Live Reviews: Monster Magnet and Corrosion of Conformity

by Mitch Goldman


Tuesday night was the first tour stop in what seems like an ideal double bill for any modern hard rock fan: New Jersey's retro quartet Monster Magnet, and Raleigh NC's seminal hardcore-cum-thrash-cum Southern metal combo Corrosion of Conformity.

Monster Magnet seem to be riding the crest of both a resurgence in 70's based music and the popularity of "alternative" metal. Springing up from the white-trash suburbs of New Jersey, MM's lead singer, rhythm guitarist, and keeper of the all things drug related Dave Wyndorf was raised on Grand Funk, Hawkwind, Yes, Zeppelin, and the usual retinue of 70's musical icons. MM's first record, a West German only release from 1990, was an eponymous EP of six tunes combining the whooooshhhhing Hawkwind art-rock sound with the heavy guitar/bass/drums crunch of Kiss and Grand Funk. Their first US release, the LP SPINE OF GOD (1991), is truly their watershed recording, from which much of their live repetoire is still drawn. Breaking through to the then-burgeoning "grunge" scene, SPINE was re-issued by Caroline Records in early 92 after it's initial release on a tiny indie label (Primo Scree), and made SPIN Magazine's "ten best records you never heard" list for 1991. Songs like "Snake Dance", "Nod Scene" and the epic "Spine Of God" combine the tripiness of Wyndorf's self-professed drug induced haze with the hard-hitting lead guitar work of then-guitarist John McBain. McBain was replaced in mid 92 with the far superior Ed Mundell, but not before MM dashed off *another* album (MM once again recall the 70's by making albums they way they did in the old days...quickly!) called TAB. TAB saw release only in Europe, and contained almost entirely instrumental "trip" music (plus one legitimate song, "Lord 13"). MM finished out 92 by touring with Soundgarden and Godflesh, and signing to A&M records, for whom they have produced two fantastic albums...1993's SUPERJUDGE, and the recently released DOPES TO INFINITY. While neither record breaks particularly new ground, MM finds a way to make the familiar sound fresh, as they combine electric and acoustic guitars to an-always "stoned-out" effect.

MM hit the stage at 9:12 on Tuesday, to the accompaniment of trippy films projected on a white screen. These films have replaced MM's psychedelic "bubble" light show (hey kids, remember the Avalon Ballroom?); they ran the gamut from images of pills and drug names to exploding skulls and trippy colors. Dave and company were drenched in sweat within minutes of the powerful opener "Snake Dance" (from SPINE OF GOD). Dave, as usual, snarled, screamed, yelled "rock on" in finest Paul Stanley circa '75 style, held his guitar out into the mosh pit for the faithful to strum, and generally worshipped at the shrine of sweaty, nasty 70's/90's hard rock. Standouts from the set were a powerful "Twin Earth" (from SUPERJUDGE); the obligatory SPINE track "Nod Scene" ("bought another copy of ZOSO/seeds were bustin' up the spine"); DOPES' acoustic number "Blow 'Em Off" with Dave on twelve string acoustic; a blistering segue of SUPERJUDGE's "Face Down" into the current single (and MTV video) "Negasonic Teenage Warhead"; and a twelve minute, set closing "Third Alternative", also from DOPES. Two SPINE tunes were conspicous in their absence; "Medicine" and "Spine of God". If the Atlanta show is any indication, MM will not be disappointing fans on the DOPES tour...

Monster Magnet setlist (9:12-10:08):

Snake Dance
Twin Earth
Nod Scene
Dopes to Infinity
Look to Your Orb for the Answer
Blow 'Em Off
Face Down->
Negasonic Teenage Warhead
Third Alternative

Corrosion of Conformity have evolved in unexpected directions over the years. Starting out as an influential hardcore trio in North Carolina in the mid 80's, COC blazed a trail across the mid-80's US punk scene with their early records: the debut EP SIX SONGS, their first lp EYE FOR AN EYE (both from '83), their 1985 lp ANIMOSITY (probably their finest hardcore moment) and their final hardcore EP, 1986's TECHNOCRACY. After a slew of personnel changes that left only Woody Weatherman (lead guitar) and Reed Mullen (drums/vocals) from the original trio, COC took a hard left turn towards thrash country with their 1991 LP BLIND (being prolific is NOT one of COC's strong suits!). BLIND featured a new lead singer, Karl Agell, and a new guitarist with a real Southern bent, Pepper Keenan (who sang the underground hit "Vote With A Bullet" from BLIND). While recording their most recent LP in Atlanta two years ago, COC fired Agell, and Keenan made the leap to full time lead vocalist. COC made a leap of sorts themselves...the resulting record, DELIVERANCE, is more Southern metal-boogie than either thrash or hardcore. Songs like "Senor Limpio" owe more to ZZ Top or Lynyrd Skynrd than to Minor Threat or Slayer. Also returning to the fold was original bass player Mike Dean; COC now contains its original trio membership, plus Keenan on guitar and vocals.

Their 70 minute show in Atlanta focussed mainly on DELIVERANCE material, with three songs from BLIND thrown in (COC *has* to play "Vote with a Bullet" as it garnered much college airplay in the election year of '92). Only one tune from the hardcore days, "Prayer" (from ANIMOSITY) was played. Reed Mullen remains an incredibly powerful drummer, maintaining a thrash-like intensity with only one kick drum (virtually unheard of in thrash-metal), and simultaneously providing surprisingly melodic backup and lead vocals. Both Keenan and Weatherman exhibited considerable metal and melodic chops, and the power of their playing was at times overwhelming. And of course, Dean still has his busy, throbbing hardcore bass chops (as well as a head full of dreadlocks!).

Highlights were the DELIVERANCE tunes "Heaven's Not Overflowing", "Pearls Before Swine" "Senor Limpio" and an intense, set closing "Clean My Wounds". COC encored with the classic Black Sabbath tune "Lord of this World", which they perform on the Sabbath tribute album NATIVITY IN BLACK. While the Roxy crowd probably numbered only two or three hundred, the faithful were rewarded with a set of powerful, sincere, intense thrash boogie. COC have, against all odds, carved out a totally distinct niche in the overcrowded and sometimes hackneyed world of thrash.

COC setlist (10:50-12:00):

Intro (#2121313)
Heaven's Not Overflowing
Dance of the Dead
Painted Smiling Face->
Pearls Before Swine->
My Grain
Vote with a Bullet
Seven Days->
Senor Limio
Clean My Wounds


Lord of this World->

Copyright 1995
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