I go into Down a good few years back when II was released. I was already heavily into Pantera and was really developing my appreciation of earlier and heavier Metal - such as Sabbath, Zeppelin, Kyuss and whatever Wino stuff I could find (Spirit Caravan at the time). Down blew me away. Their style obviously owes a lot to the Sabbath sound, amongst others, but there is no denying that Down imprinted their own impressive style upon the doomy template. Not too long ago Down came over here on a UK tour and the London show was a near religious experience. Needless to say, I was looking forward to this release...
So why then, does a Down album get four stars and not a 5 star 'OMGZ!!!!!' worship session. Simply, this is a good album. Very good. But this is Down and the album does not grab you as immediately as it should. I don't think this is because Down are no longer a special cult band. It's simply that the riffs are not there as much. Three Suns and One Star is a solid opener but it's no Temptation's Wings and still sits behind Lysergic Funeral Procession. There are no Lifers, no Losing Alls and No Ghosts Along the Mississippis.
I believe that Down managed to side-step the 'difficult second album' by making it a massive jam session (possibly why another review described it as overlong). The first album was an underground side-project and the stuff of legends. The second album was awesomely put together and really captured that 'stoner' feel. This third effort, to me, just seems lacking a little in comparison.
Regardless, it is Down doing Down. It is heavy (but not that heavy), it has some very nice lead work and Phil does sound really strong again (and looks well in the inlay, hopefully he's clean again...) Some of the songs are great, On March the Saints and Beneath the Tides impressing me especially at the mo as well as the raucous Pillamyd (best song? probably). I have heard this album's more of a grower, in which case it is far too early to review. However, first impressions, it's a little underwhelming.