The whole concept of Crossover is basically a middle ground between Hard Core and Thrash Metal, which has yielded some pretty interesting albums in a fairly simpler and slower version of the latter style in its purer form. But for CORROSION OF CONFORMITY, the term itself applies in a more general sense, as the band seems to be crossing over into a larger variety of styles than most, particularly in the case of their early 90s offering and arguably their strongest offering “Blind“. The Punk influences are obviously still in place, though they’ve been augmented with a good helping of Southern Rock, Doom Metal and Groove/Thrash influences. What ends up emerging is a harder hitting and more interesting variation on the whole idea of half-Thrash, a concept which was starting to pick up steam at this point and time.
The principle differences that this album has with it’s two more Hard Core oriented predecessors is a longer and more varied approach to songwriting meshed with a much more accessible presentation. The principle source of the latter is Karl Agell’s vocals, who essentially listens like a hybrid of John Bush and Chuck Billy, with perhaps a tinge of Southern grit ala Phil Anselmo, at least during the “Cowboys From Hell” era. He doesn’t have quite the high range that either of the 3 aforementioned singers did during their respective heydays in the 80s, but he gets up there from time to time and sound far better than Anselmo’s post-1991 material or anything that Robb Flynn has ever committed to recordings while behind the microphone. Put together with a Sludgy Doom atmosphere and some nice slowed down but cutting edge Thrash tinge to the guitar attack, and you have a lethal though mostly mid-tempo machine to be reckoned with.
From the opening of the overture instrumental “These Shrouded Temples…” the masterful blurring of genre lines immediately becomes apparent. Essentially things just fade in with a darkened atmosphere, with a chorus of guitar feedback that sounds like an orchestra tuning before a concern, which is followed by a gloomy as hell SABBATH meets CANDLEMASS clean guitar theme, which is then surrounded by a two guitar harmony that almost invokes images of MOLLY HATCHET. Afterward the whole arrangement just sort of settles into a slow, march-like Thrash number that sounds almost like a cross between MEGADETH circa “So Far, So Good, So What?” and SLAYER’s “South Of Heaven”. When the intro comes to an end, “Damned For All Time” comes thudding in like a colossal golem of steel. The first principle riff screams New York Thrash in the vain of ANTHRAX and OVERKILL like crazy, while the bridge riff has a definite Rock feel to it.
As the album unfolds, a number of constant characteristics to the sound emerge to contrast with an alternating approach to style. The most obvious being that the lead guitar work definitely sticks to an older Rock approach, drawing influences from various 70s outfits from DEEP PURPLE to 38 SPECIAL. This is present not only in the reserved and non-structured nature of the lead slots, but also in the mellower guitar tone employed, which contrasts heavily with the crunchy as hell Thrash affect in the rhythm guitar sound. Songs such as “Dance Of The Dead” and “Painted Smiling Faces” are exceptional examples of this dichotomy of sound, though it should be noted that both of these songs also contain a large number of Southern Rock and BLACK SABBATH influences than most of the other individual works on here. The latter of these two actually reminds me a lot of “The Wizard” during the verses, and the principle riff has a heavy dose of “Vol. 4” commonalities.
For all of its multifaceted elements, this is a very consistent listen, and choosing a favorite song boils down more to whether you like more Thrash or more Doom in your Metal. As I tend to go a little bit more in a Thrash direction, the strongest work is a tossup between “Damned For All Time” and “White Noise”. Both essentially mix fast, bone crushing riffing with slower Rock sensibilities with a nice even hand, all the while sparing not on iota of attitude. But if you like your Metal with a lot of Sludge and Southern goodness, served up with a little bit of a PANTERA edge, “Great Purification” is definitely a solid groovy slab of sonic goodness.
Though fans of Crossover will definitely tilt towards “Eye For An Eye” and “Animosity”, this is the best that CORROSION OF CONFORMITY has to offer in terms of an all around great album. It’s a superior listen to anything that MACHINE HEAD or ANTHRAX would ever put out in the post-Thrash period of the early 90s, and rivals “Cowboys From Hell” in terms of quality Groove infused Thrash Metal. This is real angst, the kind of which the likes that frequented the body odor infested concerts in Seattle would never be able to comprehend, let alone hope to emulate.
(Online April 23, 2009)