Fans of the veteran hard rock band Corrosion of Conformity had plenty to smile about as this year opened. That’s because the band released its latest full-length studio recording, No Cross No Crown. The album, the band’s tenth full-length studio recording, has been received relatively well by fans, and justifiably so, as it takes listeners back to the days of Deliverance and Blind. This is evidenced both in the album’s musical and lyrical content, which was crafted collectively by the band’s most beloved lineup of Woody Weatherman, Pepper Keenan, Mike Dean and Reed Mullin. Keeping that in mind, the album in whole proves to be another welcome addition to the library of COC’s most devout fans. ‘Cast The First Stone,’ which comes early in the album’s run, is just one of the songs that serves to support that statement. It will be discussed shortly. ‘Little Man,’ with its 70s stoner throwback sound and equally intriguing lyrical theme also supports that statement. It will be discussed a little later. ‘Nothing Left To Say’ also supports the noted statement and will also be discussed a little later on. Between these songs and the album’s other 11 songs, the album in whole proves to be a strong new offering from one of the greatest names in the southern/sludge rock community. That is the case even with the production problems that plague the album at various points. Yes, that will also be addressed. To that end, No Cross No Crown is still a record that proves again COC’s maintained place in the sludge/stoner rock community.
Corrosion of Conformity’s latest full-length studio recording No Cross No Crown marks the first time in many years that the band’s most beloved lineup of Weatherman Woody, Pepper Keenan, Mike Dean and Reed Mullin recorded together under he COC moniker. The group’s reunion has led, in this album, to be what is one of COC’s most notable albums to date, along the lines of its classic albums Deliverance and Blind. ‘Cast The First Stone,’ which comes early in the album’s run, is just one of the songs included in the album that serves to support those statements. This is proven in part through its musical arrangement, which is a full-on, adrenaline-fueled rocker much in the vein of Black Label Society, Clutch and other similar acts. The song doesn’t let up even for a second from start to end of its nearly four-minute run time. That musical arrangement is, in itself plenty of reason for listeners to appreciate this song. Of course it is only one part of what makes the song stand out. Its lyrical content adds its own share of interest to its whole.
Keenan sings in this song’s lead verse, “Back in time before they crossed the line, and the truth was made of gold/Cross of paths that was based on the past, or so the story goes/Strike fear and the end draws near and the peasants wore a blindfold/Stack ‘em up, stack ‘em up, burn ‘em down and the peace remains unknown.” He seems to be commenting on an age when people just gave in to the powers that be. Interesting that the same sort of thing is happening even today. He goes on to sing in the song’s chorus, “Burdened by a faith/Lost without a trace/Crippled by the tools/Made by the hands of fools/Start the fire and cast the first stone.” This comes across almost as a call to action of sorts, as if Keenan is noting the power that religion has had on people and its impact, and that people need to stand up against those forces that be. The rest of the song follows in similar fashion, again, insuring plenty of discussion through its metaphorical speak. When this is coupled with the song’s musical arrangement, the two elements together make the song in whole a strong entry in the album’s body, and just one way in which the album proves itself another good effort from the band. ‘Little Man’ is another was in which No Cross No Crown proves itself worth the listen among COC fans.
‘Little Man’ stands out in this album in part because of a musical arrangement that takes listeners back to the 1970s and the great stoner and southern rock music of the era. Almost instantly, one’s thoughts move to Golden Earring, Lynyrd Skynyrd and so many other acts from that era in listening to the bombastic guitar riffs and booming rhythm section. Of course that powerhouse musical arrangement is just one way in which the song stands out. Its lyrical content serves to help it stand out, too. Lyrically speaking, this song comes across as a piece about some people who have done someone wrong, and the struggle of trying to get through it all. This is inferred as Keenan sings in the song’s lead verse, “Well I got me a distant story/So I wrote me a distant tune/Of how they used to bask in the glory/And how I wished that I could, too/Little man, be here tomorrow/They said they could change my ways, But instead they tried to stone me/And I been sleeping right here for a hundred days.” He goes on in the song’s second verse to sing, “So I ran from here to El Paso/And arrived about half past June/Just in time for them to burn me/I think I woke up a little too soon/Little man, if you’re a preacher/Oh, then why you been looking so sad/He struck a match and then he burned me/Another honest man gone bad.” Again, this all comes across as a story about someone who’s not exactly had the best of luck with people. He even goes so far as to sing in the song’s chorus, “Now you know it’s hard to stop/Getting down from burning up/Now you know it’s hard to stop/Quit trying, baby/Just get somebody to save you.” It’s as if the song’s subject is saying, “yeah, it’s easy to get down, and hard to get back up, but stop getting down and get back up.” As always, that is just this critic’s own take on the lyrics and could be completely wrong. Hopefully it is somewhere in the proverbial ballpark. Win or lose, the song’s lyrics here display their own depth that is certain to get listeners talking just as much as the lyrics of any of the album’s other entries. That being the case, it’s yet another way in which this song serves to show again, why the album is a good return for COC’s classic lineup. It is still not the last of the songs that serves this end, either. ‘Nothing Left To Say’ is yet another way in which this album proves itself worth the listen.
