Down IV Part I - The Purple EP

Written by: AP on 30/12/2012 00:29:53

Of all the supergroups in the world, Down must surely be the most successful. Having risen out of a passion for Black Sabbath, Trouble and Saint Vitus shared by Phil Anselmo of Pantera, Pepper Keenan of Corrosion of Conformity, Kirk Windstein of Crowbar, and Jimmy Bower of Eyehategod, the group has existed since 1991, and, despite releasing just three studio albums in 1995, 2002 and 2007, remain one of the most influential bands in the Southern metal movement most people like to call sludge. Their legend stems largely from the fact that no one quite sounds like Down - they do not constrain themselves by trends - and as a result, the project has gradually outshadowed each member's dayjob.

With the customary five-year period of lull behind them, the band have now thrown themselves headfirst into an ambitious series of EPs to be released over the next few years, the first of which is titled "Down IV Part I - The Purple EP" and will be discussed here. It is Down's first release since the departure of bassist Rex Brown last year (filling his role is Patrick Bruders, formerly of Goatwhore), and marks a significant return to the band's roots and earlier style of song writing that was most prominent on the band's debut album "NOLA". As such much of the work behind it took place in Anselmo's barn (dubbed Nodferatu's Lair), and the outcome is an EP characterised by a raw sound with a distinct demo vibe - a welcome touch to fans of old school metal, I'm sure.

Opening track "Levitation" lays a doom-laden atmosphere over the EP with a gargantuan riff that slowly burns its way into the mix, full of the band's signature Southern haze, while the subesequent "Witchtripper" spews out a sizzling groove that is to a sludge fan's ears what a rack of Louisiana-style spare ribs are to his taste buds. It's a brilliant, crushing sludge metal song that recalls the instant appeal of "N.O.D." off the previous record, "Down III: Over the Under", bristling with psychedelic jams, soulful guitar solos and low-end rumble - a sure shot live staple in concerts to come. Similar vibes are explored on the following "Open Coffins", its main riff overtly paying tribute to the genius of one Tony Iommi, though it should be stressed that the rough around the edges style is at its most prominent here, the profuse use of gang vocals coming across as a little too chaotic and unchoreographed at times (Anselmo's singing even sounds downright out of place on occasion).

Fortunately another standout moment arrives immediately in its wake with the slow, brooding dirge of "The Curse"; a song that instantly sends my thoughts scurrying toward classics like "Bury Me in Smoke" and "Eyes of the South". The foundation riff, in all its simplicity, is exactly what this band is all about, and when Windstein & Keenan break into a wah-wah backed solo halfway through, one cannot but close one's eyes and inhale its gloomy, whiskey-drenched spirit. "This Work Is Timeless" has its moments too (the melancholic instrumental interlude haflway in particular) but the song highlights the saddening inconsistency by which this EP is marked overall, as only three of its six tracks make a truly lasting impression.

But fortunately when Down do make an impact, they do so with incredulous power, such as is the case with the absolutely monolithic album concluder "Misfortune Teller", a staggeringly heavy, nine-minute lesson in atavism, and one of the most crushing tracks Down have ever recorded (or at least released). It is a fine plaster on the relative anonymity of "Levitation" and "This Work is Timeless" in particular, yet I am still nagged by the question "if Down can write songs this good, then why the hell don't they write six songs this good?". Still, for fans of doom and sludge this is a must - and remember, there a couple more of these IV EPs on the way.

Download: Witchtripper, The Curse, Misfortune Teller
For the fans of: Crowbar, Kingdom of Sorrow, Pantera
Listen: Facebook

Release date 18.09.2012
Down Records

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