Posts Tagged ‘Pepper Keenan’

I went to go and see Corrosion Of Conformity live in Cardiff Uni Great Hall last night (Saturday 03.11.18), supported by Orange Goblin and Fireball Ministry. A pretty good bill for Stoner Rock fans. I’ve been having a wall-punchingly, burst out in tears, sleeplessly dreadful week at work even though this should be one of the best weeks of my life due to a pregnancy scan earlier in the week, and getting to go see C.O.C seems like the perfect stress release. I’ve been playing Live Volume repeatedly all week in anticipation.

C.O.C have over the years become one of my absolute favourite bands. There’s always certain bands at the start of your musical life, in your teens and such, that get stuck and become a favourite forever by default, but C.O.C, along with Queensryche, Helloween and Manowar have been absolutely defining my musical landscape as an adult. If I picture in my mind’s eye the best albums of all time or albums I want on my wall as decoration Deliverance and Wiseblood and America’s Volume Dealer are always there. One of my favourite photos of me and my wife together has me in a C.O.C shirt. My metal jacket has a C.O.C patch right on the front in one of the three most important spots (the back is Helloween and the other prime spot is Pantera in case you were wondering).

I have seen C.O.C twice before, once this year at Download Festival 2018 (quite a short set) and once before in Manchester Academy on their
Deliverance Revival
shows where Pepper returned to the band (one of the best concerts in recent memory). I remember thinking after Download when they’d only played one new song, that I would really love to see a concert as long as the reunion one, but with more songs from their real grower of a new album, No Cross No Crown.

Always one for a good spoiler, I’ve been looking up the band’s recent setlists online on Setlsit FM and was glad to see they are mixing it up. One night there’ll be more songs from ‘Volume Dealer, One night there’ll be more songs from In The Arms Of God and then one night there’ll be more songs from No Cross No Crown. Exciting stuff. For example, Dublin got ‘It Is That Way’ and Nottingham got ‘The Door’ and Houston Texas got ‘Long Whip Big America.’ Just like Clutch, you never know what you’re going to get.

Speaking of Clutch, they played some Clutch over the PA in between bands. Good taste.

Anyway; I also saw Orange Goblin once before supporting Down in 2012. I remember thinking they were good but hadn’t totally won me over. I never did get around to checking a full album out. Fireball Ministry are new for me.

So now onto the evening itself; I turn up to the gig, que for about 10 minutes and then doors open. There’s only about 15 people in the que. We get in. The merch stand isn’t there like it has been for the past few gigs I’ve been to at this venue. Hmmm, surely they sell merch right? Oh ok, they put it right in the hall with the band. Previously it had its own dedicated area outside. The merch is crazy cheap. I think my Guns N Roses t-shirt from Download cost me about 30 quid. The C.O.C merch was so low priced I got 2 t-shirts for £25. Bloody bargin! I got a No Cross No Crown one and a general C.O.C skull logo one. I wanted a new C.O.C shirt to replace my Deliverance Revival one which had been my favourite shirt for about 3 years but now has the deadly combination of being shrunk in the wash and me haven gotten too fat, so it just looks ridiculous on me. I’ve still got a trio-lineup C.O.C shirt that fits though, wore that to gig tonight actually. (Oh, and I got to wear my jacket, which I am always excited about, and no one even stole any of the patches because they’re a lot better secured after the last incident).

Anyway, while I was getting the merch, a familiar sound was playing in the background. Was that Fireball Ministry? I thought I didn’t know any of their songs?

Oh. Would you look at that. Actually; Black Moth are on the bill and I didn’t even know. I like a bit of Black Moth. I haven’t thought about them in a few years, but I remember liking their debut album  back in 2012. (2012 was the first year I saw Pepper Keenan live actually, in Down, back when C.O.C were still doing the trio line-up without him.)

Black Moth were pretty cracking tonight. They played nice Sabbathy groovey Stoner Metal with clean vocals and a very enthusiastic drummer. The drummer looked like he has having great fun and I really dig that. He also looked very similar to C.O.C’s fill-in drummer John Green (to the point where I had to google if they weren’t the same person). I have nothing but good things to say about them. Their singer seemed really grateful and she kept thanking everyone.