‘Nothing Left To Say’ stands out among its counterparts in large part because of its musical arrangement. The song’s verses start out with a slow, quiet, almost brooding vibe. That vibe gradually gives way to a much heavier, crunching sound that conjures thoughts of Black Label Society. The back and forth of that soft and heavy sound is a powerful musical statement that does more than its share to keep listeners engaged. Much as with the previously discussed songs, it is only part of what makes the song stand out. Its lyrical content deepens its impact even more as Keenan sings, “Life gave you everything/An you threw it all away/through the heart of darkness/Never feels the same/Huh, it never feels the same/Living like a fool/Nothing gets nothing/And I got nowhere to hide/Searching for the truth has to mean something/I’m just pushing against the tide/Nothing left to say.” The contemplative nature of the song continues in the second verse as he sings, “memories/They seem like dreams/And time’s a gift of tears/Just a map to remember this/A future never planned/It’s what we cannot understand/Running like a fool/Distant existence/You’re living hand to hand/Isolated man/Hard to understand/Nowhere else to hide/Long for the feeling/Stand alone and pray/Nothing left to say.” There’s a lot to be said here, right from the lead verse. The first half of the lead verse seems to address someone who didn’t appreciate how good he or she has had it. That seems to be compared to the song’s subject trying to make sense of his or her own life, saying, “Living life a fool/Nothing gets nothing/And I got nowhere to hide/Searching for the truth has to mean something/I’m pushing against the tide/Nothing left to say.” It’s almost as if that subject is saying that he or she is trying to figure out life’s intricacies by comparison, trying to tell that other person to appreciate what he/she has. Once more, that is just this critic’s own take on the song’s lyrical content. It is not meant to be taken verbatim. That seeming message continues in the song’s second verse as Keenan sings to that person, “You’re living hand to hand/Isolated man/Hard to understand/Nowhere else to hide.” Once again, this seems like the song’s subject addressing that person, saying, “you just don’t appreciate what you have in life” and that “I’m just trying to make sense of it all, and you should, too.” Keeping all of this in mind – again this is not the only interpretation — certainly other interpretations are there. Considering the depth of the song’s lyrical content and its musical arrangement, one can understand now why the arrangement constantly goes back and forth in its heaviness and brooding. It really illustrates the emotion in the song’s lyrical content. To that end, the combination of the two elements here makes this song yet another clear example of what makes the album in whole stand out. When it is considered along with the rest of the songs not directly discussed here, the whole of the album proves to be a good new effort from COC, even despite its production and mixing issues.
The production and mixing issues in question come into play, luckily not throughout the entire album, but are noticeable, including right from the album’s first full track, ‘The Luddite.’ Keenan’s vocals are nearly drowned out by his band mates here, sounding like he is way off in the distance the whole time. ‘Wolf Named Crow’ suffers from the same problem, as does ‘Little Man’ (just not as badly as the previous songs). Much the same can be said of the plodding ‘Old Disaster.’ There is even a slight issue with this imbalance in ‘A Quest To Believe (A Call To The Void) in the song’s chorus sections. While it is a noticeable issue, it isn’t so bad that it makes the record a failure. It just is something that hopefully will be taken into account in the band’s next album. To that end, No Cross No Crown is still a good return overall for Corrosion of Conformity and a good return to form for the band and one that the band’s most devout fans will still welcome in their music libraries.
Corrosion of Conformity’s latest full-length studio recording No Cross No Crown is a good return and return to form for the veteran sludge/southern rock band from Raleigh, North Carolina. Its production poses some problems, but those problems are not enough to make the album a failure. They are just something, collectively speaking, that must be addressed for the band’s next album. The album boasts its own share of positives in the form of the songs noted here. Between those songs and the rest of the album’s entries, the album’s musical and lyrical content give listeners plenty to appreciate here even despite the occasional audio issues. They give the album plenty of depth and, in turn are certain to generate plenty of discussion. Keeping that in mind, the album proves to be one more that COC’s most devout fans will welcome in their music libraries. No Cross No Crown is available now in stores and online. More information on No Cross No Crown is available online now along with all of COC’s latest news and more at:
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