I was lucky enough to catch one of Danzig’s shows on his short East Coast tour. In addition to the (other) Man in Black, he chose a pair of stellar openers making it a great night for metal in the City of Brotherly Love and Oppressive Taxes. Mutoid Man and Corrosion of Conformity did a great job of warming the crowd up, and likely both bands walked away with new fans by the end of the night.
I was excited to see Mutoid Man as I’ve been a fan of guitarist Stephen Brodsky’s Cave In since their first record many years ago. As many know by now, Brodsky’s latest project is quite different from Cave In and his later project, Pet Genius, though the guitar and the vocal sounds in Mutoid Man are signature Brodsky. While Stephen was know for an intense amount of diversity in his Cave In work – as the band released records that ranged from punishing post-hardcore to space rock to more accessible melodic rock – they all contained a distinct edge. (If you really want to hear something rather unique check out Cave In’s cover of “I Love I Jah” on the 1999 tribute to the Bad Brains released on Century Media). Mutoid Man, as they showed a very impressed Philly crowd last Friday, are definitely metal with a good dose of punk in the attitude department but with some pop/rock appeal. And they are all energy, all the time.
Rounding out Mutoid Man are drummer Ben Koller, also of Cave In, and more recently of Converge, and bassist Nick Cageao, of Pink Flamingos fandom. All three are extremely talented players and interact with one another very well on stage – sans this thing that they do where they constantly flip eachother off. I guess I’m too old to understand the cultural significance of this practice. Likely it is something that came about when all of the working class folk were driven out of Brooklyn by the noveau hipsteriche, so when this trends crosses over the bridge into Staten Island I might start to get it.
The guys were clearly pumped to play Philly and while many of the listeners in attendance may not have been familiar with the band before they took the stage, the room quickly filled in and I noticed a good number of people come down from the bar and move to the rail and edge of the balcony for a closer look. They began with the perfect opener, “Melt Your Mind,” which is the first cut off their wonderfully listenable and approachable War Moans, which is out on Sargent House. The band moved into the next four tracks on War Moans, gaining more crowd attention with every pose, every riff and acknowledgment from the guys on stage. The crowd also loved the band’s little foray in Zeppelin territory with their take on “Communication Breakdown.”
While most of the songs were from the latest record (their strongest work to date) they did throw in a few from their early releases like “1000 Mile Stare” and “Bridgeburner.” My disappointment of the set: they didn’t play “Bandages” which is their cover of the Hot Hot Heat song. Now I can understand why; they’re the opener on a tour that features Danzig of all bands and they run the risk of hostility from Danzig’s less than empathetic crowd and “Bandages” is as close to a ballad as this band is going to provide. But damn… with the help of Chelsea Wolfe these guys recorded one of the greatest cuts of 2017. All in all, no matter what your pleasure, you’re likely going to love seeing Mutoid Man. This was my first time seeing them perform and I was easily won over. Love the musicianship and they have a tremendous and fun presence on stage. Check them out and strike a pose!
Corrosion of Conformity put a smile on hundreds of faces as well. In addition, they undoubtedly picked up a good number of newer, younger metal fans who had never seen COC perform live before. As direct support to Danzig on their brief trek along some Northeastern states, concertgoers have been treated to the live return of Pepper Keenan, adding his signature voice and bluesy guitar to the band’s extremely tight core trio of musicians.
North Carolina’s COC began as a crossover act and gained steady recognition in both the metal and punk underground with hardcore-inspired raw thrash that drew on classic early 80’s influences. The band changed to a much cleaner sound with the addition of Keenan on guitar and vocals, eventually breaking through to the mainstream with their commercially successful Blind record in 1991. While the band went through a myriad of lineup changes throughout their career, the current quartet of Keenan, along with bassist Mike Dean, guitarist Woodroe Weatherman and Reed Mullins on the drums is viewed by many as the “classic” COC.
This is the third iteration I’ve seen of COC live. I caught the 1991 version opening for the Rollins Band with Karl Agell on lead vocals. Saw the band as a three piece without Pepper, also opening for Danzig with a nod to their earlier catalog, and have followed the band since the 1980’s. While all of the shows I’ve seen live have been quite good, this most recent performance was, without a doubt, the top live concert I’ve experienced from these guys.
COC opened with a nice slow groove involving drummer Mullins and bassist Dean… just putting together some slow jam. No fancy entrance. No explosions. No bright lights. Just a rather dim stage with the two musicians playing near each other in a very laid back, relaxed, but emotional synergy. Setting a very chill vibe as Keenan and Weatherman later entered, the foursome slowly rounded out their sound and moved right into “Paranoid Opioid” from their bluesy and melancholy Into the Arms of God record. “Bluesy” was the overarching theme of the set as the band emphasized the groovier and more laid back elements of their catalog for a greater part of the set. Watching the four of them perform these first few tracks almost felt like you were just watching these longtime friends create some blues jams right in their backyard on a cool summer night.
As the set progressed, so did the tempo and the band broke into some more aggressive material, such as “Vote With a Bullet” and “Clean My Wounds.” Fan favorite “Albatross” was also, thankfully, part of the set and even some of the newer metal fans in attendance were rocking out to one of COC’s more well known metal anthems.
COC as a foursome is incredibly mesmerizing to watch. The four of them are so tight and so into their music. These gentlemen really play from the heart and spill their soul out there on stage for all to communally experience. Not very aggressive in their attitude towards performing, but incredibly heartfelt. As you watch Pepper and Woodroe get these amazing warm tones out of their painfully weathered instruments you know that there are a lot of stories behind these tracks. It’s classic blues with a heavy dose of metal.
The band has a new record coming out this Fall and they surely piqued the interest of many in the audience at the E-Factory with a highly memorable performance. If you can catch them on their upcoming dates… get up real close. Watch the genuineness and intensity on their faces. Listen to the stories they have to tell. Empathize with their struggles and realize that the four individuals on stage from North Carolina have gone through so much and still persevered. The story of COC is not about “stoner rock” or living in a world of sorrow, rather, it is indeed about deliverance and the ability to continuously rise above.