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Black Moth

Next up after a pleasantly short wait, were Fireball Ministry. Man. Their drummer hits hard. He is a big bouncer looking Kirk Weinstein kind of guy and he beats the absolute shite out of his drums! The man hits hard. The singer kept trying to get everyone energy up but the thin crowd didn’t seem to want to move or make much noise. Also, what was up with this tiny crowd. C.O.C got a tiny crowd at Download un-befitting of their status and quality. Was it happening here again tonight?

The Fireball Ministry guy kept telling everyone to be louder but it wasn’t really happening much. By the end of their set though, they won me over with their melodic choruses and they said it was the best night of the tour for em, so maybe the audiences have all been this sleepy.

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Fireball Ministry

Then came Orange Goblin. Or ‘Orange-Fucking-Goblin, baby!’ to give them their preferred title. Their singer burst on to stage like an affable hurricane. He was full of grins and cheeky expressions but an absolute presence on stage, swinging fists and spitting clouds of water and using the mic stand as a pretend guitar and actually getting the crowd riled up this time. He really pumped the energy in the room up 200%.

I remember that the last time I saw this band it was ok, but didn’t make me want to explore further. Not so this time. They were a bloody revelation this time. So powerful, so much energy, such a good vibe off of them. Their friendly but intense singer just absolutely commanded the room, and they have a speed (which he said on stage was influenced by Motorhead) that a lot of Stoner bands are missing. Some Stoner bands worship Sabbath and only Sabbath, but hearing Sabbath through a Motorhead filter was a lot of fun tonight. There was also an amusingly British moment when the singer announced that the next song was ‘The Wolf Bites Back’ and the lead guitarist said ‘Not yet he don’t’ at which point the singer realized he had missed a song. He then made a joke about it when it was time to actually play that song, and got a better laugh out of the crowd than a lot of comedians I’ve seen live. Orange Goblin definitely made a very good impression on me and I think I’ll definitely be getting some of their albums in the future.

 

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Orange Fucking Goblin, Baby

Anyway; that was the warm up. Time for the main event. Yes. It was time for C.O.C. Now; as I’ve said before, C.O.C are one of the most important and favourite bands of my adult life, and the first time I saw them live was a religious experience that few gigs could rival. Them only playing about 4 songs at Download to an unenthusiastic crowd of Babymetal fans was a pretty different gig experience. But hey; its their own gig this time. With people who know the score. Some woman ran up to the barrier and started screeching hysterically in a Beatlemania kind of way, for like the first four whole songs. And hey, it had filled up a lot since Fireball Ministry were on. It almost looked as full as when I saw Saxon or Mastodon here. Thank goodness it was so quiet at the start actually, because I was able at the start to just walk right up and stand immediately at the barrier and wait for this moment. Unlike the screeching woman who had to fight tooth and claw to get a good view. Man. This was a goooood view.

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Up close and personal 

I was right in from of Woody Weatherman (a brilliant showman with all his gesturing and stage moves) with a perfect diagonal view of John the drummer and Mike Dean and Pepper Keenan. I could literally see every hit of every drum and every note of Woody’s guitar, and a pretty excellent view of the bass and vocals. I think this is one of the best views I’ve had at a gig ever. Maybe its because the stage is low to the ground? (Orange Goblin’s singer was able to touch a crowdsurfer from the stage and rustle his hair up). Also maybe it was because all the crowd-surfing happening stage left and me sat at stage right was unmolested all evening. Man I love comfortable gigs. You can keep your 1980s hardcore punk face punching gigs, give me a good view and a good sound any day, especially if it is with no one hitting you in the head.

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C.O.C – Houselights down.

