When Corrosion of Conformity's Pepper Keenan sings "I once was blind / but now I see," it's an allusion-packed phrase. The line echoes Black Sabbath's "Snowblind" and name-checks CoC's own Blind, the 1991 breakthrough release on which the North Carolina natives outgrew thrash's two-minute time frame while maintaining its intensity throughout sprawling Southern rock tunes. More important, though, it's a religious reference, one of many on this year's surprisingly spiritual effort In the Arms of God. Usually, when God makes a cameo in a metal album title, the band throws together a few Bible-bashing lines and calls it a concept. In the Arms of God feels like the result of serious mountaintop meditation. Keenan designates sacred ground ("you're on holy land"), suffers a crisis of faith ("I'm unholy"), speaks in divine first person ("choose me or choose eternal flame") and, on the album's title track, bellows "God" as if on his knees in the Garden of Gethsemane. The band plays with passion, moving from mystical acoustic melodies to mammoth riffs and punctuating choruses with the sort of drum solos that usually happen only at arena gigs. Those percussive pyrotechnics come courtesy of funk-jazz player Stanton Moore (Galactic), a studio guest who isn't touring with the group. But all Moore needed to do was dream up the progressive patterns -- fill-in Jason Patterson can follow the blueprint.
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