By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — For closing on four decades, Corrosion of Conformity has been helping shape the sound of heavy music with its unique explorations of hardcore punk and metal. Founded Raleigh, NC, in 1982 by main members Mike Dean (bass/vocals), Reed Mullin (drums/vocals) and guitarist Woody Weatherman, COC would release two seminal albums that brought elements of thrash metal into hardcore.
The band’s 1984 debut Eye For An Eye (and only album with singer Eric Eycke) put the group on the map in the underground punk and metal community and is cited along with DRI’s early recordings as one of the first crossover efforts. The band would continue as a trio with Dean and Mullin sharing vocals on the equally classic follow-up album Animosity the next year. COC recruited new lead singer Simon Bob for their next recording, the Technocracy EP, but by 1987 both Dean and Bob left the group, putting it on hiatus.
When COC reformed with new singer Karl Agell, bassist Phil Swisher and second guitarist Pepper Keenan for the recording of 1991’s Blind, it marked a new southern-tinged metal direction and a new beginning. Though it was the only tune to feature Keenan’s vocals, “Vote with a Bullet” became a breakthrough MTV hit and raised the band’s profile considerably.
Keenan would become the focal point of the band after the departure of Agell (Swisher would also leave, replaced by a returning Dean), and the band would score another hit with their landmark 1994 album Deliverance. While the band remained a popular live act and toured regularly as support for Metallica, subsequent efforts didn’t achieve the same commercial success.
The departure of Mullin in 2000 would slow productivity, the band managed a celebrated comeback with their 2005 album In the Arms of God that featured Keenan’s New Orleans friend and monster drummer Stanton Moore (Galactic, Garage a Trois). After a successful tour with Motorhead, the band went on another extended hiatus that found Keenan focusing his energy on metal supergroup Down with former Pantera singer Phil Anslesmo.
Fans rejoiced in 2010 when the classic Animosity line-up of COC reunited to play its classic early material, but the band gave them even more to cheer about with the release of several acclaimed new recordings that found the trio moving easily from more frenetic punk sounds to tuned-down, Sabbath-influenced sludge. Late in 2014, COC announced that Keenan would be returning to the fold for the first time in almost a decade.
The reunion of the Deliverance line-up was greeted by ecstatic audiences thrilled to hear the group’s ’90s material as COC toured extensively, playing shows and festivals over the next several years while working on material for their first album with Keenan since 2005. That effort, No Cross No Crown — the band’s tenth overall album — was released last year on Nuclear Blast Records to wide acclaim. Packed with punishing tracks like “Cast the First Stone,” “Little Man” and a crushing cover of Queen’s “Son and Daughter,” the albums shows line-up’s trademark southern-tinged Sabbathy stomp is still intact.
The band returns to San Francisco to play Slim’s on Tuesday, topping a stellar touring bill that includes support from Keenan’s New Orleans metal brethren Crowbar, southern stoner-rock band Weedeater and Texas heavy rockers Mothership. Formed in 1991 by singer/guitarist and sole constant Kirk Windham, Crowbar helped codify the sound of sludge metal in the Big Easy alongside such contemporaries as Eyehategod, Soilent Green and Down, Pantera singer Phil Anselmo’s side project that included Keenan and initially Windham and original Crowbar bassist Todd Strange.
The connection with Anselmo — who produced the band’s 1993 self-titled album and sang on subsequent albums in addition to taking Crowbar out as an opener for Pantera — led the band to much wider exposure and MTV video airplay for the songs “All I Had (I Gave)” and “Existence Is Punishment” on Bevis and Butthead. While the group has gone through a revolving door of personnel changes over its nearly three decades of existence (Strange returned in 2016 after a 15 year long absence, but retired from touring last year), Windham and company continue to dish out their ferocious sonic mudslide to fans all over the world.
Though they came together as a side project for Wilmington, North Carolina bassist “Dixie Dave” Collins in 1998, Weedeater soon became the musician’s principle outlet when his main band, pioneering sludge-metal outfit Buzzov*en, called it quits within months. Collins teamed with guitarist Dave “Shep” Shepherd and drummer Keith “Keko” Kirkum to craft the new trio’s lumbering style of southern-tinged stoner metal heavily indebted to the sound of Buzzov*en, the Melvins and Sleep.
The band’s early albums …And Justice For Y’all and Sixteen Tons, would lead to a deal with noted metal imprint Southern Lord Records. The trio’s two albums for the label — God Luck and Good Speed and Jason…the Dragon earned Collins and company solid reviews on both sides of the Atlantic. While they have not been the most prolific of bands, Weedeater has grown its fanbase with dogged touring, a reputation for punishingly loud shows and Dixie Dave’s kinetic, near cartoonish onstage performance that never fails to entertain. The band’s most recent album, Goliathan for new label Season of Mist, marked the recording debut of drummer Travis Owen when it came out in 2015. Led by the hard-rocking Juett brothers (guitarist/vocalist Kelly and bassist/lead singer Kyle), opening Dallas, TX-based power trio Mothership has established itself as a rising force on the stoner-rock scene with relentless touring and a string of quality releases for Bay Area label Ripple Music, including their most recent album High Strangeness.
Corrossion of Conformity, Crowbar, Weedeater and Mothership
Tuesday, January 29, 7 p.m. $25-$27