THE MUSIC - Down IV Part 1 - The Purple EP
(Hops' take) Down IV Part 1 - The Purple EP is the first release of four by the band, with the next three due before the end of 2013. It marks the first studio release by the band since 2007's Over the Under, a release that has some memorable tracks and is great in its own right, but ultimately fails to stand up to its predecessors. After a long hiatus (with a lackluster live release thrown in there), Down fans (aka me) were hungry for some new material. The Purple EP is a solid first release of four, and if it is any indication of what's to come, we're in for a great ride over the course of the next year.
After all of that buildup, the natural progression would be to lead into all of the things that are awesome about the album. Well FUCK THAT, I write the reviews here. There's but one lowlight on the album, and it's something that has plagued each release following NOLA - the opening track. "Levitation" opens up promisingly enough, with a slow, heavy riff that fades in and gets your head banging. It goes on to do some unique things and does kind of set the tone for the album (the Black Sabbath influences these gents were raised on literally drip from the album - your hands get all sticky and everything). But once you've heard the rest of the songs, it becomes rather forgettable, and upon future listens you find yourself wanting to just get past it so you can get to the really good tracks. It's kind of like the first time you experience foreplay, you think "THIS IS AWESOME HOLY SHIT SEX" and probably prematurely express your excitement, but once you find out what comes after, and you realize that you're going to have to put up with that bullshit every time you want the end product… yeah, you get what I mean. My analogy is spot-on and you know it. As said, Down has historically had subpar opening tracks apart from "Temptation's Wings", which won the Academy Award for Best Opening Track Ever, so while I'm not surprised, I'm still kind of disappointed.
Now, with that out of the way… THIS IS AWESOME HOLY SHIT SEX. "Levitation" is a good track, but by far the standout track on this album is "Witchtripper". This release could be "Witchtripper" six times in a row, with a kick to the crotch between each track, and I'd still find a way to fuck it - WITHOUT FOREPLAY. I love the song title, the song structure, every riff, the lyrics, the vocals, and any other music term that can be associated with this delicious track. Every time I've spun the disc (too many to count) I turn the volume up as far as whatever device I'm listening to will allow. It makes my truck sound like a subwoofer thrown inside of an aluminum garbage can (just like the snare sound on St. Anger) but I couldn't care less. Best track on the album by far.
Each of the following tracks continue this trend, each containing as much groove and heavy riffs as one can handle. They're not as good as "Witchtripper", but each brings the pain in its own special way, and "Misfortune Teller" wraps the EP up nicely and on a high note. To paraphrase a good friend of mine (who may or may not be the guitarist for Mechanization), "It sounds exactly like what you'd expect to hear recorded by these guys after living in a barn for a while". Well said, guy-that's-not-in-Mechanization.
I want to go out of my way (it took a lot of effort to type this extra sentence) to applaud Phil's effort here. Yes, I am an unabashed Phil Anselmo fanboy, but here he sounds the best he has on any Down release after NOLA. No, we'll never get 1995 Phil back, but this is the next best thing. Either by production or as a result of what was going on in his life in 2007, his performance on Over the Under felt a little weak. I saw them live in 2008 and he sounded like himself again, but admittedly I was a little worried about what the last 4 years and quitting hard drugs would do to his body, and potentially, his voice. He has bitchslapped my fears and my face by performing at a level far beyond my expectations, and I couldn't be happier.
If you're a Down fan you should have this in your hands by now (assuming you've taken some time off from jackin' it) and should have become very familiar with it, so most of this should be old news. If not, stop reading this and go buy it, and spin it until the disc shatters and your ears bleed. It's that good.
(Mosh's take) So, I was going to start this off with a little mini review of Down III - Over the Under, but I realized that would be stupid, and I would have just filled space with me bitching about what I found lacking on the album. Instead, I will briefly sum up why Down IV is very much a return to Down’s previous level of badassitude. It’s hard to pinpoint why this EP is so awesome, but it probably has something to do with the fact that first and foremost, Phil has his voice back. The harmonies reverberate on many levels from track to track, really providing the backbone of this album. But a backbone is only as good as the body it supports. The dark, swampy riffs of this album are the synapses firing through some reanimated corpse deep in the Louisiana swamps. The groovy, shifting, drums are the heartbeat of the sacrificial lamb as it is slaughtered to the dark, ancient gods. The Purple EP oozes equal parts metal and voodoo. The only problem that I have with Down IV is that it is an EP. Yes, I know that this is only part one, but I’m still left wanting more. That, however, is a good sign. If the other parts of Down IV are as good as part one, then this is one spell that will last a while.
THE BEER - STONE 16TH ANNIVERSARY IPA
You know I like Stone brewery. No anecdote needed.
I'm always on the lookout for new beer, and since Louisiana hates craft beer like a lesbian hates dongs, sadly one of the more decent places around here to get beer is Whole Foods. While navigating the maze of hippies and hipsters, I came across Stone's 16th anniversary IPA. Blah blah blah I love hops blah blah blah IPAs rule etc etc. So I picked it up. Interestingly, it's brewed with some lemon and is close, but not quite, a rye IPA. I admittedly haven't had too much experience with rye IPAs, but have enjoyed the one or two I've had, so this intrigue led to a purchase.
I was actually very disappointed by this brew. Typically Stone can do no wrong, but the main problem I have with this beer is that for the price, and being a special release, I expected to get something unique from it. Ultimately all I got was a Stone Double IPA. There's not really anything wrong with that, because I am a fan of Stone, but I wanted more out of this beer. It, unlike Down, did not deliver.
If you want to try out a new IPA, then give it a shot, but if you're already familiar with Stone's releases, just stick with their normal IPA release or Ruination. This doesn't have much new to offer. - Hops