Sunday, March 10, 2013
REVIEW: DOWN - IV, PART I (THE PURPLE EP)
New Orleans supergroup Down, composed of celebrated members from Pantera, Eyehategod, Corrosion of Conformity, Crowbar, and numerous other immensely talented and incestuous southern bands, have released the first of four planned EPs over the next couple years. The marketing approach seems to me an experiment with relevancy, adapting to a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately mentality that’s settled in with so much music and entertainment so immediately available. Due to each member’s obligations in other bands Down has been notoriously sluggish with releasing new material. Hopefully by focusing on approximately six songs for each release there won’t be seven years between albums, like between their debut and follow-up record. Then again, considering the pedigree of these musicians there should really never be a moment of doubt regarding relevancy. There is enough songwriting starpower in Down to melt the northernmost ice caps just by playing riffs in their direction.
The album begins with ominous chugging guitars lurching forward like the silhouette of a predator in the mist. When the volume escalates and the song is close enough to bite, vocalist Phil Anselmo counts “1,2,3,4” to warn you of the coming attack. But the attack never truly happens. The Purple EP, as it’s been casually dubbed, feels like the equivalent of the hunting animal circling its prey, but when it comes time to feast the album lets the prey off the hook, allowing it to escape into the brush.
Opener “Levitation” isn’t the only song that doesn’t provide a proper pay-off. “Open Coffins” also begins with Anselmo counting off before wobbling into sleepy riffs mixed far below the over-sung melodies before being saved for a mid-song minute by a sneering breakdown offering a glimpse of attitude that’s far too rare on this album. The song stretches past five minutes, relying on a B side riff on an album that only has an A side. “The Curse” also ambles forward with all the energy of a fat somnambulist returning to bed with a belly full of late-night BBQ. Down has built their reputation on riffs that stomp through the mud and solos that soar above the quagmire, but the songs on The Purple EP seem content to mosey the straightest path start to finish.
This album as a whole drips with more 70s psychedelic acid than their prior releases, which seems like an influence Pepper Keenan and Kirk Windstein could have criminal amounts of fun injecting into the dirty hesher rock Down has made their own since their first album in 1995. Unfortunately, the fist-pumping hook on “Witchtripper” and the doses of dirgey doom on “Misfortune Teller” are the only memorable moments. As a whole it’s one of Anselmo’s weakest vocal offerings, seemingly juicing his voice and squeezing out most of the grit and pulp. Hopefully they’re saving those ingredients for the next EP.
Despite my disappointment in The Purple EP this band is still responsible for NOLA, one of the very best rock and roll records ever recorded, and nearly two decades of top-tier metal. This album may not have satisfied my appetite but I’ll still hungrily await the next EP and just sip on the bright moments from this album until then.
Visit Down’s website over at: http://www.down-nola.com/
And you can find all their releases on Spotify, including NOLA, which I encourage every fan of rock music to listen to immediately.