Last in the CoC pit in 2006, drummer Jason Patterson makes his way to the thumper’s throne in the low-lit darkness of KK’s Steel Mill, and much applause and much cheering emerges from the gobs of the devout in attendance this evening. ‘Tis a school night and the metal masses are primed and ready. So much so that when Mike Dean strolls on, straps on his bass, and starts slugging out ‘Bottom Feeder’ at a doom-drag tempo, the place takes on an almost hushed reverence as the long and low vibrations slowly shake the steel mill into order. A mass of matted hair and snake-like slithering swagger, though fans of the band recognise his abilities on the instrument, Mike Dean is an underrated bassist. Check out any of CoC’s releases and you’ll hear performances and lines as tight and musically developed as anything that the greats Geezer Butler, John Paul Jones or John Entwistle ever recorded anchored with an extra heavy dose of heaviness.
Enter Woody Weatherman, looking exactly the same, adorning the same beat-up Gibson SG, and wearing (possibly) the same shirt with the sleeves cut off at the shoulders – or maybe torn off, given what the dangling bedraggled threads look like – as he did when I first witnessed CoC in 1992 in Birmingham promoting their classic album Blind supporting Soundgarden on their Badmotorfinger tour. And Pepper Keenan, cool as ever, makes his way to centre stage, slings the SG strap over his shoulder. The pair of them bring down-tuned heaviness to the already thunderous racket that fills the room and play, as they say, is very much under way.
The Sabbath-esque ‘Paranoid Opioid’ kicks the gig into action and horns go up and heads go down – and up again in up-tempo succession – in headbanging happiness. While ‘Shake Like You’ shakes the shit out of the rusty rafters, the twin-guitar-laden groove of ‘Seven Days’ slows the pace down just enough to allow every face in the room to reshape itself into the appropriate appreciative grimace to truly reflect the collective appreciation of the grooviest of the very metallest of grooves. Groovy.
‘Diablo Blvd.’ and ‘Señor Limpio’ stomp their way into the walls until ‘Wiseblood’ shifts the evening up a gear or two as the band hammer mercilessly through the might of ‘Who’s Got The Fire’ and ‘Stonebreaker’ before the deliberate drag of ‘13 Angels’ brings a subdued but no less commanding atmosphere to KK’s metal chamber. But this tempering of the tempo is a ploy, a ruse no less that gives the band time to load the gun with the anthem of the age: ‘Vote With A Bullet’. Cunning, think I. Coincidentally, there are local elections in the UK the day after this gig, but I notice that on the ballot paper, this isn’t an option. Write to your MP, folks. Make a polite request for this addition to be actioned forthwith. But don’t protest. Not in the UK. As well as facing a serious tutting, you’ll get your hands smacked. Yay UK democracy!
High on fire (the crowd’s got it now) and high on rebellion – albeit a simulacra – ‘tis only a few minutes before the encore. The band delve deep into their back catalogue and dig out ‘Born Again For The Last Time’ for the first time in a long time. Well, a long time since last year anyway. And 2020. Oh, and 2019 too. and what better way to finish off the visitors to Wolverhampton’s one and only mass-production-car-company-cum-rock-venue than with the band’s classics ‘Albatross’ and ‘Clean My Wounds’? Ovations, yes. Many and much ovations, yes. It’s been over five years since No Cross No Crown. Surely another album is in the works…
Witnessed by Jason Guest