Down

Down IV - Part II EP

Written by: AP on 25/06/2014 11:05:44

In 2012, Down, the mother of all supergroups, launched the first in a series of EPs to be released over the next few years, which together constitute the band's fourth studio album; a decision no doubt influenced by the various members needing time for other commitments (such as Eyehategod and, up until last year, Crowbar). Limited time is not likely to be as pressing an issue from here on, however, as the previous EP seems to have given birth to a tradition of waving goodbye to one musician; last time it was bassist Rex Brown, who has since been replaced by former Crowbar man Patrick Bruders, and this time it's Kirk Windstein they've lost due to his desire to focus fully on Crowbar, with Bobby Landgraf stepping in to take over the second prong in Down's guitar partnership led by the iconic Pepper Keenan. Discounting vocalist Philip H. Anselmo's solo project, it is thus only drummer Jimmy Bower who still maintains a position in another band (as guitarist for Eyehategod), and as such, one would not be remiss to expect the schedule of these purple EPs to be hastened now following the release of this second instalment, "Down IV - Part II".

Though it has been clear since their 2007 album "III: Over the Under" that Down's heyday is long past, the signature touch of Keenan still persists, often providing a lifeline for songs that suffer from the wear of Philip H. Anselmo's vocals, once the very epitome of unadulterated rage. His grasp on the deep southern riff (rooted in the work of the great Tony Iommi) stands second to none, the dirty infatuating grooves encapsulating inimitably the trudging pace and oppressive heat of the region Down call home. It was his knack for slinging these sizzling slabs of axe work that afforded Corrosion of Conformity's 1994 album "Deliverance" its cult legend, and inevitably, it is by his lead that "Steeple" and "We Knew Him Well" form such a strong impression. So while Down are far from their unstoppable stride on "Down IV - Part II", it is no minor advantage to have one of the most accomplished guitarists, and certainly the best guitarist in the sludge metal movement among their ranks. And as such, it is no surprise that the EP's best moments arrive when he takes the podium.

But sick riffs can seldom carry the weight of a record on their own, and regrettably, on "Down IV - Part II" these veterans never fully realise the symbiosis that made songs like "Lifer", "Eyes of the South", "Bury Me in Smoke", "Lysergik Funeral Procession", "Ghosts Along the Mississippi" et al. revered classics. On "Conjure" Down engage the autopilot for a frustrating 8 and a half minutes, and while "Hogshead/Dogshead" has moments in which Anselmo's whiskey soaked swagger recalls his past glory; too much of the EP feels at a loss for fresh ideas. Fortunately - though largely by Keenan's virtues - the closing duo of "Sufferer's Years" and "Bacchanalia" arrive to the rescue at the most pressing time and provide a proud conclusion, tickling my fancy for a stacked barrage of searing Sabbath school riffs and intoxicating solos, exposing Down's flair for writing both an energetic Southern rock piece and a slow burning, doom laden climb into grandeur, finally collapsing into acoustic melancholia and Anselmo's emotive singing. Still, though at no point do Down lapse into pointless anonymity - they're too seasoned for that - one is too easily left in hopeless longing for the band's 1995 work.

7

Download: Steeple, Sufferer's Years, Bacchanalia
For the fans of: Black Sabbath, Crowbar, Saint Vitus
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Release date 13.05.2014
Down Records / Independent Label Group

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