This week I’m going back to 1994 and taking a look at a landmark album that marked a huge transformation for the band on offer. A band once firmly in the hardcore and punk scenes would now ply their trade in stoner and southern metal and totally redefine their sound and identity. The album is getting a much-needed vinyl reissue this week as well and it’s one I’ll be glad to finally have on wax in my collection.
Corrosion Of Conformity – Deliverance
Released September 27, 1994
My Favorite Tracks – Seven Days, Broken Man, Albatross
CoC would undergo several lineup changes and stylistic shifts through the years, evolving from early harsh hardcore to a more groove-oriented sound. After solidifying what would be their most well-known lineup of Pepper Kennan on vocals and guitar, lead guitarist Woody Weatherman, bassist and sometimes vocalist Mike Dean and drummer Reed Mullin, the group began recording Deliverance and found major label Columbia Records quickly calling after they heard the demos. The band’s label Relativity Records turned down an offer to sell CoC’s contract to Sony, who in turn bought out Relativity and now had the group they wanted on their roster.
Deliverance put on offer a sound more rooted in stoner and southern rock than the the band’s past which saw hardcore and thrash albums, though 1991’s Blind did serve as a logical transition to the sound here. This beefy album features 14 tracks, though 3 are brief instrumentals and I will omit those from my recap so I can save space.
Heaven’s Not Overflowing
The album opens with a fast-paced rocker that also offers a bit of sardonic humor that can be found through a fair bit of the lyrical fare on the record. As the riffs slam along Keenen injects a series of odd and silly observations that overall add up to “jam out now because everyone’s screwed up and when it’s all over, well, the title lets you know where it all ends.”
One of the album’s two singles that hit 19 on the Billboard charts and marks the band’s biggest mainstream success. Albatross is a haunting song that brings forth Sabbath vibes and is at home in the doom/stoner scene. It’s one of those beautifully sad songs that, while not being open about its meaning, just gets me every time. The song dirges on into a great solo from Woody in the song’s final few minutes.
Clean My Wounds
The other single from the record that also hit number 19 on the charts, this is likely the most recognizable CoC song from their entire catalog. The song and video were memed a bit before memes were a thing and it still pops up from time to time.
The song is heavy with a crunchy, simple verse riff while the music explodes in the chorus. Jesus makes his second of a few album appearances in this song and the line “Jesus help me clean my wounds/He said I cannot heal that kind” stands out as the oft-memed portion of the song. CoC would employ several musical styles on the record but this simple, to the point tune is the one that stuck with people outside of the fanbase and is still remembered today by 90’s kids.
After a brief instrumental the band gets back to business with a heavy yet still groovy song that offers lyrics in line with the mournful title. While stoner metal as a whole is a very repetitive genre, CoC breaks the mold and injects time changes and tempo breaks to keep the song interesting. The mix of flowing guitars and the militant verse riff create a massive song that shines on the album.
This track picks up the tempo and spirits a bit, at least musically. Lyrically the content is left a tad vague but the song seems to be about drug addiction and/or perhaps dealing and the ultimate fall from that. People have many of their own meanings for the song but a few lyrical hints do reinforce the drug theory.
Sandwiched between two instrumentals is my favorite song from the album. The music is heavy yet morose, entrenched in the duality of beauty and doom. The song invokes a lot of imagery from Christ’s betrayal and crucifixion and is likely from Jesus’ point of view during his final days. Of course the themes of betrayal, distrust and anger at a falling out could be universally applied but the multiple references to the crucifixion and other religious symbolism are clear.
The tempo ratchets up again as the album rounds the corner into its final portion. The song’s meaning is a bit unclear, I’m not sure if this about migranes or if the title has some other symbolism. Whatever the case the song is a fun inclusion and picks up the headbanging pace a fair bit.
The title track sees Mike Dean take over vocals for a turn. The swampy tune takes aim at people under the spell of televangelists and dogmatic religious figures. Dean’s lower register drips with a smooth sardonic quality that is in contrast to Keenan’s gravelly vocals. It fits the song’s theme well and creates another standout track on the record.
Shake Like You
Another heavy as hell song that gets to the business of, well, Hell. The song attacks the war-mongering mentality of humanity and predicts the end of all things with most people burning in judgment. The lyrical fare is still sadly relevant 28 years after the album’s release, if not even more so.
This acoustic track is a mournful dirge that might be about a breakup, at least that’s what it seems to convey. The song is almost a country track but still fits on the album. It’s a bit of a break from all the damn noise just before the record’s close.
Pearls Before Swine
The album’s closer keeps the pace slower and plods through to its conclusion. Still heavy, the doomy track references yet more religious symbolism in some kind of personal battle against people and “the devils in their eyes.” The sound of digging, perhaps a grave, closes out the record.
Deliverance was a landmark moment for Corrosion Of Conformity. It redefined the group’s sound and set them on a new trajectory that they have mostly seen through to this day. The album was the band’s biggest sales success with over 400,000 copies sold in the U.S. It was a case of found identity for a band who pounded through the 80’s underground with a variety of harsher styles.