Down: Down IV-Part II review

The patron saints- or is it sinners- of New Orleans sludge metal are back. Down have returned with their most epic and diversified album to date, Down IV-Part II, and it is a blackened firestorm of carnivorous riffs, massive bottom end and descending harmonies that is delivered with unwavering conviction and unapologetic resolve.

The new album, Down IV-Part II is the much anticipated sequal to 2012’s Down IV-Part I. It is also a much heavier album, built around intentionally heavier riffs. Think Black Sabbath’s Master Of Reality or Vol. 4 as apposed to Paranoid or Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.

In keeping with the overall darker tone, the cover showcases a somewhat blurred, darkened castle that harkens back to the first Black Sabbath album. It is out now via the band’s own Down Records, in conjunction with ADA Music. The album was tracked and produced by Michael Thompson and the band at singer Phillip Anselmo’s Nod Feratu’s Lair home studios.

The new album also marks the first time that the band have entered the recording studio without founding members bassist Rex Brown and guitarist Kirk Windstein who were replaced by long time Down family members Pat Bruders on bass and one time guitar tech Bobby Landgraf on guitar respectively.

Any worries or reservations diehard fans may have about the changes can be laid to rest as the new recruits do a fine job and pay their predecessors’ legacies the respect they so richly deserve. Not to mention the fact that we got a great new band- Kill Devil Hill out of the deal and new music from Crowbar.

The opening notes of “Steeple” create a dissonant wall of sound similar to the first two songs on the debut Black Sabbath album before transforming into a propulsive metallic rager. At the same time, lead single and video “We Knew Him Well” is a throwback to the brutal assault of their epic debut NOLA combined with the aesthetic heaviness of Pantera’s landmark albums Cowboys From Hell and Vulgar Display Of Power.

By way of comparison, the gargantuan riffs and repugnant lyrical dischord of tracks like “Hogshead/Dogshead” and “Sufferer’s Years” could have been on almost anything in the Corrosion Of Conformity back catalog, the latter of the two dealing with the time of year when frontman Phil Anselmo lost Dimebag Darrell to senseless violence and his fiancee’s Mother to cancer.

From Anselmo’s Ozzy-esque vocal delivery and Pepper’s Tony Iommi tinged riffs, to the galloping basslines that would make Geezer Butler proud and metronomic Bill Ward styled drumming of Jimmy Bower, “Conjure” is an eight-and-a-half minute colosuss that worships heavily at the altar of Black Sabbath and winds up being one of the albums true highlights.

Never content to rest on their laurels and driven by the desire to try and outdo themselves “Bacchanalia” is a sprawling nine-minute monstrosity that mixes equal elements of the collective member’s other bands and pays homage to the Lord of wine, drink and festivities Bacchas. It’s haunting acoustic ending will send shivers Down your spine.

Here’s the bottom line- whether you were a previous fan of Down or not, with members of Pantera, C.O.C. and Eyehategod, how could you possibly go wrong here?

A true metal must have.

Rating: 9/10

-Eric Hunker