Down’s latest release Over the Under is classic heavy metal poundage flagged by Southern stoner metal trimmings reflective of Chris Cornell and brooding guitar trails with the wattage of vintage Zach Wilde. Hell hath no fury like Down with these songs. The transitional phrases bolster electrical raises by guitarists Pepper Keenan (of Corrosion of Conformity fame) and Kirk Windstein (of Crowbar) supporting the iron weights of vocalist Philip Anselmo (of Pantera). The stealth drumming of Jimmy Bower (of Crowbar) stays focused and the bass pulls of Rex Brown (of Pantera) increase the mallet-sized thugs pumping through the songs. This is Down’s third full-length album. What has become a side project for these musicians is a means for them to pay homage to their heavy metal influences and post-hardcore’s majesty with smoking guitar cuts, a sepulchral resonance in the vocal registers, and haunting echoes ruling the instrument keys.
The songs have an overall spooky, formidable tone and tomblike mists that slip subliminally into the listener’s ear. Produced by Warren Riker, who also produced the band’s second release, Down II: A Bustle in Your Hedgerow..., the band went back to their roots both in their music and their personal lives. Based in New Orleans, Louisiana, the band was profoundly affected by the victims of Hurricane Katrina and got the impetus for the album from witnessing the hardships that these folks had to overcome. Down’s lyrics are portraits of human nature. The words are poetically versed as they deal with survival issues and the temptation to turn to corruption when the human spirit is most desperate and weak. The lead track, “Three Sons and One Star” hits that mark with phrases like “The old dog has to learn a new trick and more / Or the next trick will be on him / I’ve drank the oceans dry / I’ve stopped the time / Embraced the riddle of regret again and again.” The words and music leave a distinct impression on the listener. It chronicles where mankind has failed and the daunting task of having to retrace those steps and re-do them to preserve man’s survival.
It’s a lyrical theme that has been done numerous times not only on Down’s previous albums but also from the bands that the individual members additionally perform in and those bands that Down play alongside. The songs' uniqueness is that they have a present-day relevance. Tracks like “Nothing in Return (Walk Away)” and “His Majesty the Desert” have mystical sailing swirls creating gothic, tomblike atmospherics, while “Never Try” has a Southern blues intonation in its metal rock. Numbers like “The Path” and “Mourn” rankle a staunch power metal tunage that tests the strength of Anselmo’s vocals as he barrels through the stern rhythmic beats and mews of turbine groaning guitar lines. Down’s heavy metal framework has vast similarities to other bands of their ilk but what keeps Down distinct is that the band makes songs which inherently speak of society’s destitute, those who are less privileged and stuck in a rut. The band produces a sound that is familiar to metal’s strengths where concentration is on giving the powerless ammunition.
Down’s latest release encompasses everything fans praise about these musicians and about the South’s influence on metal rock. The atmospherics are tense and hell-raising as well as hardening, melancholic and introspective. It’s been five years since Down released an album, but when they come together, it seems like there was never a lapse in time between their releases. Down is a band that does not feel like they have to experiment in their music to impress audiences. Their only standard is to form music that they enjoy playing and that alone makes an impression on audiences.