Corrosion of Conformity

Pepper Keenan Also Collaborated with Metallica and Is Friends with James Hetfield
Pepper Keenan Also Collaborated with Metallica and Is Friends with James Hetfield

Corrosion of Conformity (better known as COC) is a stoner metal band from North Carolina formed in 1982.

COC began playing hardcore punk in 1982 in Raleigh, North Carolina, with Reed Mullin on drums, Woody Weatherman on guitar, Mike Dean on bass, and Benji Shelton on vocals. COC were the pioneers of the crossover thrash genre in the ’80s.

They stood out with No Core as their main compilation and made their premiere in 1983 on “Why Are We Here?” compilation with other North Carolina bands like Blood Mobile, Stillborn Christians, and No Labels.

Benji soon left and was replaced by Eric Eycke for the LP “Eye for an Eye“. While they were still playing hardcore punk, the band was steadily getting into heavy metal and began playing with bands like Slayer.

Shortly after, Eric left the band and COC recorded the LP “Animosity“, considered one of the classics of the “Crossover” genre. Animosity garnered rave reviews got them noticed by punk and heavy metal fans across the globe.

In 1987, COC recruited Simon Bob Sinister from the Carolina band Ugly Americans. The band’s 1987 EP “Technocracy” featured the hectic sound of COC’s musical thrash with a clean voice they had in the past.

Mike Dean left Corrosion of Conformity in 1987 and Simon Bob soon followed, leaving COC in a state of flux for a couple of years. The remaining members redesigned the lineup and looked for a new singer, revealing to Flipside magazine that they will have a singer similar to “James Hetfield or Ozzy Osbourne” to carry on with their new sound.

After much searching, Karl Agell was recruited for vocals, Phil Swisher for bass, and Pepper Keenan as second guitarist. By 1991 they released the album “Blind” rank them as a heavy metal band. Blind was the first COC album to receive the needed media attention. The video for “Vote With A Bullet” was released on MTV and the album cracked the Billboard Chart in early 1992, selling over 250,000 copies in the USA.

In 1993, Agell and Swisher left the band to form Leadfoot, Dean returned and Keenan took over the lead voice. The following year COC signed with Columbia Records, and the release of Deliverance saw the band’s movement into southern metal – a sound they also brought to “Wiseblood” and “America’s Volume Dealer“.

Singles “Albatross” and “Clean My Wounds” from the 1994 album “Deliverance” made in to the Top 20 of radio rock charts and the album spent almost 4 months in the Billboard 200, peaking at 155. On the Heatseekers card, they peaked at No. 5 and lasted nearly a year on that particular card. US sales for the album exceeded 440,000 by the end of 2005, making it COC’s most successful.

Wiseblood” was released in October 1996. Despite reaching the top 30 on rock radio with “Drowning In A Day Dream” and the band touring with Metallica, the album failed to match the sales of its predecessor.

Corrosion of Conformity was nominated for a Grammy in 1998 in the category “Best Metal Performance” with the song “Drowning in a Day Dream.

Shortly after the release of “Wiseblood“, Columbia withdrew the contract from COC, and the band switched to Sanctuary Records. Their first album on the new label – “America’s Volume Dealer“, was released in November 2000. The album was worse commercial failure than “Wiseblood” but still managed to clinch the Billboard top 200, and the single “Congratulations Song” made the band sneak into the top 30. They did not make any videos for this album.

Mullin left the band in 2001. Since then the band has worked with a number of drummers: Jimmy Bower from Eyehategod, Raleigh’s percussion teacher Merritt Partridge, Stanton Moore from Galactic, and Reed’s former technician Jason Patterson who previously played in the Raleigh band Cry of Love.

In April 2005, COC released “In The Arms of Gods” to critical acclaim. The album debuted at No. 108 on the Billboards 200 and topped the Heatseekers chart. The album also achieved a similar success on the radio. A video was made for the song “Stonebreaker” which was broadcast on MTV2 on the recently revived Headbanger’s Ball.

The band spent the rest of the year touring the US and Canada, opening for Motörhead and Disturbed, and they also continued to make tours with Crowbar, Fu Manchu, Alabama Thunderpussy and Danko Jones. A European trip was scheduled for September and October 2005, but was later canceled, after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the city of New Orleans. In January 2006, COC toured England with Clutch.

In recent years COC has mixed the elements of stoner rock with its metallic sound. They have also collaborated with a number of artists: Metallica’s James Hetfield contributed vocals to the song “Man or Ash” on Wiseblood; Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers’ Band and Gov’t Mule played guitar on “Stare Too Long” from America’s Volume Dealer album; and Galactic’s Stanton Moore played drums on “In the Arms of God“.

I took pictures of Corrosion of Conformity when they opened for Motorhead after 3 Inches of Blood at Red’s in West Edmonton Mall on April 18, 2005:

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