"I do one thing/I do it well," Philip Anselmo hoarsely screams to start the "Symptom of the Universe"-inspired "The Man That Follows Hell," but the fact is he's sorely mistaken on one count. The erstwhile Pantera prowler does a heck of a lot more than only one thing, as evidenced by his numerous side projects, of which Down is the most prominent. As for doing it well -- not to say that the long-awaited sophomore disc is a waste of time, but Down II lacks the precision punch of NOLA. Perhaps that's the fault of the debut, which saw the supergroup supersede even the lofty expectations brought about by the pedigree, but even on its own, the second outing suffers from way too much Black Sabbath meets Black Oak (and not nearly enough Black Flag), which wouldn't in and of itself be a bad thing necessarily, except for the one-dimensional portrayal of said influences. The blame, oddly enough, doesn't belong to Anselmo. Even though the mouthpiece is the most prominent, his pipes generally show the range that has allowed the New Orleans native to reach demigod status among metal aficionados, gutturally blasting out tortured-soul lyrics that all seem to address his state of mind and body (legend has it the disc was recorded in a rural Louisiana swamp under the influence of quite a few narcotics). Pepper Keenan's shtick is a holdover from the last couple of Corrosion of Conformity discs, and except for the fact that Anselmo is a much better singer than Keenan and the material is far darker than he usually takes his main project lyrically, much of Down II could have appeared on a new Corrosion of Conformity album and few would have blinked an eye. Which means his contribution to the music is great, but a push in terms of the quality of said roughage. However, the rhythm section of Pantera bass-mate Rex Brown (who replaced Todd Strange for this album) and Jim Bower is the main failing. The thing that made Sabbath and the '70s Southern rock legends great was having prominent rhythm sections that were unique and able to stand on their own. These two are content to provide only the basic, minimal amount of contributions, and merely providing a solid backbeat is not enough to lift the disc from the doldrums. A few tracks stand out, like the almost psychedelic "Beautifully Depressed," which revels in its contradiction, and the closing "Landing on the Mountains of Meggido," a nearly eight-minute epic which is reminiscent Led Zeppelin if they were truly evil and didn't just play the part on TV. But too much of Down II is stuck in somewhat-speedier-than-stoner rock mid-tempos that all run together to form an album that doesn't go nowhere fast or somewhere slow, but just meanders without really ever starting the journey.
Down II (A Bustle in Your Hedgerow)
Down II (A Bustle in Your Hedgerow) Review
by Brian O'Neill