North Carolinians Corrosion of Conformity are seemingly in the midst of a revival since riff-dealing madman Pepper Keenan rejoined the band in 2014 and have arguably been making records that are even better than their 90’s classics, one of which, Deliverance, marks its 25th anniversary this year. And their set at Mr. Smalls on a slushy Thursday evening with a sludgeoning, stoning, doomstomping threesome in Crowbar, The Obsessed, and relative upstarts Mothership was amply representative of that album, tracks such as “Albatross,” “Clean My Wounds,” and “My Grain” closing COC’s groundshaking set of groundbreaking, stonebreaking (oh we got that song too), buttshaking songs that remind of us that rhythm belongs in metal because it makes it so much sweeter. Would I have rather heard “Señor Limpio” as opposed to “The Door” you ask? Perhaps. Could COC’s latest, the damn fine No Cross No Crown, have gotten more recognition aside from the glorious headsmash of “Wolf Named Crow” you ponder? Hell yeah. XI, a criminally overlooked slab, was completely snubbed. However, In The Arms of God and the derided America’s Volume Dealer were out there along with the usual classics that have become canon. Drummer Reed Mullin’s absence was duly filled by tech John Green, whose skinswork was seamless as the firm of Dean, Weatherman, and Keenan laid down the law of the Southern Sabbath with a juicy, rowdy fervor in a packed hall.
Texan power trio Mothership began the affair with their ZZ Top/Saviours splice, the brothers Juett and their associate Judge Smith zipping down a highway that bisects the lands of thrash and pothead rock, smokebrained discipline and laid-back aggression making no sense yet perfect sense during their smartly derivative stand.
The Obsessed, led by the wizardly Wino, had that Steppenwolf/Bang/Motörhead hog rumbling on the asphalt as sweetly as a purring sabretooth, if one can imagine such a thing. Their set was almost a ghost dance, strangely ethereal as if we were watching them on a lonely, haunted stretch of road in the middle of nowhere but everywhere at once. Dreamlike, godlike, death-white, The Obsessed are almost a figment of the outlaw psyche. But those guitars are real and play for keeps as if they were sawed-off shotguns held by desperate men. And the stakes are high…
Crowbar rose from the muck next to last, Gary Moore and Tony Iommi chords both adorning and scorning with nightmares aborning, Windstein’s casually tortured vocals and lyrics wafting through the tombstones and into our elated hearts and all too busy heads, the necessarily brief set dictated by a loaded line-up and tight schedule, aptly serving as a sampler of Crowbar’s prolific catalogue.
The night in sum was a jovial uprising, a revolt in the name of artful voltage fired over from England and shot back across the Atlantic and back again, the echoes of the ages of rock and heavy metal and acid and weed intoxicating, purifying, reverberating, chasing away the rats and the blues and the ill of character.