The set-list was pretty great. The hits from Deliverance. Vote With A Bullet from Blind. Wise Blood‘s title track. 3 new songs off of No Cross No Crown (which were absolutely savage live by the way, they sound even better and rawer and heavier live! – ‘The Luddite’ was crushing and ‘Forgive Me’ was even more energetic than the studio version) and hey, 3 songs from my favourite C.O.C record, the immensely underrated America’s Volume Dealer. I guess I chose the right night to see ’em. ‘Diablo BLVD’ was such a top of the lungs sing-along for me, as was ‘Who’s Got The Fire?’ – I think the only thing I would change about the first time I saw this band was that there was not enough Volume Dealer. Now I’ve had my fair share. Bloody loved it too!

 

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I feel like they maybe played less than Orange Goblin, but maybe ‘Goblin have shorter songs. Or maybe time flies when you’re having fun. Or maybe they ran out of time. The houselights after-all did come up and they almost didn’t play an encore but then people chanted and they did the last one (‘Clean My Wounds’ – with extra jamming) with the house lights up, after asking if the power would not be cut from the amps. It actually looked really cool with the lights up. I wonder if they did it on purpose actually?

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C.O.C – Houselights up.

Anyway. That was my lot. What a concert. Bonus Black Moth I didn’t expect. Cheap merch prices. A very entertaining Fireball Ministry first timer and a strong new interest in Orange Goblin. And best of all; C.O.C played an utterly fantastic gig and reaffirmed themselves as one of my favourite bands of all time. They are just such a really special band, and its great to have them deliver so well live. I just had a brilliant time.

I won’t have to wait long for another gig. Monday night sees the mightly Slayer rolling into town for the last ever time. I’ll let you know how that turns out too. ‘Til we meet again…

cocCorrosion Of Conformity have had a lot of different line-ups over the years and a few very distinct career phases. Some of the most notable and best of which are the short-lived Blind era of the very early ’90s, where Pepper Keenan and Karl Angel joined the band and wrote a very dark, yet strangely melodic mixture of Sludge Metal and Groove Metal. Then Karl left, Pepper took over somewhat and they released three brilliant mixtures of Stoner, Southern Rock and good old fashion Metal with a bunch of diverse records that had acoustic sections, interludes, ballads and speedy-ragers all mashed into one record. Their final album in that line-up (well, with a new drummer actually, but close enough…) was very Doom Metal focused. Then Pepper left, and the Trio line-up from before even the Blind era reunited but instead of making Hardcore or Crossover Thrash like they did in the ’80s; they released two Doom albums with raw punky influences.

The celebrated and arguably most popular line up (the Pepper-in-charge on from the mid 90s-early ’00s) reunited recently and toured the globe with incredible reunion shows and now the time has finally come for them to put out some new music together. Its probably one of my most anticipated albums in a very long time. What on earth could it possibly sound like?
Well, the first track is a slow instrumental Sludge intro, bringing immediately to mind the Blind era. Next comes the third single, ‘The Luddite’ which is almost indistinguishable from the style on their Doom-focused In The Arms Of God album from 2005, which is interesting to hear with Reed Mullin on drums. It totally works. Speaking of that album, the creepy-ass title track here might remind you of a certain dark semi-acoustic track from there too.

Like their seminal Deliverance album, there are a few instrumental interludes and mood pieces sprinkled throughout. The first two singles, ‘Wolf Named Crow’ and ‘Cast The First Stone’ hark back to the Wiseblood sound, recalling hits like ‘Long Whip/Big America’ or ‘King Of The Rotten’ in a certain specific way that the instruments interact with each other and with the production style (by John Custer, who did Wiseblood too!) leaving the space at the end of sections and sounding very organic and Jammed-out-in-a-rehearsal-room, if you know what I mean. ‘Little Man’ has a very characterful and southern-fried sound, reminiscent of the under-rated 2000 album, America’s Volume Dealer, only without the over-polished production.

So far, so great. Towards the end, there are a also few slower, sludgy, dragged-out pieces that hearken back to both ‘Pearls Before Swine’ and ‘Bottom Feeder.’ It just wouldn’t be a C.O.C album without mixing in something slow and dirty sounding towards the end, would it now?

