From Natalie Zed
DOWN IV, Part I is Down's first new material in five years. This six-song EP is the first of four that the band plan to release over the next year, and features the work of new addition to the lineup Pat Brudners (Crowbar) on bass, who joins the all-star cast of vocalist Phil Anselmo (Pantera), lead guitarist Pepper Keenan (Corrosion of Confirmity), guitarist Kirk Windstein (Crowbar), and drummer Jimmy Bower (Eyehategod). This EP was entirely self-produced and recorded at Anselmo's home studio, Nosferatu's Lair.
DOWN IV first and foremost, sounds like Down: sludgy and doomy, dripping sweat and tar, everything rendered on a grand scale, anchored by Anselmo's trademark impudent bark. Windstein and Keenan have a fantastic chemistry on guitars. These two excellent musicians don't sound like they are “duelling” or fighting for supremacy; it is much more like each has their grip on the opposite end of a massive saw blade, and together they muscle through each song, cutting it in half.
In terms of production, really get the sense that this is a well-executed home-studio recording. DOWN IV is rawer than either of their last two releases, but also not sloppy or muddy for the sake of it. It has a throating, smeary quality that keeps the sound authentic, just enough fuzz and grit to make the riffs more toothsome and the drumming sharper. It comes across like they didn't want to risk losing any natural texture to the polish of overworked studio production, to celebrate the smoke and feedback.
The structure of this record has a profound impact on the listening experience. Rather than a huge slab of a record that many fans are used to, DOWN IV (and the other forthcoming three albums) offer lighter fare, a tasting menu, each six-song unit offering a taste of a different aspect of Down's sound. The EP structure works extremely well for the heavy-but-muscular sound that they are working with here, and really lets the listener dig into the tactile, physical qualities of the songwriting.
“Witchtripper” is the first single from the album, and is certainly one of the catchier numbers on DOWN IV, but it's the nine-minute monolith of “Misfortune Teller” that really steals the show with its urgent pace, inexorable slow burn and palpable weightiness. This is a song that the listener feels they are carrying, like a physical weight, the slow throb of the rhythm pressing them forward as the tempo ebbs and flows.
While the sound of this record is classic Down, delivered without experimentation or flourish, the form of the album is where the band allow themselves freedom to explore, and very successfully. The EP is at once extremely satisfying, but also leaves the listener hungry and wanting more – a fine balance.
(released September 18, 2012 on Down Records)