What Corrosion of Conformity set out to do with their last self-titled album was understandable, but not entirely well-advised. For so many years of the band's existence former member Pepper Keenan had been one of the driving forces of the band's well-renowned sound, the eccentric fusion of sludge metal, southern rock and raw, almost Sabbathian doom proved a hit with many metalheads. Yet when COC reformed as the Animosity
line-up in 2010, long-time fans were slightly disappointed at how average (for the band's musical output) the self-titled comeback album was. There were still great moments on the album, but these were also few and far between and weren't quite as in-your-face as, say, Deliverance
or In the Arms of God
were. That said, COC are now back with their ninth album, with the same line-up and a little more fire in the belly to produce some of 2014's heaviest songs.
doesn't stray too far from the musical path Corrosion of Conformity originally intended to tread over two decades ago, but that's not to say there's not much variety either. The slower, sludgier likes of opener “Brand new Sleep” and “Trucker” exemplify how solid and heavy the rhythm section is, particularly reminding everyone that the crunching guitar work is key to perfecting the band's core sound. Faster numbers like short but snappy “Denmark Vesey” and most of “Tarquinius Superbus” actually prove to be the album's highlights, harking back to COC's hardcore punk/crossover thrash-laden early years, giving you the chance to headbang along to the juddering rhythms all the while. What lies at the heart of IX
's musical sound however is the band's well-known penchant for loud bursts of violence and eccentric sounds which control the majority of the album itself. There is only one brief interlude (appropriately titled “Interlude”, for those who wonder what it would sound like before listening), and so the other ten songs are left to try and be heavier than each other.
However, the glaring flaw in IX
is also just as obvious as the album's strongest aspect. The vocals , for the most part, now seem to be showing great weakness and stagger all over the place as the band's instrumental performance is left to pick up the pieces. The vocal delivery isn't always this disappointing, but it's a big enough disappointment at times that the musical delivery doesn't seem that effective either. Strangely enough, it's when the vocals are angry and hateful, as in “Denmark Vasey” and “The Nectar”, that the delivery proves to be fully worthwhile. Yet with virtually every other song suffering from the same weakened vocal range, it does get to the point of being slightly off-putting to listeners. The album also has one of the worst closing moments one could think of, an entirely unnecessary reprise of “The Nectar”, the original song being so solidly engaging that it just doesn't need a tiresome second part to close an otherwise above-average record.
is an improvement on Corrosion of Conformity's self-titled release, that's for sure. Despite the weakened vocal performance, the band's instrumental performance always manages to become eccentric and engaging, so much so that the heaviness of the rhythm section leans ever further towards the sludgier, doomier side of metal. That said, the one thing you should take away from this is that there is proof COC can produce a great album without Keenan's golden touch.