EP Review: DOWN - Down IV Part 1, The Purple EP
I do believe that we have delivered a record that will be accepted and hopefully enjoyed by the DOWN horde — if you will…If you're looking for a DOWN record, it's very pure and real.
-Phil Anselmo, Rolling Stone Interview
As a proud member of the "DOWN horde", I had very high expectations for this release. These expectations soared even higher when I listened to Witchtripper (and then listened over and over and over again), a song I think already deserves to be named one of the best Metal songs of 2012. With its gloomy and spooky purple cover art, Down IV Part 1 is the first in a series of EPs due to come out over the next few years. After listening to this EP several times through, I would say this "Purple EP" is a strong, if slightly uneven first chapter to the new DOWN saga.
Part 1 is a dark, blues-laden slab of doom metal, with the many talents of its members shone brightly. The guitars form the core of DOWN's signature sound, and axe-men Pepper Keenan and Kirk Windstein deliver with heavy metal wings spread wide with a storm of low-end, sludgy riffs. The rhythm section of Jimmy Bower and newcomer Pat Bruders provide just the right amount of bounce and groove. And then of course there's Phil. One of modern metals most influential voices and frontmen, Phil Anselmo's deep and ominous tones are unmistakable. His voice has become more grainy with time, and he keeps the screaming at a relative minimum, probably a wise decision to preserve his vocal chords while on tour (…though quitting cigarettes would help a lot too).
The strongest moments here jump out like searchlights at dusk- the aforementioned Witchtripper, the slow and haunting dirge of The Curse, and the Doom-fest slammer Misfortune Teller (dat' RIFF!). On these three songs, DOWN meets all expectations with tunes that easily sit next to their classic material. In fact I'm pretty convinced that, if Misfortune Teller comes on and you don't want to bang your head, you must not have a pulse.
As for the other three songs, I was left a little flat. I've read a lot of comments online about how great Open Coffins is, but I actually thought it dragged on a bit too much. This Work is Timeless has some cool riffs, but it felt like a filler track. I felt much the same way about Levitation– though it has a sweet intro, the chorus just sounds so out of place. While the lyrics themselves are consistently good here, some of Phil's melodies are a little awkward and don't seem to fit their songs. To be fair, it's possible that Phil wanted to be a little loose here and try out some vocal patterns he hadn't yet used for DOWN. As an honest reviewer- the results are mixed and I find myself going back to listen to these three songs less than the others. But while these moments make Down IV Part 1 less than perfect, they do nothing to tarnish the rest of the record.
I'm glad I got to review this EP, and as a huge DOWN fan, I'm totally stoked for the sequels to this series of releases. As I said before, the best songs here deserve all the regard that longtime fans will give them, and should be awesome live as well. With a strong start like this, it seems the NOLA super-group will provide us with great music for many more years to come.
7.5 out of 10
Favorite Songs: Witchtripper, The Curse, Misfortune Teller