Review: COC reissues Eye For An Eye

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Corrosion of Conformity
Eye For An Eye
(Candlelight)

As Corrosion of Conformity celebrated its 30th anniversary this year, the Raleigh hard-rock institution has invited plenty of opportunity to reflect on its storied and varied career. In January, the band released a new album that linked the urgent rush of their early hardcore punk days with the mid-tempo metal swing of subsequent eras. The dudes then kicked off an active tour schedule, a reminder of their road-dog reputation. Soon, COC will release an EP of new songs called Megalodon, mere weeks after reissuing their 1984 debut, Eye For An Eye.

Nearly three decades after its initial release, Corrosion of Conformity’s first one has mostly been left behind. The album is a product of its era—a solid addition to a collection that already includes Black Flag and Void and a flawed early effort from a band that would later transform into something else entirely. Even the band had more or less consigned Eye For An Eye to obscurity. Nobody was particularly thrilled with the album, a product of an inexperienced band recording in a studio unaccustomed to punk. “I had basically written this off as being our sloppy beginner’s effort but listening to it now, I really hear a few songs that hold up well,” bassist Mike Dean said in a press release for this reissue.

True enough, the album begins and ends with the sound of warped tape spooling through the reels. Opening track “Tell Me” ends, and then reprises itself abruptly. A clip of somebody asking “Is this for real?” introduces “Minds Are Controlled,” while “Nothing’s Gonna Change” fades out with unintelligible voices in the background.

Eric Eycke, who sang on the album, told me in February that he was never happy with it, citing inexperience and poor communication among band members. “But it is what it is,” he said. “If you like it, you like it.”

People did like it: After its initial release on the local No Core label, Eye For An Eye was reissued by Caroline Records, building enough of an audience to support COC’s ascent to the Metal Blade imprint Death. The record doesn’t, by many accounts, capture COC at its most ferocious, but it still garnered a cult following that preserves the punk-metal schism among the band’s fans.

In hindsight, though, COC was never a particularly orthodox hardcore band, something which Eye For An Eye confirms anew. Stripped-down and speed crazy ragers like “Rabid Dogs” complement songs like “Rednekkk” and “Coexist,” which are more flexible with tempo and betray the band’s riff-rock influences. The winding intro of “Coexist” and boogie-rock bridge could have been reinterpreted for an album like Blind or Deliverance. And in the album closing cover of Fleetwood Mac’s (or, more closely, Judas Priest’s) “Green Manalishi,” COC abandons the winking judgment that accompanied punk covers like Minor Threat’s “Stepping Stone” or the Dead Kennedys’ “Viva Las Vegas.” Instead, COC turns the song toward the type of churning, mid-tempo metal that would bring the band mainstream acclaim in the 1990s.

Even as it functions as a document of the hardcore era, Eye For An Eye also betrays Corrosion of Conformity’s ambition. Its flaws are minor and endearing enough to maintain punk’s affair with amateurism, but they also belie the growing genre-crossing ambitions in the band’s arrangements.

Not long after Eye For An Eye’s release, COC split with Eycke (not amicably) and continued in the trio formation responsible for the more tightly composed and more finely produced Animosity, and in which the band finds itself again today. During that era, COC re-recorded six Eye For An Eye cuts with Dean on vocals for the practically titled Six Songs With Mike Singing EP, which was later appended to CD pressings of Eye For An Eye.

For years, Eye For An Eye and Six Songs With Mike Singing have been out of print, except on bootlegs. This reissue, which rescues both from rarity, doesn’t add new material, but it arrives at a time that welcomes new insight and perspective into COC. It stands as a crucial step in the evolution of a still-dynamic band.

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