DOWN plus ORANGE GOBLIN and WARBEAST
5/5 Ks: "Classic"
Words: Paul Travers
Photography: Danny North
Philip H. Anselmo is a man who knows his metal. He has of course fronted one of the most bullish, belligerent and best metal bands of all time (that's Pan-frickin'-tera in case you didn't know) Then there's Down - back tonight from their first headlining tour since 2009 and bringing their first new studio material in five years - who have created some slabs of pure, rumbling genius themselves. On top of that, he's been involved with innumerable side-projects, and his Housecore label provides a platform for a plethora of underground noise-mongers. It's no real surprise, then, to see him watching his latest signings Warbeast intently.
The Texan thrashers not only sound like the Apocalypse channelled through speaker stacks, they're set to appear on an EP next year that should also see Anselmo's own solo material finally unveiled. Songs like It and Birth of a Psycho suggest the War of the Gargantuas split will have two sides worth checking out while Krush the Enemy displays a flagrant abuse of the letter K we can't help but admire.
Orange Goblin, meanwhile, provide the perfect prelude to this evening's main event. On most recent album A Eulogy for The Damned, they explored a more melodic landscape in places, and that comes through at times tonight. Still, the overwhelming impression they leave is still one of a huge, rolling groove.
There's a sense of unstoppable momentum to Goblin's set, which is something Down have sometimes lacked. Not in a musical sense, but as a by-product of being a true sludge metal supergroup. The fact that various members also serve time in bands such as Crowbar, Eyehategod and Corrosion Of Conformity has let to Down being something of a stop-start affair. After all, three albums in 20 years is hardly prolific. That said, with the recent 5K-rated Down IV Part I - The Purple EP - heralding a quartet of releases in quick succession, it looks like Down is actually going to be a priority, for the immediate future at least.
"We're here for one night only," Anselmo keeps insisting, as he pushes the faithful to ever-greater heights of exultation. With this being the band's first headlining tour since 2009, there's a sense of this being a genuine event. Not that a certain Philip H. Anselmo is one for milking empty adulation - "Don't cheer at everything I say - this is no Motley Crue concert," he adds, with a comically cantankerous air. He also repeatedly slams his own head with a microphone and slaps guitarist Kirk Windstein's bald head like camp comedian Benny Hill and his little sidekick on steroids. You never really want to take your eyes off him in case he does or says something extraordinary, but Down are certainly not a one-man show. Guitarists Windstein and Pepper Keenan peel off some truly hulking riffs between them (Witchtripper, Lifer) while drummer Jimmy Bower and newly recruited bassist Patrick Bruders set up the monstrous low-end rumble.
It's a fearsome noise, and one that we'd love to be assaulted by more frequently. Enjoy Down while you can - they're one of the most downright heavy bands you'll ever hear.
5 Minutes with Philip H. Anselmo (Down, Vocals)
So, Phil, tell us a fact you know about Manchester…?
"I know of the football team and their crazed fans. I can relate to that; my U.S. football team is like a religion."
And what's the most Spinal-Tap thing that's ever happened to Down onstage?
"Every night is somewhat of a Spinal Tap scenario with Down, ha-ha! Just look at Kirk."
How about the most embarrassing thing on your collective iPods/on-the-road playlists, then?
"Anything and everything with my voice and/or guitar playing on it. Why people like my music I'll never know."
What's your most memorable Hallowe'en?
"I have too many memorable Hallowe'en stories…you'd need to make an extra-long issue if this question were to be truly answered."
Maybe next year. So, how would you survive a zombie apocalypse?
"I'd arm-up, smash brains in with stealth, and with as much silence as possible."
What's the worst Halloween costume you've ever worn?
"I guess skipping out on the 'dressing up' part…my regular clothes suck."
What's your favorite horror story and why?
"Once again, an impossible question for a cat like me who owns more horror flicks than the law allows! As far as books go, I'm re-reading the entire H.P. Lovecraft collection right now, so I'm all for his noxious tales of shadowy, crawling, tentacle-toting chaos hordes and cosmic, otherworldly terrors!"