Eye for an Eye had been missing for so long that many Corrosion of Conformity followers had given up searching for it, fearing that it was lost forever. Released in 1983, the furious debut from these punk-metal crossover firebrands had been out of print quite possibly since the Reagan administration, it undoubtedly having burned out rather than faded away. Then, a funny thing happened.

The Animosity lineup of Corrosion of Conformity – perhaps the most combustible combination of rumbling, roiling hardcore and Sabbath-inspired riffage that underground metal has ever produced – returned with a vengeance in early 2012, their self-titled LP a satisfying contrast of sludge (“The Doom”), sinewy grooves (“The Moneychangers” and “What We Become”) and speed (“Leeches”) that shifts tempos easily and often and immerses itself in the thick, heavy psychedelia of the Soundgarden-like “Come Not Here.” Finding audiences hungry for COC’s meaty riffs, Candlelight Records thought that the time was right to revisit the thrashing, combative Eye for an Eye and tack on the Six Songs with Mike Singing EP for good measure.

Featuring the original COC lineup of singer Eric Eycke, Mike Dean on bass, guitarist Woody Weatherman, and drummer Reed Mullin, Eye for an Eye is … well, a bit misunderstood. Often characterized, and rightly so, as a high-velocity hardcore record that wraps itself in Henry Rollins’s Black Flag, Eye for an Eye is, indeed, that and bruising, frenzied tracks like “Broken Will,” “Rabid Dog,” “Coexist,” “Dark Thoughts” and “Excluded” – all checking in at under 2:50 – that race at a breakneck pace won’t disabuse anybody of that notion. It is a raw and reckless album, with playing that is fast and very loose, and the violence of “What” and the growling viciousness of “Negative Outlook” – as angry as a badger protecting its home – are also punk as all get out. But, there are moments where this version of COC betrays its metal inclinations, and not just when they deliver a snarling, torn-and-frayed take on Judas Priest’s “Green Manalishi.”
Before “Indifferent” threatens to blow apart, as it does in the choruses, the verses crawl menacingly, quickly building in intensity until all hell breaks loose. Many of the song intros consist of trudging, brawny riffs wrenched into difficult, tortured shapes, the kind The Melvins might sculpt out of the twisted metal wreckage of a car crash. And on “L.S.” – a song that has all the wicked charm of a murderous hillbilly dragging a corpse out behind a shed – COC clearly reveals a fundamental, if still in its formative phase, understanding of metal dynamics and a taste for brutality, even more evident on the raging “Rednekkk.” Tweaking Southern-rock convention, it’s an absolute nuclear meltdown of a song.

Eye for an Eye is a ragged record, the product of a band in its infancy that is just beginning to question its identity. The Six Songs with Mike Singing EP, originally released in 1989 and featuring very old tracks with Mike Dean on lead vocals for the only time in the history of COC, presents a cleaner, more developed vision of COC’s punk-metal hybrid, as fine specimens of early thrash-metal like “Center of the World,” “Citizen” and “Not for Me” burn white-hot and surge toward their fiery ends with hostility and ferocious guitars. Growing up as left-leaning political and social animals – always spoiling for a fight in lyrics that take on opposing points of view with a ferocious intelligence – in the land of Jesse Helms and other right-wing demagogues must have driven COC to madness. Thankfully, they’ve harnessed that wild, unpredictable energy of Eye for an Eye and exacted their revenge, expanding their scope of influences to include more soulful elements and constructing varied, well-defined song structures that have the strength to withstand earthquakes. COC is still a force to be reckoned with.

Label:Candlelight (get audio CD here)