This is the age of second chances: The multiplex is filled with sequels and reboots, and TV is the domain of syndicated reruns and try-again series like Hawaii Five-O. And from Pixies and Pavement to Rage Against the Machine and Guided by Voices, concert halls and festival lawns come led by resurrected bands cementing—or repairing, maybe—legacies. Or, really, just cashing in.
Corrosion of Conformity bassist and sometimes singer Mike Dean knows all of this, and that his once-again-active trio—the COC formation featured on 1985's influential thrash album, Animosity—runs the risk of looking like another reunion ploy.
"There's a lot of groups from 20 years ago that are out on tour, and a lot of them are well received and they do a good job of performing their old material, but a lot of times what's missing is new material," Dean said a day before the band flew to Chicago to begin a three-date tour, ending with this week's performance in Raleigh.
This is, after all, the age of tours built around an old band playing an old, iconic album—something COC could likely do with Animosity or the punk-metal crossover monolith, Blind.
But it's not 1985 anymore; a lot happens in two and a half decades. For Corrosion of Conformity, that includes radical changes in their sound and personnel. The band debuted with 1983's Eye For An Eye (with vocalist Eric Eycke) and became one of the primary hardcore bands in North Carolina before helping define the punk-metal hybrid that would come to be known as thrash. Animosity was something of a turning point, with the band fine-tuning its songwriting and letting more metal influence take hold. It also marked a rare period when Dean fronted the band, between Eycke's departure shortly after Eye For An Eye's release and the assumption of lead vocal duties by Simon Bob in 1987. Dean is, in fact, one of seven vocalists who've manned the mic for COC.
Despite constant change, COC mostly kept its currency throughout the past decades—from its hardcore beginnings to helping to pioneer crossover thrash in the late '80s with Animosity and steering into a hybrid of thrash and Southern rock by the time of 2000's America's Volume Dealer, which even featured a guest spot from slide guitarist Warren Haynes of The Allman Brothers Band and Gov't Mule. The band announced a hiatus after 2005's In The Arms of God while then-vocalist Pepper Keenan focused on his work with Down.
COC wouldn't just sink, though. Befitting the band's historically amorphous lineup, in 2009 drummer Reed Mullin and former COC vocalist Karl Agell enlisted guitarists Scott Little and TR Gwynne and bassist Jerry Barrett under the banner COC-BLiND to resurrect 1991's Blind. This spawned talks of a four-piece reunion featuring Mullin, Dean, guitarist Woody Weatherman and Pepper Keenan. But, as a touring member of heavy rock supergroup Down, Keenan wasn't amenable to the group's plans. "Seems like whenever we start to do something, then the Down situation is always more pressing," Dean says.
But there was an alternative. "I remember suggesting in jest that we should do a three-piece lineup reunion," Dean says. "Upon further inspection, it was actually a pretty legitimate suggestion."
So COC III, the Anomosity-era trio, re-formed. Last month, Southern Lord, the curatorial art-metal label run by Sunn O)))'s Greg Anderson, released the trio's first new single, the two-part "Your Tomorrow." The single, Dean says, was almost a fluke. "I kind of basically tricked the others into recording that, just setting up some mics and saying I wanted to do a demo and work on my vocals," he laughs. Another five or six songs are stage-ready, Dean says, and the plan is to record a new Corrosion of Conformity LP within the next year.
But sonically, the "Your Tomorrow" single presents what listeners can expect from the reunited trio. Animosity's speed and biting guitars remain, but the more blues-informed metal the band delved into later eases the vocal approach. There's more willingness to drop tempo for a stomping bridge, too—bringing the band closer to heavy metal tradition than Animosity did, without losing the fast, chugging riffs through the verses. It doesn't sound like simple resuscitation.
"We're just trying to go out and give people something they can enjoy with something that inspires us as much as we can," Dean says. "It was almost about rediscovering some of that old music and reinterpreting it through where we're coming from now."