When a band releases a self-titled album it usually means either a) it’s their debut or b) a statement that this is their definitive album, the stripped-away glimpse into the soul of the band and what makes it tick. As COC’s debut album was released 28 years ago (yes, you read that correctly) it would appear that the latter would apply here. And it does, big time!
Recording as the original three-piece of bassist/vocalist Mike Dean, guitarist Woody Weatherman and drummer/vocalist Reed Mullin – the line-up that made the seminal Animosity album in 1985 – without long-time vocalist/guitarist Pepper Keenan, who is currently busying himself with the forthcoming releases from Down, this gave the band the chance to take a step back from the Black Sabbath-influenced sludge metal that has made up their repertoire since 1991’s Blind and return to the more hardcore punk/thrash metal crossover sound that the band pioneered during their formative years.
Not that this album is devoid of those metal-oriented influences and more intricate playing touches that the band have picked up over the years, as the first minute of lurching opening track ‘Psychic Vampire’ will prove, kicking off with a riff that Tony Iommi himself would surely approve of before shifting tempos and stepping up with a pulsing punk rock chorus that will ignite mosh pits like dynamite. The six-minute rolling thunder of ‘River of Stone’ also belies the fact that this is the same band that recorded tracks like ‘Mad World’ and ‘Kiss of Death’ and could quite easily have come from 2005’s storming In the Arms of God album.
That said, there is still a sense of punk rock minimalism to the overall sound, even in the more ‘musical’ tracks. But just to remind you of what this line-up of the band are really all about the pure hardcore fury of ‘Leeches’ hits like an uppercut to the gut before the band drop the pace back down for the southern rock instrumental jam of ‘El Lamento de las Cabras’.
Although Mullin and Dean’s vocals aren’t as strong a presence as Keenan’s, songs like the charging ‘What We Become’ or the rumbling ‘Newness’ don’t suffer as a result and they give enough of a drawl to keep it all sounding familiar without alienating older or newer fans.
The aggression and passion that the band had during those early albums is still there in spades, and when combined with nearly three decades worth of musical maturity the result is quite simply one hell of a great album. The band have stated that they haven’t ruled out recording with Keenan in the future – and hopefully they will – but if they don’t then there’s really no reason why they shouldn’t continue in this incarnation and keep making records that can kick as much proverbial ass as this corker. Looks like rule b of self-titled albums was correct!