The following was originally published in our Sophomore section.
Review by antiGUY
We have great news for metal fans, Down
has returned with a mindblowing sophomore album aptly titled “Down II”.
For those who are not familiar with Down, it is an allstar side project
featuring Pantera’s Phil Anselmo and Rex Brown, Corrosion of Conformity’s
guitarist Pepper Keenan, Crowbar’s Jimmy Bower and Kirk Windstein.
The band was originally formed so that
the members could create music that stayed closer to the roots of metal
and to pay homage to bands like Black Sabbath that inspired them to start
off in music in the first place. They released their debut album “Nola”
in 1995, at that time the band featured Crowbar’s Todd Strange on bass.
Pepper Keenan explains the thought process
behind the formation of Down, “ We weren't just blowing off steam and ‘Sabb-ing
out’; we were coming up with some serious s***, “remembers Pepper. “And
the reason I say that is because I can still remember the moment Phil threw
down some vocals on this sludged-out, heavy riff I had. He then handed
me the headphones (we only had one pair, and a four-track) and started
laughing his ass off. Ten minutes later, we were in a Monte Carlo cranking
a cassette of a jam that would become the song ‘Bury Me in Smoke.’ We knew
we were onto something.”
When the band’s debut album “Nola” hit
the streets in 1995 it created quite a sensation with metal fans, selling
almost 500,000 copies worldwide. An amazing number when compared to sales
of other side project albums and the sparse amount of promotion that was
put behind the release. The band played just over a dozen shows to promote
the album and bootlegs of these shows became a hot item on the metal underground.
Late last year Phil, Pepper and Jimmy Bower
finally gave in to the unrelenting hounding by the press and fans about
the future of “Down” and decided to reform the group, write a new album
and tour to support it. So they got together, and recruited Pantera’s Rex
Brown to play bass and added guitarist Kirk Windstein to the lineup.
Once they were back together, the project
took on a life of it’s own. They wanted to keep the music as pure as possible
so they followed the old school example of bands like Black Sabbath, Bad
Company and Led Zeppelin and wrote and recorded “Down II” in just 28 days.
The result is a mind-blowing album that reminds us of why Metal became
the force it has on the musical consciousness of the world. When the band
proclaims, “You ain't gonna believe this sh*t...” they aren’t kidding!
Pepper gives us a little more background
on the recording of “Down II”, “So here we go, round II. First things first,
we decided that Down is not the kind of band that can be confined to a
studio. Lo and behold, we came up with a genius (?) idea to isolate ourselves
in a barn (later to be christened ‘Nodferatu's Lair’) in an undisclosed
swamp somewhere in South Louisiana. Slept upstairs and rocked downstairs.
Shipped in enough gear to get our point across (loudly), and got two Yankees
with their heads half screwed on (half more than ours) to turn the knobs.
With enough booze, food, and ‘miscellaneous’ items for no one to crawl
out until it was done. Which was going to be in twenty-something daze.
All this combined with an old chest we found full of freaky 70's porno
mags we had basically created a modern-day Sodom.”
“If you really want to lose your mind,
just ask one of us how. 'Cause this was a textbook recipe for insanity.’
By week two, it was as if we were in a gunboat, floating through
the Mekong Delta, hunting down Marlon Brando. No perception of reality
or direction, but a common goal,” says Pepper of the recording experience.
“Five freaks, all well-versed in the school of hard rock, banging heads
at 120 decibels, surrounded by sin, swamps, and mosquitoes, with modern-day
society a tank of gas away. This is the way rock records should be made.”
“When we emerged from the haze of smoke,
the stench of alcohol, and the buzz of yellowjackets, we were sitting on
top of umpteen jams. We passed out by our burn pit in the wee hours of
the morning, listening to this Down sound on the jam box, and came to the
conclusion that nobody in our generation of music had ever attempted to
make a record this way. Raw, unbridled, from the heart, and most importantly,
devoid of the rest of the world pure, “says Pepper on the official album
bio. “One of the coolest things about Down is the fact that we don't have
any preconceived notions about what is to come. When Down is in the ‘Lair,’
candles lit, ice chest packed, puffin' and passing, all fired up, we got
no clue what's going to happen, which is a beautiful THING. This freedom
allows us to write anything from mellow s*** like ‘Where I'm Going’, to
slammers like ‘The Seed’. Where ever our heads are at, good or bad, up
or down. This is what makes Down tick.”
What about the final result? I’m very happy
to report that the album is an amazing collection of pure metal rockers
that effectively bridge the gap between the old school sound of Black Sabbath
and the modern metal sounds of Pantera, Crowbar, and COC as well as classic
southern rock. The riffs will get your headbangin’ and those who haven’t
heard Down before will be blown away by Phil Anselmo’s vocal dexterity.
Here he sounds closer to Chris Cornell at Soundgarden’s heaviest moments
than the voice of Pantera. Fans have nicknamed the sound that Down produces
as “Southern Metal” and that label does seem to be a perfect fit to describe
Down’s mix of metal and southern rock.
Down may just be a side project, but you
wouldn’t know that from listening to “Down II”, which can stand head to
head against the music of any of the members primary bands. In fact, the
music is strong enough to warrant this band forming a more permanent tour
de force. You can never predict what is going to happen, but I’m sure once
people wrap their ears around “Down II” they wouldn’t be disappointed if
the band became a more permanent gig for the members of the group.
If you’ve been waiting for the definitive
metal album release of 2002, look no further! “Down II” is primed to set
the music world on fire with its high-octane brand of southern metal! So
what are you waiting for? Get your ass out from behind your computer and
head to the closest record store and pick up your copy of “Down II”!