Corrosion of Conformity – No Cross No Crown (Nuclear Blast)

Monday, 8th January 2018
Rating: 8.5/10

It’s as if time has stood still with Corrosion of Conformity. Sure, the Mike Dean-fronted albums had some pop and enjoyment (especially 2012’s self-titled foray), but the band is at their best with Pepper Keenan out front. Keenan, who spent a healthy chunk of this century tied up with Down, is the lynchpin for COC’s Southern Sabbath sound, one that came to light on 1994’s brilliant Deliverance and ’96’s excellent Wiseblood. With him back in control, COC sounds every bit as vital and biting on No Cross No Crown, the first Keenan-fronted album since 2005’s In the Arms of God.

Designed as a full-fledged album with subsequent peaks and valleys, No Cross No Crown brings forth the band’s leaden, balls-and-chunk sound with song-oriented ease. Meaning, you’re going to get hook-y, rocked-up cuts; no frills, really, just down in the dirt, earnest metal in the form of “The Luddite,” lead single “Cast the First Stone,” “Wolf Named Crow” and “Little Man.” While the interludes serve their purpose (“Matre’s Diem” being the best), it’s the infectious, swinging “E.L.M.” (that’s “Eternal Loser Mind”) that highlights No Cross No Crown. Its Skynrd harmony bravado coupled with Keenan’s full-throat heaves immediately makes it one of the best songs in COC’s illustrious canon.

The first must-have album of 2018, No Cross No Crown is both sterling and satisfying. Plenty of good ideas still coming from COC, whose relevance and impact should not be understated as genre lines continue to become further blurred. It’s blue-collar, tried-and-true metal like this that will forever stand the test of time.

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