Listening to this album was a nice reminder as to how old I am. I bought the first Down album, “NOLA”, on the first day it came out, when I was a teenager (basically off of the strength of being a Pantera fan). Almost 20 years later, NOLA still holds up as well as it did back then, and is still considered the best album in their catalog. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Down IV Part 1, so I was somewhat interested to hear how Part 2 would sound, especially with the departure of longtime guitarist and songwriter Kirk Windstein.
Well, I can unequivocally state that this is not only better than Part 1, but is arguably the best Down album since Down II. Clocking in at approximately 30 minutes, every one of the six tracks is consistently good, and serves the EP format well by containing no filler. It opens with “Steeple”, which has a nice doomy intro that picks up fast. The next track, “We Wish Him Well”, has a swampy riff that permeates throughout, and has some memorable lyrics (“distrust the honest, say enough to blind / Genius eccentric, sympa-fuckin-thetic…).
The third song, Hogshead/Dogshead, has that bluesy C.O.C. flavor that Pepper Keenan is known for. The chorus riffs are great, with a nice overdubbing on top of the main one. Conjure is probably my favorite track, with an old school Black Sabbath sound. Phil Anselmo even channels his inner Ozzy for this one, with Aleister Crowley influenced lyrics and Ozzy’s Satanic styled delivery.
Sufferer’s Years seriously rips, and is certainly the fastest track. When Phil yells “One two, fuck you” near the end, it brang back memories of his Superjoint Ritual songs where he’d yell variations of that. It may be high tempo, but it is as soulful and southern as anything else that Down has done.
The last track, Bacchanalia, has a long fade-in and fade-out, and is the requisite “proggy song” where they incorporate clean guitar playing, tempo and key shifts, and other surprises. It works well in the context of everything, and is a nice closer to a consistently good album.
The production, helmed by Michael Thompson and assisted by Anselmo, is good, with enough of that raw reverb to give it soul, but enough proper mixing and mastering to give it clarity and focus. Anselmo has some great lyrics on here, and his voice sounds great, putting to rest the naysayers who think his voice isn’t what it used to be. Keenan’s leads are all over on here, and are as sharp as ever. Windstein’s replacement, Bobby Landgraf, has his tone dialed in perfectly, and nails the sound that Down is known for. Patrick Bruders holds down the low end as usual, and Jimmy Bower continues his reign as one of metal’s most underrated drummers, with his signature drum fills and flourishes. All in all, this is another great album from Down, and is an excellent addition to any longtime fan’s collection.