Gig Review & Gallery: Corrosion Of Conformity @ Crowbar - Sydney

Headliner: Corrosion Of Conformity

Support: Arrowhead + Comacozer

Venue: Crowbar, Sydney

Date: Thursday, February 13th 2020

Review by Luke Winchester

Photos taken by Jeremy Belinfante

The recent news of drummer Reed Mullin passing away sent shock waves through the rock and metal communities, Reed, 53, was a founding member of the Cross-Over/Sludge/Southern Metal powerhouse Corrosion of Conformity and was only 16 years old when he and his buddies Mike Dean (Bass/Vocals) and Woody Weatherman (Guitar/Vocals) put the band together. Having played on every CoC album bar one (2005’s In The Arms of God) Reed was an integral piece of the CoC puzzle. However, although he played on their latest album, 2018’s absolute stomper No Cross, No Crown (Nuclear Blast) he had not been an active live drummer with the band since 2019. Fortunately for their Australian fans, CoC decided to push through and honour their shows across the sunburnt continent.

First up is Sydney locals Comacozer who bring the interdimensional vibes, the three piece instrumental band perfectly worshiping at the steeple of Sleep and Sabbath with long drawn out ambient passages met with a thick wall of riffs. The wonderful thing about Doom and Drone bands is if they do it right they can find a riff and hammer it deep into your psyche it becomes a swirling, mesmerizing almost transfixing experience, Comacozer are one of those bands that can not only do it well but do it with ease. Guitarist Rick Burke mentions between songs “We’re stoked to be playing this gig but we gotta get back into it because our songs are long.” before rolling into their second of three massive songs. This band has clearly spent a lot of time listening to Volume 4, as their tracks reek of Sabbath devotion. Their third and final track is very reminiscent of Californian doom/jam band Earthless, the wonderment of watching a band like this, never being sure if it’s all going to fall apart but being delighted when everything comes together by the power of the riff, by Gandalf’s beard, it is auditory beauty personified.

Next, Sydney powerhouse Arrowhead open their set with the downright excellent Ceremony of The Skull off the supremely rifftastic 2019 album Coven of the Snake (Seriously, if you haven’t given this a listen do yourself a favour) It’s not often that I as a reviewer put my notes away and just watch an opening band, but this is the second time tonight this has happened, I could barely look away. Nevermind the hyperbolics but this band rules, having seen them open for Crowbar in december last year this reviewer knew exactly what the now mostly filled venue was in for. Total Desert Metal, Kyuss worship, and a perfect opener for post 1991 CoC. This band has more riffs than you can swing a bong at and Vocalist/Guitarist Brett Pearl is a master of the echo vocal, soaring over the rumbling distorted dirge perfectly. Another three piece from the Sydney area, Arrowhead are just out here showcasing their ability to write a tune that is heavy, bluesy and captivating and the crowd is here for it, lapping up every riff. The band closes their set with another cut from Coven of the Snake called Golden Thunderhawk which is thundering conclusion to an excellent set. The track has an ambient, droning intro which roles into churning, slow riffs just further proving the total sabbath worship. Seriously, pay attention, some of the best bands in the world are right in your backyard.

And now the time we’ve all been waiting for, North Carolina’s Corrosion of Conformity have finally stepped foot onto the Crowbars stage and are ready to riff the punters into oblivion. Now well past 30 years into their career the band is still putting out absolutely monumental music, having released their last full length entitled No Cross, No Crown in 2018 and the band haven’t been here since 2014. And not surprisingly vocalist Pepper Keenan and co are sounding as vital as ever, Keenen, singing as though his very life depends on it and it helps that a packed out Crowbar is singing every word back at him.

Opening their Deliverance heavy set with a bluesy as hell rendition of Seven Days and not slowing down for a full hour and a half, what an absolute treat. Pepper and the band don’t fluff about or piss into anyone’s pockets, they realise it’s been 6 years since the last time they were on Australian shores and that they’ve got a huge catalogue of tunes and they’re making up for lost time by incorporating tracks from all over their musical archives. (Alright, they didn’t go any further back than 1991’s Blind but to be fair Pepper joined in 1989).

The band checks in with the crowd every now and then asking if “ You wanna get weird? Or do you wanna hear the shit you know, and don’t say both” they were of course taking the piss because they did indeed play both. Fan favourites and deep cuts alike, Pepper adding “We’re sorry we didn’t make it here sooner, this song is called Wolf Made Crow” which is the only track from No Cross, No Crown (Which is kinda weird because this is technically their Australian tour for that album) No one is complaining, the band clearly know what their people want. “We’re gonna go backwards now” Pep says as they rip into a somber, emotional Heaven’s not Overflowing. Not to gush too much but seriously, Pepper Keenan has to be one of the coolest cats on the planet, he has such an infectious southern drawl “This song’s about getting high but not ruin your life high, drink beers, smoke weed and listen to Crowbar” he says before sliding into a personal highlight, the greasy, sludgy Albatross. My grain sees the first (and only?) crowd surfer/Barrier diver of the night.

And now, the heaviest moment of the night, Pepper talks about the passing of their brother Reed, he mentions that they had to come to Australia to honour him because that’s what he would want. “I wanna dedicate this next song 13 angels to our Brother, we miss you” and with lyrics like “There's thirteen angels standing on display, I think they're gonna take you away

One life time gone and now your soul is dead, The angels just shake their heads” there's not a dry eye in the house. Fan favourite Vote With A Bullet see the biggest action from the pit of the night, and Who’s Got The Fire was met with huge voices, Pepper did mention that he thought it would be in bad taste to play a song about fire in Australia at the moment but “it looks like you guys are through the worst of it.”

The night is coming to an end, it’s a week night so people have jobs and university and kids to attend to the next day, it’s late but not one person is leaving early and fortunately CoC still have fuel in the tank, their encore is two cherished tracks from the back catalogue. A stomping, rumbling Born Again For The Last time and a wonderfully spacey, Clean My Wounds with an impromptu jam session smashed right into the middle. Seriously, the entire crowd is captivated and this showcases current active drummer John Green’s chops, falling into jazzy breakdowns and huge swinging peaks. Corrosion of Conformity are a class act, they know how to keep their fans captivated and engaged, hopefully it won’t be 6 years between drinks for their next tour, and by the sound of the bands compliments about Australia being a beautiful place I’d imagine we’ll see them very sooner rather than later.

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