It's hard to swallow the notion that it's been 30 years since Corrosion of Conformity released their landmark LP, Blind. By '91, the Raleigh North Carolina upstarts were already known for alloying the intensity of hardcore with the heaviness of Black Sabbath, but no one could have predicted what was next. Blind was that watershed in a pre-grunge explosion; part of the gathering storm of like-minded, DIY-forged heavies like Soundgarden and White Zombie. Like most of C.O.C. 's discography, it's an album of pure instinct. The sound of ever-evolving iconoclasts once more determining their own fate. Blind remains a game-changer in a career of decimating expectations. Hey, they didn’t call themselves Corrosion of Conformity for nuthin’.
Cut to 1988. C.O.C. had literally corroded themselves to a near-death. They were without a singer. Founding bassist and Animosity era vocalist Mike Dean had left the band. After years of ripping up the road and inspiring the punk-metal crossover along the way, C.O.C. were down - but thankfully, not out. Enter New Orleans native Pepper Keenan who auditioned for the vacant vocal spot and ended up sticking around to augment Woody Weatherman on second guitar. After a two-year vocalist search, the five-piece lineup had solidified with a new chemistry. Karl Agell brought an unexpected Ian Gillan-esque tamber to the proceedings, miles from the bark of original growlers Dean and Erik Eyke or the hollering of Technocracy era's Simon Bob. With a clutch of demo tracks (which are included on Corrosion of Conformity’s Blind 30th anniversary set) and a newborn intensity, C.O.C. were back.
Corrosion landed a deal with sizable indie Relativity and approached local producer John Custer to redefine C.O.C.’s sounds of sedition. C.O.C.’s iconic spikey skull was about to make the move from iconic hardcore logo to something much more profound. Recorded in the dead heat of a New York Summer with Keenan literally wheelchair bound (after a femur-shattering stage diving mishap while watching future Down bandmate Phil Anselmo peel paint with Pantera), Blind was nothing short of a complete re-ignition. Under Custer’s guidance, guitars were stacked on top of guitars like Queen on a Black Flag bender with a maddened Roy Thomas Baker at the board. Essentially, the rulebook was set on fire. From the opening pound of “Damned for All Time” and “Dance of the Dead” to the album’s Kennan-voiced centerpiece and C.O.C.’s first bona-fide “hit”, “Vote with a Bullet”, this was the work of a band bursting beyond the scene that had birthed them.
While Blind kicked down many doors for C.O.C., as the band toured non-stop with bill-mates from Iron Maiden to Rollins Band, plenty of the fuck-you vibes of their song remained the same. Underlying their Sabbathy grooves was the insurgent heart of a hardcore punk band born in the American South, combating racism on songs like the still relevant “White Noise”. Think what Ozzy and Iommi spelt out on “War Pigs”, reflecting on Viet Nam; now shift that to the 90’s and the Bush era. Blind is literally the soundtrack to a country ripping itself apart - a sentiment no less relevant now. Even the artwork by celebrated comics artist Bill Sienkewicz (New Mutants, Elektra: Assassin) brims with that sense of overwhelming angst and ennui.
As you can hear on this 30th anniversary edition, Blind is a pivotal moment, not merely for C.O.C. but for metal itself. It's an album rife with musical and personal discontent, casting a long shadow into a multitude of sub-genres including Southern metal and stoner rock. But who better to be an avatar for change than Corrosion themselves? Now three decades later, with Keenan having taken the frontman’s spot for 1994’s gold-shifting Deliverance and weathering the death of Reed Mullin in early 2020, Corrosion of Conformity have not stopped or looked back. Blind is really the sound of a band not content to stick to a sound or please anyone but themselves. Fact is, that's always going to be the case with Corrosion. C.O.C. will remain C.O.C., America's Volume Dealers until the last amp is flicked off.
- Mike Gitter