Monday’s show at Grand Central marks a rarity for South Florida metal and hardcore heads. When Corrosion of Conformity appears to headline the sprawling downtown Miami venue, not only will it be the band’s only Florida show on its current run, but it’ll be the band’s first in our pocket of the state in 15 years. That last show was in an opening slot for Metallica at the Miami Arena.
Of course, the arena was razed in 2008, before eventually being refashioned this year into the new public Grand Central Park — just across the street from Corrosion of Conformity’s Monday gig. That could serve as an oblique metaphor for the journey of the band itself, which, unsurprisingly, has weathered some major changes.
There’s been its path from underground cult hardcore act to barely-overground Southern/stoner/progressive metal act, then back underground with more musical weirdness. Then there have been the lineup changes one would expect from a 30-year career. Nearly every major member has left and come back at some point, but the most recent instance of that is probably the most dramatic: Vocalist and guitarist Pepper Keenan, long considered the face of the band during its most commercially viable days in the ’90s and early ’00s, is nowhere to be found on the band’s most recent, curiously self-titled album. Chalk this up to his increasing involvement with Down, a sort of metal supergroup featuring Pantera’s Phil Anselmo on vocals, rather than any particularly hard feelings.
“We were supposed to play some festivals in Europe at his own suggestion, and we didn’t, and then Down actually performed those very festivals,” says Mike Dean, Corrosion of Conformity’s mellow bassist. “We were a little bit fired up because we wanted to play, so we figured, let’s go play some shows as a three-piece. Then, we wanted to have some new material to throw into the set, and then at that point, we thought we’d just make an album as a three-piece.”
The result was the group’s eighth studio album, yet one with a debut record-style title of simply the band’s name. This was on purpose, says Dean. He and guitarist Woody Weatherman and drummer Reed Mullin started out as a raw three-piece in 1982 and stayed that way until Keenan joined in 1989 — and that tight-knit trio energy is still what forms the heart of the band’s genre-crossing sound. “If I didn’t think it was a Corrosion of Conformity record without him, I don’t think we would have called the album Corrosion of Conformity. Anticipating such a question is part of the impetus for the self-titled thing,” Dean says.
Keenan may one day re-join the band, if schedules align — Dean says he likes the term “member at large.” But by all accounts, they’re doing just fine musically without him. The self-titled LP is stripped-down but muscley, full of the kinds of swampy flourishes and low-end churning that the band does best. There’s also still a tiny bit of that old hardcore past, expressed more as a certain energy than anything musical.
What that means is that despite the band’s definite cult status, it continues to enjoy an infusion of fresh blood at its shows.
“There is a surprising number of kids, at least where we’re from, who have this neo-hardcore scene with house parties and things like that. There are a lot of kids who are into these old-ass bands like CoC and Black Flag and more obscure ones, in this almost strange historical kind of way,” says Dean. “Then I see other younger people who are into this more current heavy music, the more underground stuff. So I think we hold a certain amount of interest for either of those groups coming up, as well as the old people who had to get a babysitter to come out to the gig!”
Corrosion of Conformity. With Holly Hunt, Consular, and Shroud Eater. 8 p.m. Monday, March 19 at Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami. Tickets cost $18; age 18 and up. Call 305-377-2277, or visit grandcentralmiami.com.