Review Summary: Doomy, sludgy, depressing metal from a well-established sludge metal outfit. What more could you ask for?
Sludge metal is definitely not a genre for the faint of heart. It’s dark, depressing, and occasionally disturbing. But with time, it has become much harder to find new sludge metal that really has a “wow” effect on the listener. That initial sort of shock value and atmosphere isn’t as common as it used to be. But with part two of their EP series, New Orleans veterans Down showcase an excellent offering of doomy, sludgy metal that brings out one of the band’s best offerings since their debut.
As aforementioned, atmosphere is an essential part of sludge, stoner, and doom metal, and Down has no difficulty incorporating it into this EP. The guitars are especially essential in this particular niche, with a lot of focus leaning towards making the riffs as heavy and groovy as possible. The music is also less overproduced than previous albums, helping to mold into a rawer, unpolished sound, which is certainly a plus in a sludge metal band.
Solos and leads are rampant throughout the record, which helps to compliment the crushing, doomy riffs coming from the rhythm section. Phil’s singing is a major highlight on this album as well, because although he lacks the range he once had, his vocals have become noticeably gruffer and lower with age, which helps to add on to the under produced vibe coming off from the EP. The band also experiments with track lengths and runtime, ranging from shorter songs such as “We Knew Him Well…..” and “Hogshead/Dogshead”, to mammoths such as “Conjure” and closing track “Bacchanalia”. This showcases the band’s ability to switch between such drastic song lengths, and still keep the music stable and consistent.
There is not a boring moment to be found on this album. No matter how simplistic the music becomes or how long the songs run for, the band somehow finds a way to ensnare you within their realm of slow, depressing sludge metal, and refuses to let you go until all eight minutes and fifty five seconds of “Bacchanalia” is finished.
So, if this album is so amazing, with its atmosphere and riffage and doom and whatnot, why only four stars? Well, the reason is because the band doesn’t really do anything necessarily innovative or original on this EP. Pretty much anything that Down’s done on the two Down IV EPs can be found on Witchfinder General and Pentagram records produced years before Down even released their debut. And in spite of it’s nearly thirty-seven minute runtime, there are only six tracks on the entire EP, leaving the listener yearning for more by the end of the record. To the band’s credit, however, it was a good call to not combine this album and “Down IV-Part I”, because there would have been some glaring inconsistencies on a merged LP.
Overall, Down delivers a somewhat flawed but still solid piece of sludge metal with “Down IV-Part II”, and fans should definitely be heavily anticipating the next step forward that these guys will inevitably make with the rest of Down IV.