Review Summary: Re-submitted review after the Sputnik Hack on 3/01/09. This is a fantastic album, and highly Soulful.
Phil Anselmo was not the most popular of people before this record came out. From his drug-induced ramblings, and his chest-punching hostility, the guy’s “Stronger than all” shtick was getting very old. After the demise of the beloved Pantera, Anselmo started the sub-par Superjoint Ritual which did nothing to convince the long-time listeners. As a matter of fact, the reverse happened. SJR came off as forced, fake, and generic (all things Anselmo stood against). Come December 8, 2004. Dimebag Darrell was taken from us in such a brutal way, it knocked the Metal Music world back a bunch of steps. After the well-publicized feud between Anselmo and the Abbott Clan (as well as Dimebag’s obnoxious girlfriend, Rita Haney), it was announced that Anselmo was completely blacklisted from attending both the Wake and Funeral for Darrell. As a fan, this was very upsetting. After an online letter from Anselmo and an apology via YouTube, all we heard from the guy was silence. Then in 2005, Hurricane Katrina left the city of New Orleans in the dust. Now if you know about Down, you must know the members are all from there (except for Rex). Even in 2005, I just knew these events over the past few years in Anselmo’s life were going to be the catalyst for the next Down record. Come September 24, 2007 when the album was finally released, and I was totally on the money.
I couldn’t even begin to explain to you the impact this album has had on me. I remember previewing some of the tracks on Down’s Myspace thinking “My God, where are they going with this?” But as with all things near and dear to everybody on this planet, the true appreciation comes with time, and respect. Did I think this was Down’s worst effort at first? Without question, a solid "yes" That’s certainly not to say it’s a let-down. In reality, this record demands the attention from its listeners, as everybody knows this album had much to say. Before this review goes on any further, I’d like to direct you to a link of the lyrics for this record (http://www.darklyrics.com/lyrics/down/overtheunder.html). These lyrics are absolutely essential to the listening experience, and also add a new element to the overall heaviness within.
From the get-go, Over The Under
is a highly emotional, heavy record. Phil Anselmo has never been this vulnerable on record, nor has he ever allowed himself to be. The guitars have such a soul to them, and it is almost as if Pepper Keenan and Kirk Windstein are displaying their anger more so than they would in both Corrosion and Crowbar. Not to mention they saved their best riffs for this as well. It’s very hard to explain, but you can almost feel
their anger. Being that the members of Down all shared this heartbreak over the past 4 years, the unity on this album is also very apparent. In short: Down as a band just unleashed their fury.
As soon as the album starts, it’s almost as if it begs you to play it all the way through to let go of the burdens this album carries upon itself. That may sound strange, but the opener “Three Suns and One Star” just immediately goes for the jugular. A good analogy would be taking your pet to the Veterinarian in a cage and once you get there, the pet bolts out of the cage to freedom. This record demands the utmost attention from its audience, warts and all. After the thunderous, Kyuss-inspired opener, “The Path” abruptly starts with a catchy riff from either Pepper Keenan or Kirk Windstein. One of the heaviest songs by far on the record, it’s certainly no secret that Down adores Black Sabbath and the doom-laden rhythms within. Also of notable mention is Anselmo’s lyrics (Not invited/to cry out loud/I’m a brother/ Stone cold truth
). It’s very refreshing to hear Anslemo write about other topics besides shooting up, and the fakeness around him. Instead, we get a bruised, broken man that only wants his dear family back.
One of the more popular songs on the record, “N.O.D.” could very well be the heaviest, funkiest stuff Down ever laid to tape. Anslemo takes a back seat for the music itself. As much as I hate to say it, there are some heavy-as-hell breakdowns on this track, and it makes you want to destroy things much like how “I’m Broken” was from the classic Far Beyond Driven
record. While the album itself may take more than a couple listens to really enjoy, N.O.D. is almost guaranteed to be liked instantly. Another beautiful tune entitled “I Scream” is the perfect example of how really vulnerable Anselmo can get on the album. Speaking obviously about the fall-out with the Abbotts, Phil really says some touching things about them, and I don’t want to ruin the surprise for you, as I want it to move you on your own terms.
Most likely the best song on the album, “On March the Saints” is an absolute bruiser. The song, to me, always reminded me of heavy waves crashing down. Perhaps it was Down’s plan all along to make such a riff since the song is about the Hurricane Katrina devastation. Either or, the song clicks, and its heaviness is justified thoroughly through the touchy subject matter. Almost a call to arms within the city of New Orleans, this song is instantly likeable much like how N.O.D. is. To tell you the truth, if you were to sample this album, I’d personally say go to this one, as it displays the heaviness, and melody the album carries. It sounds to me that Down created a legit from of “Soul Metal”.
Usually, when people hear the next track “Never Try”, they just don’t know what to think of it. This track was one of the first I heard before the album was released, and was highly skeptical. By far the softest song on here, it’s very reminiscent of early Stevie Ray Vaughn heavy blues. Usually, a track like this wouldn’t fly to the casual metal head, but it clicks. As if you did not know, “Mourn” is obviously about the mourning of..well, you know who. This time the lyrics deal with Anselmo sitting in the hotel room in Texas, waiting for the call to go to the service of Dime. One of the better lyrical and vocal performances on the album, Anselmo makes the skin crawl with how vivid he makes his surroundings seem. If in the right mind-frame, Mourn will hit you more than you would like it to.
After seven songs, there must be some form of filler, or slowing down. Truthfully, “Beneath the Tides” is just that, except I would call it a breather more than a filler track. Another song dealing with the aftermath of the hurricane, it’s a very mellow tune, almost melancholy. While it certainly is not nearly as strong as the previous songs, the song offers to ease the tension and blunt force the album brings. However, “His Majesty Thy Desert” is merely just a prelude to “Pillamyd”, so that couldn’t really be considered filler so much, either. Pillamyd is another bruiser, much like N.O.D. Another song that reaches for the throat, Pillamyd could have easily fit on Down’s debut. In other words: A Down classic.
“In The Thrall of it All” is my personal favorite off the LP. While not as strong musically as some of the others, it just hits close to home with its broad lyrics any blue-collar man could relate to. Personally speaking, since this album came at a dark time for me, I flocked to this song right away, and maybe my instant appreciation for this tune made me love this album in a completely different way. Either or, this is another recommended track off the album (as if there already weren’t enough of them to begin with). “Nothing in Return (Walk Away)” is easily the most experimental track, with the beginning sounding much like a classic Pink Floyd atmospheric starter. Another song that deals with the fall-out, Anselmo really
opens up the soul on this one. It’s hard to put into words, but needless to say if you’re even a remote fan of Down, this will move you. A very classy way to end an epic album, it leaves you fulfilled and proud to have experienced it.
If anybody has seen Down on their latest tour for the album, you notice right away how clean and fit one Phil Anselmo has become. Perhaps because of the death of his dear friend and former band mate has whipped him into becoming sober, you sense a new, genuine beginning for the guy. Or, perhaps this album has all of the cobwebs and torment the band had to rid themselves of and they have a sense of refreshment. Whatever the case may be, Over The Under
succeeds in ridding itself of all of the bad press, and very public bitterness they have all sustained. For us listeners, this is a win-win situation, no matter the heartbreaking consequences that led to it.