I often find that the seasons dictate my listening habits. For instance, fall is all about the Misfits, Samhain and Type O Negative, while winter is a feast of frigid black metal (yes, even in California, ridiculous as that may seem). Summer brings with it an obsession with Pepper Keenan-era Corrosion of Conformity and more specifically with Wiseblood. Even though summer hasn’t officially hit yet, I already find myself blasting this album in the car with the windows rolled down as the days start to get warmer and the desire to spend them chained to a cubicle hits rock bottom.
On the surface, there’s just something about Wiseblood‘s catchy choruses and sludge-soaked metallic boogie riffs that makes me think of boiling heat, ice cold beer, barbecue and muscle cars; it’s the soundtrack to a kick-ass American summer, and where I come from, that’s no bad thing. Although the album’s sonics are distinctly Southern, there was something about it that instantly clicked with this then-teenage Midwesterner back in ’96, probably because before I got into metal I had been raised on a healthy diet of classic rock that included hefty doses of Lynyrd Skynyrd and the goddamn mighty ZZ Top. Keenan and Weatherman’s playing came off like Gary Rossington and Billy Gibbons overdosing on steroids and Black Sabbath, and it was/is beyond glorious.
Lyrically however, there’s a lot more to Wiseblood than driving fast, rocking out and getting shitfaced (even though it’s the perfect album for that). Songs such as “Long Whip / Big America” and “The Snake Has No Head” rail against the ills of government corruption and corporate greed, while “Drowning in a Daydream” deals with the pitfalls of substance addiction; pretty heady stuff for a major label metal album released just as the grunge movement was beginning to sputter out. Indeed, underneath its hard-rocking armor, the album is a chronicle of our country rotting from within and the downtrodden souls doing their best to survive in it.
While many point to COC’s previous album Deliverance as the high-point of Pepper Keenan’s rise to prominence within band, I’ve always found Wiseblood to be superior. Sure, Deliverance sports two all-time classic COC tracks in “Albatross” and “Clean My Wounds,” but Wiseblood is front-to-back heavier, catchier and more quality consistent in the riff department. Whereas the other tracks on Deliverance seem to exist in the shadow of that aforementioned pair of classic cuts, every song on Wiseblood has its own distinct character and can hold its own against the others, from the ripping title track to the radio-friendly “Drowning in a Daydream” to the James Hetfield-assisted “Man or Ash” and beyond. Thirteen tracks, one hour of music, and not an ounce of filler to be found.
Corrosion of Conformity have released some killer albums since Wiseblood, but they haven’t matched its perfection. While I’ve been enjoying the current Mike Dean-fronted incarnation, the recent announcement of their reunion with Keenan gives me hope that they’ve got another Southern-fried sludge masterpiece in them. In the meantime, don’t be surprised to see me cranking this up and putting a few beers down as the temperatures start to spill over the hundred degree mark.
THKD’s Top 100 Metal Albums (so far)
1. Celestial Season – Solar Lovers
2. Type O Negative – October Rust
3. Grand Belial’s Key – Judeobeast Assassination
4. Mayhem – Live in Leipzig
5. Helmet – Meantime
6. Metallica – Ride the Lightning
7. God Dethroned – The Toxic Touch
8. In Flames – Reroute to Remain
9. Ministry – Psalm 69: The Way to Succeed and the Way to Suck Eggs
10. Ministry – Filth Pig
11. Danzig – Danzig II: Lucifuge
12. Corrosion of Conformity – Wiseblood