So far, 2020 has been a cruel mistress as the reaper has claimed several giants of the drumming world. One that hits us particularly hard is the sudden death of Wiliam “Reed” Mullin of Corrosion of Conformity, at the young age of 53. Reed was not only a stellar drummer and musician, but he was also almost universally loved by the Hardcore Punk, Thrash Metal, Doom and Stoner Rock community, which is both amazing and insane. It just goes to show the talent Reed had and the breadth of different styles he helped encompass with C.O.C. Equal to his impact on record and behind the drumkit and the microphone, Mullin impacted a ton of people in the scene with his kindness and sense of humor.
North Carolina bred and raised through and through, Reed came to prominence in the Hardcore Punk scene in his hometown of Raleigh in the early 1980s in a band called No Labels. Reed drummed for both No Labels and COC, which he co-founded along with other long-time members Mike Dean and Woody Weatherman in 1982. As recalled in the Memorium posted by Punk scene veteran and close friend William Duvall, Reed was the “scene guy” in North Carolina from the beginning. He was the guy who booked the shows, connected bands with each other, and so much more, to such a level “e facilitated so much for so many bands. I don’t think he’ll ever get full credit for all he did., according to Duvall. C.O.C. started to mesh their hardcore with the speed of thrash metal and he helped create Crossover Thrash along with D.R.I., Suicidal Tendencies, S.O.D. and many others. The band had so many floors of music on their early demos and first few albums that they really helped inshore Stoner, Doom, and southern Sludge metal bands as much as the genres they are best associated with. Reed was a prominent figurehead of the band, always conducting interviews with intelligence, political awareness, and laughs. The albums Eye For An Eye, Animosity, and Technocracy are still among the genre’s greatest.
Later at the band progressed to Thrash with the Blind album lineup, Reed held the band together with and proved to be more than a slick punk drummer with his incredible metal chops. The drums on Blind proved to be one of the best performances of 1990 and arguably the best of his career. When the band changed again into the incarnation of the band most call the greatest (Reed, Dean, Woody, and Pepper Keenan) The band put together a string of incredible records such as all-time genre-classics Deliverance and Wiseblood, and later on Americas Volume Dealer. Reed would exit and renter the band over the years, not participating in their live album at the time, or 2005’s underrated In The Arms of God. While the band went on hiatus for a few years, Reed continued to fly the flag in C.O.C. Blind, reuniting some of those members and touring performing only that albums’ material. The tour was a hit. Reed also played in Righteous Fool (Southern Lord) and released one EP.
In 2010 Reed reunited for two albums, and an EP and a digital single with Dean and Woody for the trio version of the band. The throwback to their 80s Punk days was blended with a Sludge/Doom approach and the results were well received by fans and critics alike. Finally, in 2014 the band would reunite with Pepper for several years of gigs as the “classic” COC took flight again. The band released the excellent No Cross, No Crown via Nuclear Blast in 2018. Ghost Cult covered what would be some of Reed’s last shows ever with COC, including a memorable night at Saint Vitus Bar where a who’s who of Punk and Metal legends came out to hang and pay respects. Reed would exit the band shortly after the release of the album due to health issues and sadly, not return again.
Another notable highlight of Reed’s career was the exceptional all-star hardcore punk and thrash metal band and the album that came from Teenage Time Killers (Rise Records), which Reed conceived of with Mick Murphy (My Ruin. Chevy Metal) and recorded with Dave Grohl at his studio. Grohl also ended up performing on the album. It was one of the best albums of 2015. Reed was always gracious and cool the many times we met. He was always humble about his skills, and often deflected credit to his bandmates. Happy to chat about music or politics, he was rarely without a smile at a gig. We are glad for the time we spent watching him from the pit or hanging out at shows. We lost a huge ambassador for underground heavy sounds and a kind soul for the ages when we lost Reed Mullin.