In 1984, North Carolina’s Corrosion Of Conformity was a three-year-old band with a long way to go. There was still a whole half-decade before Peeper Keenan would come along, his arrival coinciding with the shift towards the Southern-toned stoner metal with which the band is now virtually synonymous. Back then, as the DIY-punk cover art and sociopolitical band name would indicate, Corrosion was a hardcore outfit – three-quarters of Corrosion then is the same as now, bassist Mike Dean and drummer Reed Mullin and guitarist Woody Weatherman. Vocalist Eric Eycke would leave after Eye For An Eye, temporarily handing over duties to Dean and even more briefly to someone named Simon Bob Sinister before the arrival of Keenan. (The appropriately titled Six Songs With Mike Singing EP, Dean’s vocal debut, is appended here as bonus tracks.)
Eye For An Eye is Corrosion’s first full-length, originally released on the No Core label, now reissued by Candlelight. Most of its sloppy hardcore tunes inhabit the one- to two-minute range, with a few stabs at sub-one-minute blasts of fury. (The likes of “No Drunk” is an early D.R.I.-paced thirty-second blast of furious fun, and the album could stand a few more of them.) Eycke’s voice is appropriately ragged and raging, but it’s also tuneless and pretty much faceless against any other hardcore vocalist; Weatherman’s guitars are harsh, the riffs mostly stock punkers; and overall, the entire approach is rudimentary and lacks both constant crossover fury and the thick, doom-tinged heaviness that the band would adopt increasingly with subsequent records. Compared to Animosity, the follow-up that vastly betters the band’s punk-metal ideas (and the album that this reviewer still maintains is the band’s finest hour), Eye For An Eye is a decent-but-not-great listen, a snapshot of a band’s earliest minutes, long before either of their styles would really coalesce.
Of the reissue, the best part is that bonus EP – after a dreadful slapdash cover of Fleetwood Mac / Judas Priest’s “Green Manalishi,” which was featured on the original as a hidden track, Six Songs With Mike Singing presages the improvements coming with Animosity. Six Songs was originally recorded in 1985, the same year as Animosity, though it wasn’t actually released until 1989, and three of its songs are different takes on three of Eye For An Eye’s tracks. Not surprisingly, those three songs are also among the highlights of both the original recording and the later – Eye’s title track sports the most memorable chorus on hand, of either old or new incarnations, whilst “What” sports some standout riffing and a bouncy swagger that separates itself from the standard-hardcore approach of the rest.
In the end, both the original and the reissue of Eye For An Eye encapsulate a period of growth for a band that would end up so very far from here. Though it’s not a terrible record, really, based upon its lack of transcendent songcraft and upon the band’s complete conversion to another aesthetic entirely, it’s still one almost exclusively of interest to only the super-dedicated fan. Those who love latter-day Sabbath-heavy CoC will find Eye For An Eye to be an unrecognizable starting point for the smoky stoner-metal mastery to come, and even those who love Animosity’s Dean-fronted punkish glory will be still left unimpressed.
Eye For An Eye, truth for truth, is not particularly compelling. Those Corrosion completists lacking this earliest effort may (and should) rejoice that it’s here again, with some added material worthier than itself, but for all others but the most die-hard, be wary.