Few supergroups transcend from that feeling of being a vanity project, I can name just two who have started out as a supergroup and moved on to different things. One is Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds; the other is this band - Down. From their beginnings with 'NOLA' (cleverly linked here), the band have had something of a strange and charmed life in a way. As outlined in my previous blog, this project started due to the members shared loved of heavy sludge metal and wanting to make an album in the style of Black Sabbath, St. Vitus and other bands of that ilk. Over the years band members have left (most recently Kirk Windstein), but the group has kept on going. It is the main project which Phil Anselmo and Pepper Keenan are involved in these days, so it has went from side project to main band in some regards. When the first ep of the IV series was released, there was word that the band were going to be releasing four EP's in quick succession, which would represent the band's fourth album in total. This has since been denied by the band, but who knows what is going on there. So, this is the first released without Windstein's involvement as he has been replaced by Bobby Landgraf, leaving only Anselmo, Keenan and drummer Jimmy Bower as the original members. Let’s see how this one stands up under the microscope. Also on a quick note, even though this is longer than certain albums I have reviewed recently due to the fact the band have named it an EP, it will be marked as an EP.
Starting with "Steeple" the band sound as strong as ever, even after all the personnel change. With a groove as thick as a few 2 by 4's that are used in a wrestling match, the band do not go out with a full frantic explosion; they use a slow burning riff which takes its time to combust, it just ignites with the full fury that you would expect. If I am honest, it is one of the heavier songs that Down have released. "We Knew Him Well" is the second track on offer here, it keeps up the heavy work much like "Bury Me In Smoke" off NOLA. Whilst it does not have that same classic vibe that "Bury Me.." has, it does have a great massive hook in the middle which get the groove going. The only thing with it is that it is just a little too repetitive, there is only one direction and it does not feel as good as anything off Part 1 (or the rest of this EP). "Hogshead/Dogshead" is the third track from this EP; it is another massive riff that can tower over many bands. The band are sounding tight and fluid at this juncture, but this is not as jaw dropping as what the band have been able to release before; it feels too familiar to material on other albums (much like "We Knew Him Well") and as much as it pains me to say this, the song sounds old already. That said it is better than "We Knew Him Well".
Now "Conjure" is a lot better, when I say a lot better I mean by Jesus titty Christ all mother fucking might it is better. This is Doom/Sludge nirvana; it is brutally heavy, full of venom towards everything and everyone and it takes this EP by the balls and it starts to stand to attention. This is the best thing they have made since anything off 'Down II', it is that damn good. "Sufferer's Years" is the fifth track off this release and once again, it is an improvement on the beginning of the EP. It is not the best song on here, but it sounds majestic and the section towards the end sound evil. Ending the EP is "Bacchanalia" which is just shy of nine minutes; it fades in like records of old; sounding as if you have just appeared whilst the band is in the middle of a jam. The guitar tone on here is slightly different, a bit less fuzzy around the edges; but this makes it sound harsher when compared with the traditional Down sound. Also at the end, you have the traditional stoner acoustic number to guide the album to a halt. It is a great ending and might even be a possible direction for subsequent releases?
This EP is literally a record of two halves; "We Knew Him Well" & "Hogshead/Dogshead" are not up to scratch, they are below their own lofty standards and whilst not detrimental to the overall feel of the EP, it can be seen as padding the release just to get it out. Filler is not something you usually associate with Down, so it is a first in that regard. With that being said, a filler song from Down can still be a very good song - this is true of "Hogshead/Dogshead" at least. At the end of the day, this is just wetting the appetite again; we are just waiting for an album to be released. To be honest I can see the next album being a compilation of all the songs from the EP's, but we can do is hope they release another classic. Till then, this will have to tide us over.
4 out of five - This is really good
Top track - Conjure