America’s Volume Dealer
Sanctuary Records
Trocadero, Philly, PA

For the Raleigh, North Carolina quartet, American Volume Dealer is a triumph. The band’s revolving door of members have stabilized and, with the production assistance of John Custer, they have produced a crunching assault with balls firmly attached to their southern roots. After their 1996 release Wiseblood and their year-long tour with Metallica they came home to find that, though the album had been nominated for a Grammy, the promotion wheels of Sony had locked up. Some serious ass needed to be kicked and Pepper Keenan (vo), Woody Weatherman (g), Reed Mullin (d) and Mike Dean (b) went hunting.

In 1999 COC moved to Sanctuary Records, a label far more in tune with the direction of the band. “The difference is like night and day,” said Woody after the group’s stunning performance at the Troc. “The guys at Sanctuary are fans of the band first. They know us, they know our history and they support us in ways that Sony never could.”

COC’s twenty-year history has at its core Woody, Mullin and Dean with a string of vocalists. The trio managed to independently record and release several of what are still considered the most important albums in the evolution of hard underground music. They were among the first to introduce and fuse the raging, powerful hardcore thrash of Black Flag with the massively heavy grooves of Black Sabbath.

“This is our third record where the line up has stayed the same,” explains Woody. “We used John (Custer) again because he totally understands what we are trying to do and the direction we see our music going. He brings a lot in as well and does a killer job.” Custer was the man behind the refining of COC’s sound. He took a relatively barbaric metal-punk band and focused their intensity to include sharp melodies as well as memorizing sonic riffs.

The sold out crowd at the Troc got a face full of those sonic riffs as the set list read like a fan’s wish list. Drowning In A Day, King Of The Rotten and The Door were anchor stays. While Albatross and Clean My Wounds would creep up from the basement. Vote With A Bullet took the crowd by storm. Their rich past left little room for the occasional new tune. It would have been nice to have heard a bit more as Sanctuary had sent out an advanced four-track CD with Over Me, Stare Too Long, Sleeping Martyr and the brilliant Take What You Want.

No complaints though – the band were tight, tough and thunderous. Pepper gets better as a frontman every year and is notches above many of today’s singers. He knows when to attack and when to lay back and let the band set the momentum. Woody is a prizefighter. He thrashes, wails and goes for the throat, an immense range from only six strings. The two are definitely a force. Missing from the live band was drummer Reed Mullin who was rumored to be out with back trouble. The rumble was left to Mike Dean and the fill in who simply got the job done.

For a band who started in 1982, had their plug pulled in 1987 and came back to stand among the biggest and the heaviest, their time has come.