Down IV - The Purple EP

Of all the side projects created by former Pantera members, Down has always been the most legitimate. Hellyeah and Damageplan have a fun beeriness to them that’s at times laughable; Superjoint Ritual often felt more of an exercise than a fully-formed project; Kill Devil Hill appears to be standing on its own, but is too larval to claim greatness. Only Down has stood the test of time with their blackened, bluesy, swamp-born Southern-fried doom, but they’re still hit-or-miss; each album has been significantly different than the one before it in ways ranging from refreshing to disappointing. Sure, there were consistent elements to the music, but overall, a new Down album was never a sure-fire success. Until now.

Down IV: Part I- The Purple EP is easily the best thing Down have released since their debut album, perhaps the best thing they’ve released period. On the six songs herein, the band has come to a very real, very solid place in their musical evolution in which they finally sound like themselves. Pepper Keenan and Kirk Windstein’s guitars crunch and shuffle with body and determination, painting an aural portrait of the swamp-city of New Orleans with ugly style. Jimmy Bower and newcomer Patrick Bruders (who replaced Rex Brown on bass) provide a booming rhythm section that carries the band’s sound like a deep black cloud, its interior rippling with storm. And finally, there’s Phil, wailing and growling away like some strung-out Bayou banshee with lyrics that are both topical and instinctive, equal parts mind and gut.

“Levitation” enters with a gravelly guitar fade-in that explodes into a raucous, groovy jam, dripping smoke and pitch with each thick, viscous riff; as its title suggests, this is a song to be listened to with a bong rip and a lit candle. Anselmo channels the old-school with his opening words: “One two three GO.” “Witchtripper” (video) does its title justice, its upbeat tempo and dark feedback-laced riffage bearing a vibe of muscular black magic. “Open Coffins” has a mid-paced rager with a kick-ass sing-along chorus and choppy distortion throughout, while “The Curse Is A Lie” is a drugged-out prayer to some kind of modern death god, its lyrics expressing a sorrow for the here and now that would break your heart if it wasn’t so disillusioned and calloused. “This Work Is Timeless” is a Zeppelin-y celebration of surviving the metal life, while nine-minute closer “Misfortune Teller” swings effortlessly from gross and gritty to driving and dynamic.

Down’s choice of purple as this album’s color is a pretty obvious reference to their greatest influence, and their coinage of the color within metal: Down IV: Part I is obviously the band’s Masters of Reality, a fully-formed but unpolished beast that redefines who they are without forsaking their past. Unless Part II is an absolute train wreck, these six songs alone guarantee the band one of the best albums of the year.

(four and a half out of five horns)


Listen to the Purple EP in full here and order it on CD or MP3 via Amazon.

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