The overall feeling is a mixture of all the Pepper-era albums, with a warm and very earthy production. It doesn’t stand out as an immediate drop-everything, earth-shattering revelation, but it is a very welcome return (although they were never really that gone recently, and I’d still love if they threw ‘Demark Vessey’ or ‘Tarquinious Superbus’ into the setlist nowadays too!) that gets better with repeat listens. If you walk in expecting to be blown away like the first time you heard Deliverance you might be disappointed, but if you go in with realistic expectations you’ll find a very solid and rewarding album. My favourite track on the album is ‘Forgive Me’ which has a sort of Thin Lizzy vibe to its hook, but a very metallic breakdown, and Pepper’s vocals are very exaggerated and full of character like they were on ‘Volume Dealer.

To top it all off, there’s a cover of Queen’s very heavy and Sabbathy debut album deep-cut, ‘Son And Daughter’ and it really, really suits C.O.C’s sound. I remember Iron Monkey covering it in the past and it is a very suitable track for this end of the Rock & Metal spectrum. I know people imagining ‘Radio Gaga’ or ‘I Want To Break Free’ might raise an eyebrow, but Queen’s debut was a lot heavier than you remember. For Stoner, Doom or Sludge bands it is a natural fit.

In summary; without disrespecting the fine work of the trio line-up, its nice to have the four guys from Deliverance through to ‘Volume Dealer back playing together again with their unique chemistry. The album is pretty diverse, with a nice mix of fast and slow, clean and dirty, stoner and doom, sludge and hard rock, atmospheric and immediate. The production job is perfect and there’s a fairly decent proportion of the tracks would make it into any fan’s future dream setlists or best-of playlists. If you don’t immediately do a spit-take and have heart-shaped eyeballs the very first time you hear it though, don’t worry, it grows on you.

 

I went to go see Corrosion Of Conformity (with Pepper Keenan back in the band) live at Manchester Academy 2, tonight on Saturday the 7th of March 2015.
It was a sold out show, although when I arrived the queue was literally one person long, with me being the second person. More people arrived and went into the bar, but still, it was so calm and quiet. This lead to early t-shirt purchasing action with no problem getting a front row spot for the show. Everyone must’ve stayed in the bar or showed up late.

There was one support band, that being British Stoner/Doom artists, Hang The Bastard. They’re a band I’d heard mentioned all the time online and in podcasts but who I’d never heard for myself yet. Their music was fat, groovy stoner with abrasive harsh vocals. As the show went on the bassist added nice nasty Scott Kelly style growls, and the music got a bit of a Kyuss melody vibe at one point to balance out all the Doom. It was a pretty perfect booking to support COC. I wish I’d heard them when I was really really into my first wave Stoner phase, because they play exactly the type of music I like, but as with Orange Goblin supporting Down, or My Sleeping Karma supporting Monster Magnet, I was just there for the headliners and the support was cool for the night, but not enough to make me go out and get into them.

When it was time for COC to take the stage, the speakers played Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back In Town” to reinforce the whole Deliverence-Revival theme. It was a nice touch.

COC were on fire, warmly received by the now full room. They blasted out favourites from Wiseblood and Deliverence mainly, with a few surprises, such as ‘Stonebreaker’ and ’13 Angels.’ It was a pretty perfect setlist, although personal preference wise, as with any concert, you’ll miss some of your favourite songs. I could’ve used some ‘Dance Of The Dead,’ ‘The Door,’ ‘Fuel,,’ ‘Zippo,’ ‘Who’s Got The Fire?’ or even a cheeky ‘Psychic Vampire’ or ‘Tarqunius Superbus’ from the trio-lineup as a neat extra, but that’s just personal. Objectively, it was amazing. You got big sludgy gems like ‘Broken Man,’ fast headbangers like ‘My Grain,’ the catchy stuff like ‘King Of The Rotten’ and ‘Long Whip/Big America’ and all topped off with the essential concert favourites ‘Albatross,’ ‘Clean My Wounds’ (which was extended and jammed out a bit) and an absolutely off-the-charts good rendition of ‘Vote With A Bullet’ that put the biggest smile of the month on my face.

