Between the emo bands incorporating hardcore breakdowns and metal-style solos into their sound (Atreyu, Story of the Year) and the metal bands bringing melodicism to their bottom-heavy rumble (Poison the Well, Mastodon), we're approaching a confluence of hard rock and punk unseen since hardcore and thrash went their separate ways in the mid-'80s. Leading that charge was C.O.C., with Suicidal Tendencies and D.R.I. often mentioned as their peers, though original C.O.C. bassist Mike Dean will have none of it.
"I would hate to be lumped in with something like that, but you can't help your resemblances, I suppose," Dean offers derisively. "I don't think Suicidal Tendencies or D.R.I. turned out to be that enduring. D.R.I. was on the same label as us, so it was like a marketing angle. But bands like Bad Brains did that thing first.
"Crossover--that was pretty much an artificial concept--it was a marketing label really," Dean continues. "We were inspired a lot by a Washington, D.C. band called Void, which threw in some very unfashionable hard rock with the hardcore they played and all that. And of course Black Flag, who could be pretty good if their singer would shut up. For a minute they had a creative thing going on and then it got pompous."
But regardless of whether or not this is a high-water point for hardcore-fueled music, their new album strikes new ground. It was a long time coming. It's been five years since America's Volume Dealer, during which time guitarist Pepper Keenan recorded a Down album with Pantera singer Philip Anselmo, which contributed to the long hiatus.
"It was always the intention to be working on it," says Dean. "Eventually it got to the point where Mr. Keenan had some time, and came up. We worked on some material, and that's when we actually came up with the songs to motivate us to really get it together. But bringing in [Galactic drummer] Stanton Moore really pushed that over the edge and into something pretty interesting."
Moore and Keenan had been friends since childhood and had played together in a one-off with saxophonist Skerik (Tuatara, Critters Buggin').
"We were having trouble finding chemistry with the drummers we'd been working and basically called Stanton to ask if he had any suggestions for different people. We had kind of been thinking about him but we presumed he didn't have time," says Dean. "As it turned out he had a small window of time, and so when we asked he said, 'Me.' We relocated everything to New Orleans in like three days and went from finishing up writing songs to tracking them."
The result is their most visceral album to date. It's raw and almost feels like a step back to the style of the older albums, but more powerful, augmenting the muscular throb with richer rhythmic textures and a tight, springy crunch.
The tour with Alabama Thunderpussy ("They've got some creativity and some musicality--in fact a lot of musicality to juxtapose their abrasiveness," says Dean) has not been without incident. Their generator broke twice, the trailer had a flat and an alternator belt broke--just on their way from Seattle to Salt Lake City. Then in Tampa (Ybor City to be exact), it got much worse--a fan was stabbed to death at the show.
"There was a fight between two women and this nice couple tried to separate them. The boyfriend of one of women involved in the scuffle comes up and apparently goes crazy. He knives the guy, killing him, and stabs his wife, puncturing her lung. So now she's in critical condition, her husband's dead, and they have a 13 year-old daughter. The guy got out the side door because of these two friends," Dean says.
"They apprehended the two who were essentially accomplices. One had an inverted cross tattooed to his face, who was mugging for the TV cameras during his perp walk. That guy and the other guy--under the loving care of the Tampa PD--gave up their buddy, who turned himself in the next day and said he had blacked out. So, obviously he got in touch with a lawyer," Dean continues.
"I don't know if the police are looking into it, but there's a weird angle as well. Both the perpetrator and the victim were tattoo artists. The fucked up thing was the Tampa Trib had a file photo because five months ago the paper had done a corny thing for Valentine's Day about the victims about how in love with each other they were and they had matching tattoos," says Dean. "It's about the most pointless tragedy I've come up against personally. It gives you a perspective where you just appreciate life and having a good show. Life is too short for a bunch of petty thought-processes, so we're just trying to be grateful and concentrate on what we do."
C.O.C. plays the Lincoln Theatre, Sunday, July 24 with Fu Manchu, Alabama Thunderpussy and Supagroup. The show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $17 in advance.