It would seem that with the return of the legendary singer Pepper Keenan, combined with a compelling lyrical concept, the no less legendary heavy metal outfit COC could not fail this time. Indeed, this impression is reinforced by the first track proper, "The Luddite" followed by equally satisfying "Cast the First Stone", as Pepper & Co. rewind the clock back to two of their best works (of the heavy metal era), "Wiseblood" (1996) and "Deliverance" (1994), both among favorites in my CD collection. Could this then be another classic of such magnitude?

After a short interlude, so typical of 1994, "Wolf Named Crow" fails to recapture THAT quality, sounding like NOLA (Down) reject. The song is simply boring and I can’t wait until it ends, but if the last 3 years have taught me anything it’s endurance through patience. Indeed, there’s a deviation toward an interesting if criminally underused riff, but I’m starting to get a feeling we are going slowly but surely south of heaven and we ain’t talking classic Slayer. As if to confirm, "Little Man" is a terrible attempt at "Albatross 2" (Deliverance) but there’s no comparison in quality, like a match between Megadeth’s Hangar 18 and Return to Hangar. Something about not stepping twice into the same river rings true in both cases. But we shall continue and we will never surrender, to borrow from Winston Churchill.

Ok, so another interlude, fair enough. Meanwhile, we’re nearing half the album and things are not looking good. "Forgive Me"? Sure, but this is just as not personal as this song is mediocre. I mean what the heck is this, "Load"? Ok, it gets better for like 15 seconds with an actual riff and a melody, which by no means does elevate this above a bad B side material. And sure enough, we have a ballad, "Nothing Left to Say", besides, there’s only one "Goodbye Windows" (Wiseblood) and this is not even close. Yawn. Seriously, what were they thinking?

Now, I know I was preaching endurance and patience but I might actually press "skip" for this poor man’s "Planet Caravan" (Black Sabbath) with the so called electric guitar with Pepper sounding like he’d rather be having sex. There’s nothing worse in heavy metal than bad songwriting because then my parents are right – to paraphrase AC/DC, rock’n’roll IS just noise pollution. Four songs to go (plus Queen’s cover) and, lovely, one of them is an interlude.

Now, this is what I’m talking about, no reason for self-immolation quite yet if "Old Disaster" is any indication. At least they sound like GOOD Mastodon on this one, plus the guitarwork is not too shabby, either. Not that this can even compare to "In the Hands of God" or "American Volume Dealer" but hope is alive again. Just please don’t serve one more stinking interlude.

Iron Maiden from the debut? Ok, let’s go with that. Not bad. Not good either. Kind of like purgatory which is the feeling you get when you listen to "No Cross No Crown". Brent Hinds (Mastodon) called again, he wants his riffs back. What’s that? You want your sound in return? Touche.

Time for the title track. Feel free to blow me away…with a regurgitated "Jail" off NOLA. Perhaps a little too much sweet leaf here, guys. Well, one more, to hell with the cover. Starts off well so maybe a killer to round things off nicely? Nope, "Man Or Ash" (Wiseblood) reloaded, for an expected failure. Oh, you’re right, Pepper, there is no reprieve from this one and that sad melody sums up this chaotic half-hearted endeavor very succinctly. Again, to hell with the Queen cover.

What happened to COC? Age happened. While the album starts off well for a couple of tracks, there’s no denying that the band has run out of fresh material and is barely riding on their own coattails of old. There’s barely anything resembling songwriting here but the musicianship, at least, is not terrible, which why I don’t rate it too low. Still, you want my opinion, Pepper, there’s no cross no crown, stay Down.