Current, former Corrosion of Conformity members revive metal standard

by Ryan Snyder

As one of the most undeniably influential metal bands to ever come out of the state of North Carolina, Corrosion of Conformity left an indelible imprint on hard rock and heavy metal throughout their 25-year existence. Though they are currently on an official and indefinite hiatus, the CoC extended family is active and working to revive what many view as the band’s magnum opus, 1991’s Blind, with a series of special performances.

Vocalist Karl Agell wants one thing to be clear, however. This is not a Corrosion of Conformity reunion show, even if it does feature current and former members of the band. Working under the moniker CoC-Blind (www.myspace. com/cocblind) in reference to the album, the band features Blind vocalist Agell, who worked with CoC from 1989 to 1993, and original drummer Reed Mullin. Mullin co-founded the band in 1982 as a hardcore punk act alongside guitarist Woody Weatherman and bassist Mike Dean before leaving the band in 2001 amidst health concerns, but the timing of his return couldn’t have been any better. “We tried a couple of different times to get this going and it didn’t click for various reasons,” Agell said. “We all seemed to have different things going on, but the chemistry is just right this time.” Agell and Mullin also have the advantage of familiarity with the rest of the CoC- Blind cast members. Guitarist Scott Little played alongside Agell for several years in Raleigh hard rock band Leadfoot, while bassist Jerry Barrett and guitarist Jason Browning were plucked from the backing band of the infamous and enigmatic HR, lead singer of the legendary hardcore act Bad Brains. Just by listening to the quintet rehearse in the basement of Mullin’s home on the outskirts of downtown Raleigh, it’s clear that a special kind of chemistry that exists between them. They laugh, they joke, they bring their kids over and most importantly, they sound spectacular. While nailing down the set list for their first show together at Winston-Salem’s Millennium Center on March 20, they jam on anything from Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name” to the even more familiar “Re-Ignition” by Bad Brains. But what is it about Blind that demands further exploration 16 years since it was last played? For one, it really has been that long since it was given a comprehensive live treatment. CoC (proper) guitarist-of- record Pepper Keenan, currently playing with former Pantera singer Phil Anselmo’s metal super group Down, took over the band’s lead vocals in 1994 and focused primarily on current material, leaving some of the band’s best work to merely collect dust. The album itself represents the high point of a very fleeting, highly-transitional phase of rock music. It’s almost the gateway to an alternate path that rock could have followed, had it not latched onto the Seattle grunge scene instead. It was an amazingly balanced album, crafted like a sword from a master smith. From the overpowering groove of “Buried” to the melodic thrashing of “White Noise” to the slow, crushing burn of “Echoes in the Well,” it almost seemed created with the sole intention of splitting open skulls with it’s brute, uncompromising force and razor-sharp political sting. “The album sounds raw, stripped down and just mean when you listen to it,” said Little. Fans of CoC’s earlier material will be in for a treat as well. Among the numerous opening acts will be a band called Righteous Fool, which features Browning, Mullin and founding CoC bassist Mike Dean on vocals. The band’s sound borrows from several influences, most notably sludge metal and CoC’s Animosity-era hardcore sound. “There are even elements of prog rock, but it’s definitely unified it its brutality,” Browning added with a grin and devil horns raised. Though Agell and Mullin both have musical roots in Raleigh, they chose Winston-Salem as the new project’s first gig for a very good reason. Mullin credits the heyday of seminal local venue Ziggy’s for fostering a scene benefitting harder, edgier music, which allowed CoC to prosper and grow their fan base. It also gives them an opportunity to work out any kinks that may arise from never having performed as a unit before hitting their native turf. “The hometown can be pretty ruthless,” Agell smirked. “Whatever helps us be more prepared for that.”