heavy sections and great guitar harmony and a memorable outro, everybody: "Now you've blown away the Sun!" Ends with a sample of a man whistling a tune while digging in the dirt. // 10
Lyrics: The lyrics deal with numerous themes including: references to religion, Christianity in particular:
- "Help me Jesus help me clean my wounds" ("Clean My Wounds")
- "Choking angels from inside, trying to make them sing" ("Senor Limpio")
Crime / Regret / Social commentary:
- "How can I respect your crime, when all you criminals whine?" ("Albatross")
- "That's how the story goes in the land of a thousand no's" ("Clean My Wounds")
- "Over time, mistakes were few but I believe they were mine,
... The years were so unkind... I hope I'm killed before I die" ("Seven Days").
- "Put your soul on trial cause you lost it all to a tiny vial" ("Senor Limpio")
As well as other topics such as death, judgement and so forth. A lot of the songs seem to have their own story but are a bit cryptic in some instances (for example "Senor Limpio") or at least open for interpretation and comply very well to the music and fit the beat and rhythm very well indeed and capture the feel of the music in its various forms beautifully.
This is Pepper Keenan's debut as COC's main vocalist, but boy does he hide it well. Even though he did sing on the previous album ("Blind")'s main single ("Vote With A Bullet") he was treading new ground as the lead vocalist and fully delivers in every department. From the Punky / Hardcore bark of opener "Heaven's Not Overflowing", the Lynyrd Skynyrd-esque melody radio station botherer "Albatross", the heavy, testosterone-filled shout of "Broken Man", the evil sounding, raspy squeal on "Shake Like You", to the melancholic whisper of "Shelter". Pepper Keenan doesn't so much showcase his range and abilities but shoves it your face and forces you to take notice and appreciate it in awe. Got to be one of the best vocal debuts by any singer in the rock/metal world surely, if not for the sheer range, for the delivery and performance. // 10
Overall Impression: In my opinion this is COC's finest hour. Many of the hardcore fan base will no doubt disagree and even go as far to say as this is their "sell out" album as it is hardly recognizable to the opening hardcore / metalcore first two albums "Eye For An Eye" and "Animosity" and I would agree in saying that this is their "Black Album". And while it is true to say they had, more or less, completely changed their sound, you'd have to be a fool to listen to this album and say that this was a bad thing.
The best songs on the album are "Heavens Not Overflowing", "Albatross", "Clean My Wounds", "Broken Man", "Seven Days", "Senor Limpio"... Aw hell! I could put any one of the songs in this section! Every song brings something new to the table, while all the time somehow managing to stay in that same signature sound as the rest of the album. Any one of these songs could be your favourite, and mine keeps changing with every listen. This is a sign of a truly great album, and that's exactly what "Deliverance" is.
Out of the 14 tracks, 11 are "proper" songs with the three instrumentals ("Without Wings", "Mano De Mono" and "#2121313") serving as little mellow breaks in between the furious guitar work on the other songs. This works very well and is a quite unique structure even if it isn't the only album to do this (it reminds me a lot of "Orchid" and "Embryo" on the Black Sabbath album "Master Of Reality").
I love everything about this album and it is easily in my personal top 20 (if not 10) albums of all time. It just seems to be written at a time where everything COC wrote seemed to write turned to gold. Not literally though, as despite spawning two minor single hits ("Clean My Wounds" and "Albatross") regular radio exposure, and spending close to a year on the Billboard chart in the USA it is still somewhat of an underground classic rather than a mainstream hit of any description, despite recognition by many rock magazines as a "90's classic" (Kerrang!).
If it were stolen I would make the thief pay severely, if I don't can't that scumbag, I'd buy another copy and a backup just in case! You could also checkout "Wiseblood" which is the most similar album in COC's back catalogue and is just as good (if not better to some) and is definitely heavier, without losing the sense of melody and variety displayed here. It would be a crime to give this album less than a 10, and if you don't believe me... LISTEN TO IT!
Tired of all the generic metal you hear today? Think every "djent" band sounds the same? Want something with a bit of variety, range and unfiltered brilliance? Want something that goes back to the roots of the tree Black Sabbath planted some 40 odd years ago? Do yourself a favour, have a blast from the past, buy this album, download this album, do both, do either, Oh God just listen to this album! // 10