The band seemed to be having fun, and were powerful and tight but still had that jam-feel without actually being disheveled and unorganized. At one point they forgot the setlist and had to consult the paperwork to figure out why they were so ahead of time, nicely dropping into a stunning rendition of ‘Goodbye Windows’ afterwards.

There were a heck of a lot of crowd-surfers, which usually I dislike, but I was in a sweetspot that they all missed so I watched all night, front row, but completely undisturbed. Nice one! –Some poor tall guy got kicked in the head multiple times by the same selfish crowd surfer on multiple trips. Glad for my lucky spot! That would’ve spoiled my night if it kept happening to me.

I’m feeling a bit deaf now, with some serious ear-ringing (only wore earplugs until COC came onstage) but I have some damn good memories of seeing Woody and Pepper rile up the crowd, Mike Dean full of enthusiasm and talent; and Reed’s superb, eye-catching hard hitting. It was a great concert that I’m very grateful to have seen, I had a great night, and it’ll stay in my memory for a long time. The band were really good. Did I mention that?

I hope they keep going in this line-up and release a new album. If their performance of ‘Paranoid Opiod’ or ‘Heaven’s Not Overflowing’ was anything to go by, they are absolutely unstoppable!

(Also, I hope they stick more ‘Volume Dealer material in the setlist (no ‘Diablo BLVD’? Awww…..) but that’s just personal preference again)

Bottom line, COC have got Pepper again, and you should definitely go see them, because time has done nothing to reduce the brilliance. They are on their game big time!

Down - Down IV Part II

Down – Down IV Part II

Down IV Part 2 is the American Metal super-group Down’s 2014 release. As its title suggests, it is the second in a series of EPs released under the Down IV title, following up 2012’s “Down IV Part I – The Purple EP.” It was produced by Michael Thompson along with the band themselves and released independently.

This was the band’s first official release without longtime member Kirk Weinstein of Crowbar fame, who is replaced here by Bobby Landgraf. Ironically, this EP is probably closer in sound to Crowbar than to Pantera, Eyehategod or Corrosion Of Conformity (the other groups besides Crowbar that the band are usually associated with).

First up, for an EP, this is actually pretty substantial, a total running time of almost 37 minutes leaves it longer than many albums anyway.

The focus of songwriting this time around seems to focus on the heavier, mid-paced side of the band’s repertoire. I don’t think the distinction between EPs 1 & 2 is all that strict, as in, its not a clear cut case of one has all the fast songs, one has all the slow songs, or one has all the basic songs and the other has all the progressive songs. This EP is essentially more of the Down mid-ground. Its not the most “instant” release in their catalogue, and may take a few spins to really get to grips with, but if you give it the time it asks for, you’ll get the rewards it promises.

Highlights include the brief “Hogshead/Dogshead,” and “Sufferer’s Years,” which is particularly catchy with its “I hate this time of year” sing-along, and the fat ‘60s/’70s sounding riffs in the pre-chorus. It is a nice mixture of the band’s Doom, Sludge & Stoner sides, approaching vintage Hard Rock in 2014 from multiple angles. This is perhaps the most definitively “Down” track on the album, and hopefully it will become a concert staple.

The record ends with the almost nine-minute long “Bacchanalia,” one of the looser and more jam-feeling songs on the record. You imagine it got its title from the drunken party in which it probably spawned (as opposed to a secret love of Batman No Man’s Land). This track in turn ends with a softer acoustic moment, likely foreshadowing Down IV Part 3 as the promised all-acoustic EP originally mentioned when the band come up with splitting the album into different EPs.

Overall; this is not necessarily bold new ground for the band, and the focus on mostly similar direction material may leave some fans feeling an acute lack of variety or excitement, but for what it is, to me personally, Down IV Part II is an entertaining collection of Down songs and a worthy addition to the catalogue. If you’re burned out by the formula, or want something fresh and new from these guys, maybe give it a miss, but if you can’t get enough Down, then by all means jump on board.