Funny how this worked out: just months after the three-piece incarnation of COC unleashes an album that finds them truly coming into their own after the departure of longtime guitarist/vocalist Pepper Keenan, it seems ol' Pepper will be rejoining them next year, thus resurrecting the much loved Deliverance/Wiseblood lineup. And as much as I'm loving that news, I'm also feeling that something might be lost in the process. Because after delivering a fairly enjoyable self-titled album that was a partial throwback to their hardcore roots, plus a decent EP of slightly sludgier stuff, the Pepper-less lineup of COC finally seem to have found a direction that truly fits them on IX.
Combining a liberal dose of the sludgy Sabbath/Trouble riffing that began to show up again on the Megalodon EP (after having tapered off somewhat since Wiseblood) with the odd bit of hardcore-influenced chaos (sometimes in the same song, as in "Tarquinius Superbus"), IX is solid, enjoyable and musically interesting largely because of this mixture. "The Nectar" and the aforementioned "Tarquinius..." are perfect examples of this, veering from fast, frantic and simplistic power chording to slow, sludgy and rhythmically smart Sabbath-influenced riffing. Woody Weatherman has long been a tasty, articulate lead guitarist, and with no other other guitarist in the band (plus a decent amount of open space in the music), he truly comes into his own, tearing off more impressive lead work than he's usually had the opportunity to do on a single album in the past.
To my mind, the album's crowning moments come after the pleasant, mellow instrumental interlude called, um, "Interlude." It's then that "On Your Way" kicks in with some sludgy power chords and then a snaky single-note riff that is among the album's catchiest. Then, "Trucker" (which at first sounds more stoner than trucker) lopes into view with a long, mellow, slow-paced jam that then makes way for a simple but effective and super-catchy uptempo riff that drives much of the rest of the song. And if you want a serious throwback to metal's glorious beginnings, check out "The Hangman," with its opening siren noise and slow, crushing 12/8 intro groove, which bears a more than slight (most likely intentional) similarity to "Luke's Wall"- aka the instrumental intro to Black Sabbath's "War Pigs." Gotta love it! And like Sabbath, COC mix a bit of jamming in with their sludgy riffs, making much of this album seem like the product of really fruitful and fun jam sessions, with the band clearly beginning to enjoy and revel in their power trio status. Factor in the aforementioned hardcore punk touches, and you've got something for COC fans of all eras, even if it's often scrambled together into a single complex concoction rather than being served in separate bits for lovers of each flavor to enjoy in isolation from the others.
About this Writer: Vinaya Saksena // Vinaya is either a writer who dabbles in guitar playing, or a guitar player who dabbles in writing. A Maximum Metal staffer since 2004, he has also served as a reporter for several newspapers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Although his obsession with music is such that it does not allow time for much else by way of hobbies, he also enjoys traveling, trivia, photography, British comedy and the occasional A-Team re-run.
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