The year 2014 has been a pretty good one for bands from the American South. Eyehategod, Mastodon, Crowbar, Down and a few others immediately come to mind. You can add Corrosion of Conformity and their latest album ‘IX’ to the list.

As you probably deduced, it’s the North Carolina band’s ninth studio album, and their second consecutive effort as a trio. Pepper Keenan (Down) once again sat this one out. Founding members Mike Dean (vocals, bass), Woody Weatherman (guitar) and Reed Mullin (drums) hold down the fort.

Corrosion of Conformity’s sound has evolved over the years from punk to crossover thrash to sludge/Southern metal. ‘IX’ is thick with sludge, as evidenced in the opening track “Brand New Sleep” that takes its time getting up to speed, but by the time the six minute opus is done, they are primed and ready to go.

The second track ‘Elphyn’ takes the opposite approach, beginning with a bang and then easing back into a mid-tempo groove. Tempo changes abound throughout the album, as do bluesy riffs and sultry solos from Weatherman.

And while the album’s sound is mostly of the down-tuned variety, CoC bring back some elements of their past. The two minute ‘Denmark Vesey’ has a punk attitude and a chorus that begins ‘Kill, kill kill.’ You’ll hear remnants of their crossover days on ‘The Nectar’ and ‘Tarquinius Superbus,’ mixed in with their current style.

The album’s production is full with plenty of low end, showcasing the thick riffs and potent rhythm section. There’s plenty of oomph without sounding overly muddy. Clocking in at just over 42 minutes, the band delivers the goods and doesn’t overstay their welcome.

Corrosion of Conformity have released some outstanding albums over the years, from ‘Animosity’ in the ‘80s to ‘Wiseblood’ in the ‘90s to ‘In The Arms of God’ in the ‘00s. ‘IX’ is their best of the ‘10s so far, a step above their 2012 self-titled album as they seem more comfortable now as a trio.

4 Stars