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No Cross No Crown *
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  • No Cross No Crown sees the veteran decibel-casters returning to the seismic stoner/punk metal that brought them commercial success in the mid-'90s. It also marks the return of vocalist/guitarist Pepper Keenan, whose soulful howl hasn't graced a COC LP since 2005's In the Arms of God. Having been reduced to a power trio in 2012 for their eponymous eighth long-player, the band dipped their toes back into the hardcore waters of their crossover punk beginnings, and while some of that raw fury finds its way into album number ten, the presence of Keenan keeps things pretty firmly in the realm of the Sabbathy Deliverance and Wiseblood. Lead single "Cast the First Stone," along with standouts like the bluesy and meaty "Wolf Named Crow" and the swampy "Little Man," deliver the swagger and unrepentant might that fans have come to expect from this particular lineup, but the album's latter half interrupts the flow via a few too many sonic detours -- the brooding title track, which mostly consists of just spoken word and moody guitar picking, never really pays any dividends, while an eyes-half-closed rendering of Queen's "Sons & Daughters" feels largely tacked on. That being said, the spirited "Old Disaster" perks things up via a beefy blast of radio-ready post-grunge melodicism and muscular Mastodon-esque riffage, and the epic "Quest to Believe (A Call to the Void)" features some stellar fretwork from Woodroe Weatherman, proving that even with thirty-plus years behind them, Corrosion of Conformity can still reach the nosebleed seats without sacrificing any integrity. It may all feel a little familiar, but it still burns going down. ~ James Christopher Monger
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