Live and in color: Corrosion of Conformity

Corrosion of Conformity, Hail!Hornet
Sunday, Jan. 22
Orange Peel, Asheville, N.C.

When we parted ways, Corrosion of Conformity drummer Reed Mullin offered an apology for what was, by his estimation, the worst show he’d ever played.

The band had struggled through “The Moneychangers,” a cut from the band’s forthcoming eighth LP. It’s a characteristically complicated song, moving from steamrolling Motörhead speed-metal with Bad Brains-referencing cowbell clomps, into second-wave hardcore stomps and an atmospheric bridge before ending up somewhere near the lumbering doom of COC’s 2005 album In The Arms of God. And Mullin’s missed cue left a visible tension on the stage.

But that soon dissipated as the band raced into the rest of a set list that included plenty of songs from the new album—the ripping, Mullin-sung “Leeches” was a clear standout—1980s favorites such as “Mad World” and “Technocracy,” and even a few nods to the band’s commercial peak with an explosive, crowd-pleasing rendition of 1994’s “Deliverance.”

Leading the band, Mike Dean furrowed his brow and unspooled an endless supply of counterintuitive bass lines as he howled into the microphone, bridging aggression and urgency with melody. Guitarist Woody Weatherman seems to have lost neither the finesse of COC’s metal days nor the chaotic squall of the band’s hardcore beginnings. Sunday night in Asheville, he seemed to channel Tony Iommi and Greg Ginn in equal measure.

The crowd, which half-filled the Orange Peel, made up for its small size with big enthusiasm. Hail!Hornet couldn’t have seemed more excited to open for Corrosion of Conformity. A veritable supergroup of Southern metal bands comprising frontman T-Roy (also of Sourvein), bassist “Dixie” Dave Collins (Buzzov-en, Weedeater), drummer Erik Larson (Alabama Thunderpussy) and guitarist Vince Burke (Beaten Back To Pure), Hail!Hornet delivered a tight set of sludgy death metal that hardly indicated it was only the foursome’s fourth show together.

All of Hail!Hornet’s members are featured in the documentary Slow Southern Steel, which screened before the show. Filled with commentary from members of Eyehategod, Down (including COC’s former frontman Pepper Keenan), Zoroaster, ASG and others, the film focused on a small contingent of heavy bands in the South. Judging by the crowd’s response, it might have understated Corrosion of Conformity’s role in the growth of heavy music in these humid parts.

But COC doesn’t carry the air of idols. And that was particularly true for this performance, which Mike Dean said, with cutting sarcasm, revealed COC’s “human fallibility.” Instead of an encore, Corrosion of Conformity played “The Moneychangers” again. After a false start (yes, another one), they nailed it.

The only ones unsatisfied by Corrosion of Conformity’s performance were the ones in the band. Ultimately, I’ll remember watching Weatherman explore the boundaries of his riffs on “Your Tomorrow” and hearing the audience sing along to “Deliverance,” fists hoisted in the air. Mullin owed me no apology.