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Solid. But this is Down! Who wants solid?
on 2 October 2012
Enough reviews have already explained the set up for this release - Down have decided to complete four EPs instead of an album. This is the first instalment and it offers little in surprises. It's heavy US metal informed by Sabbath and the NOLA-stylings of the musician's other bands and of Down's history. It's a good release but it doesn't deserve too much hype or praise. Once again, I am offering an alternative view amidst the praise. Let me explain...
Album number III was a bit of a drop in quality. When I saw Down (I think, at High Voltage) he introduced Over the Under as 'the album no one likes'. I stated my reasons for believing it was a drop in my review on here so have a look if you want the full story. It doesn't matter, it is generally admitted that Down's last album, as solid as it was, was not as good as their previous work. (In fact, the only album that is considered an indisputable classic is the first (some consider the second album bloated, too long - I'm not so sure myself, though I understand the view)). Anyway, Down had regrouped after the third album and organised their writings into four EPs.
This first was apparently meant to see Down returning to their first album. There had been the mentioning of Sabbath in interviews, along with Witchfinder General and Trouble. Good references, promising stuff. Then you have the fact that Phil had been hanging around with Witchcraft on tour (as seen on the Down DVD) and referencing to classic sounds. Then the footage came out of Down jamming Breaking the Law on stage. In my head, I have this NWOBHM/Doom infusion mixing with Down's own style. Down producing a slow behemoth of an EP. It's not. It's Down being typically Down. No more, no less.
Which is fine. But who wants fine? This is the band whose first album was talked about as a cult classic. This was the definition of a super-group. They shouldn't be playing good metal it should be (excuse the campness) super. Levitation starts with a good build up but then plods into a strong if unremarkable riff; Phil sings in a slightly restrained style. The song works through and finishes. There's no major build up. No real crescendo and no killer riff. In fact, the styling is fairly consistent feature of the release. Witchtripper is catchy enough but the riff, again, is simply fine. Open Coffins is okay but the outro doesn't really go anywhere - it almost feels unfinished. The Curse is a Lie is better starting with a heavier style in the guitar, possibly warranting the St Vitus name-drop that also occurred in interviews. The Curse is a Lie is a genuinely good song but still can't compete with the best of the first album. The other great song on this EP is the closer Misfortune Teller which comes in with the sort of riff you'd hope for on a Down release.
I am not trying to say this EP is poor. Perhaps I should have measured my expectations more. However, if the band are going to invoke imaginings of pure doom and metal then I am allowed to be a tad underwhelmed with what is, ultimately, 'just another release'.
To be honest, I preferred the Corrosion of Conformity release this year by a notable degree. Far more (notable) riffs than here and nicely varied. I can't shake the feeling that by the end of the releases we will probably have two hours of Down music that will be hit by half moments that are unremarkable and half moments that are excellent. Maybe they should have collected their work into one one-hour classic, like NOLA was. I hope the future releases are good enough to have my doubts truly blown out the water. Time will tell...