Review Summary: Deliverance is a classic hard rock/heavy metal record of the 90's when grunge was making it's exit and alternative pop was coming on. Despite the occasional weak flow, the strong points make up for it making it intriguing to the listener.
A band that has always seemed to go with their instincts, Corrosion of Conformity has retained their ever-so-fitting name throughout numerous lineup and style changes. Following 1991's Blind (which gave the band their first mainstream media exposure), COC endured yet another lineup shift which saw Pepper Keenan (previous rhythm guitar player) step up to front the band on 1994's Deliverance.
Although the group had already strayed from their punk rock roots to a more straight ahead heavy metal philosophy long before this time, Keenan brought even more of his personal influences to the table this time around. Even with some similarities to their previous outing, Deliverance showed a more Sabbath-like, stoner rock vibe than ever before. After listening to the first track, it becomes painfully obvious that Keenan had stepped up as general and commanded the band to follow his vision.
"Heaven's Not Overflowing" opens the record with a very Sabbath esque riff with traces of Southern rock a la Lynyrd Skynyrd in the verse vocals. Keenan also introduces his trademark muffled background vocals that end up being a mainstay for the future. Leading up to the solo, you hear an interlude very reminiscent of older Black Sabbath records like Sabotage. Directly following is perhaps COC's signature song, "Albatross" which is highlighted by an infectious chorus with a very simplistic riff and showcases Woody Weatherman and Keenan's brilliant dual guitar work. The song tends to get stuck in your head much like a bad commercial on Super Bowl Sunday. The ending trails off with the same simple riff with which it began hinting to the listener that the record is just getting started.
"Clean My Wounds", the first single off the album, has an equally as catchy riff as the previous song. Keenan's unique New Orleans howl resonates throughout the song. Also, another very popular song that a lot of first time listeners will experience a bit of a deja vu sensation asking themselves where they'd heard the song before.
"Without Wings" is a mellow and very laid back acoustic instrumental number which adds some diversity to the album after an all out sonic attack of the previous three songs. The song reminds me a lot of "Jail" from Keenan's side project Down's first effort NOLA. You'll also hear some quiet string pieces that accompany the acoustic guitar.
Sadly, the record temporarily loses some momentum with the unmemorable "Broken Man" but picks right back up where it left off with the very quirky and exciting "Senor Limpio". COC finally finds their sense of the ZZ TOP "groove" with this song. The rhythm section of Mike Dean on bass and Reed Mullin on drums create beats that you could almost dance to while including several changes keeping the song interesting throughout it's duration.
"Mano De Mono" is another let down. Even though I'm a huge fan of solo acoustic pieces, this one just isn't done right and even if it wasn't meant as a filler, it tends to resemble filler material. "Seven Days" is somewhat mediocre yet easy to listen to partly due to the charm of Keenan's vocals which seemingly draw an influence both lyrically and vocally from Ronnie Van Zandt. Very Southeastern sounding. Nonetheless, another weak point.
Keenan's vocals come in strong on "My Grain" with the singer's passionate, deep throated scream. The rhythm section once again stands tall on this track with Dean's bass parts and Keenan/Weatherman's guitar parts engaging it what seems to be a musical conversation between the two. The band re-visits their punk rock roots while not entirely letting go if it's newfound Southern influence. Very solid track that the listener will feel inclined to return to again and again. The groove is very infectious here.
The title track comes in with a down-tuned "wah" pedal distorted tone. Pepper's vocals are very bland here while the chorus somewhat makes up for it while once again revisiting the punk roots of the band. While it isn't one of the stronger tracks on the record, some may disagree. Potentially very catchy to the right ear. "Shake Like You" sounds like a song derived from a 20 minute long jam session. Once again, Keenan's trademark muffled vocals are in the spotlight here. The song drags on perhaps a bit too long to keep the attention of the listener and is a possible "skipper".
"Shelter" is a completely different song in comparison to the acoustic pieces that precede it. Hints of country pleasantly shine through with a slide guitar that seems to float in on a breeze from some distant location. Metallica's "Mama Said" could very well been partially derived from this song. Very appealing track to anyone that has ever enjoyed any roots country music. The last two tracks are forgettable and do not end the record like they should have.
It deserves a mention that Deliverance seems to be a direct influence for Metallica's not so well received change in musical direction. Keenan and James Hetfield were/are friends and influences to each other and Corrosion of Conformity joined Metallica for the Load tour. James and Kirk Hammett's bluesy dual guitar work on Load are very similar to Keenan and Weatherman's work on this record. Maybe it isn't the best effort by Corrosion in some fan's eyes, but the influence simply cannot be denied by anyone.
Being dark and positive at the same time, very catchy riffs, excellent bass and drum work make Deliverance a must have for any music fan that enjoys groove metal, sludge metal or even classic Southern rock. Even though some parts could have potentially been reworked to make the flow of the record a bit stronger and the band was still trying to find it's own sound, it remains a staple heavy metal album of the 1990's in a time when alternative rock was dominating the airwaves and this kind of music was less than well received.
Strong points include: "Albatross", "Clean My Wounds", "Senor Limpio", "My Grain" and "Shelter".