Down II: A Bustle in Your Hedgerow



by sickjesus USER (8 Reviews)
September 5th, 2006 | 75 replies

Release Date: 2002 | Tracklist

Down (2002):
Phil Anselmo – Vocals
Pepper Keenan – Guitar
Kirk Windstein – Guitar
Rex Brown – Bass
Jimmy Bower – Drums

Following on from the unexpected worldwide success of their 1995 debut ‘NOLA’, Down reconvened seven years later, in an isolated recording studio in the swamps of Louisiana, to lay down their sophomore effort, ‘Down II: A Bustle in Your Hedgerow’. The band barricaded themselves in the studio with only their instruments and, in the words of bassist Rex, ’50 crates of Ramen Noodle and $7000 worth of liquor’. Presumably they also had some herbal refreshment, given that ‘NOLA’ contained a song called ‘Hail The Leaf’. I’m not advocating drug use, but you’ll probably be best off listening to ‘Down II’ in the company of Mary Jane. Partly because it is, in many ways, a quintessential stoner album; mainly, however, because you’ll have to be in an altered state of mind to be able to overlook how disappointing this record is compared to the unimpeachable ‘NOLA’.

The grinding intro riff to ‘Lysergik Funeral Procession’ kicks things off in decent fashion, briefly creating an interesting, doomy ambience. However, it’s soon evident that this isn’t the same Down who created ‘NOLA’. The pervading mood as ‘Lysergik’ unfolds is much darker, but this darkness is more akin to that of a rainy October morning than the darkness of a lacerated, putrefying soul. It lacks any real punch and doesn’t grab the listener’s attention like it should. At just over three minutes in length, the song is over as quickly as it started. Its mediocrity as an opener is a worrying sign of things to come.

Lyrically, the album is also much more downbeat, which only adds to the innately depressing experience of listening to ‘II’. Anselmo’s widely acknowledged battle with heroin forms the lyrical basis of ‘Learn from This Mistake’, a gripping, introspective number that would be the undisputed highlight of the album…if it was only a few minutes shorter. Instead, it trudges on seemingly endlessly, with a sudden explosion of heavy-for-heavy’s-sake riffs and shouting drawing it out to over seven minutes in length. You’ll probably be ready to skip it by then, as these riffs aren’t really that good.

This brings me to the main problem preventing ‘II’ from soaring to anywhere near the stratospheric heights of its predecessor: a severe lack of the consistently fantastic riffage that made ‘NOLA’ tunes like ‘Lifer’ and ‘Bury Me in Smoke’ such essential listening. The riffs here, for the most part, are either incredibly simple two- or three-chord progressions, as exemplified by ‘There’s Something on My Side’, or are too convoluted and messy to make much of any impact, as with the squalling yet impotent riffs of ‘Man That Follows Hell’ and ‘The Seed’. There’s no problem with simplicity, obviously, but some of Keenan and Windstein’s guitar lines are more basic than a little kid’s building blocks. This is mighty disappointing from a band of Down’s proven talent.

The presence of two short, inconsequential interludes – the fuzzy, dubbed-out ‘Doobinterlude’ and the comical messaround ‘Flambeaux’ – does nothing to help matters. They’re throwaway fare and add nothing to the overall experience, where ‘NOLA’’s ‘Pray for the Locust’ was of a similar length but genuinely outstanding.

I know this is shaping up to be a pretty negative review, but this is NOT a bad album. There are frequent flashes of almost-greatness to be found among the distorted sludge and cod-jazz guitar noodling. ‘Ghosts Along the Mississippi’ contains one of the few truly memorable, catchy riffs on the disc, and the chorus manages not to fall completely flat. ‘Learn From This Mistake’, with its haunting guitar line and sober, soul-bearing vocals from Phil, is fantastic for a good four minutes. Why the band saw fit to needlessly draw the song out past its logical conclusion is unclear – if they were trying to make it ‘epic’ then, frankly, they failed.

‘New Orleans is a Dying Whore’ is one of the few straightforward rockers here that actually works – a solid, if unspectacular, four minutes of ol’ fashioned headbanging fun, with Phil’s lyrical venom firing on all cylinders. ‘Stained Glass Cross’ is initially an utterly ridiculous tune, carried by a strange, staccato riff, and is only made more bizarre by the clipped delivery of Anselmo’s verse lines. Give it a few listens, however, and it will worm its way into your consciousness and reveal itself to be one of the unlikely highlights of this set.

‘Landing on the Mountains of Meggido’ should be a big pretentious mess. The ludicrous title, the acoustic guitar flourishes, the smoky female backing vocals, the tympani drums for God’s sake…the band have gone too far with this one, right" Wrong. These elements actually gel quite well, and as an outro to a CD that contains far too many instances of mediocrity, it’s a towering, solid statement for the band to conclude upon.

Had Down released this set of songs first, it would have been a pretty damn fine debut effort, but ultimately it can’t step out from the shadow cast by its effortlessly brilliant predecessor. It contains numerous good moments, and can be commended for the frequent risks that the band take in exploring a broader range of styles, from dusty country to Creole jazz, even when they don’t quite manage to pull it off.

Overall, it isn’t a lack of talent which hamstrings ‘II’, but a lack of quality control. It seems odd that the band’s website boasts that they churned out these fifteen tracks in just under a month. If they had invested some more time to refine and streamline their sonic gumbo, the album could have been something truly special, rather than just another quite good rock album.

PS. If you think I’ve been unfair in judging ‘II’ by the standards set by ‘NOLA’, I can understand your point. Taken on its own, this album is way above average. If I had heard it before I heard ‘NOLA’, I would definitely have rated it higher. As it is, I just can’t write about it without mentioning what I feel is a major point. Feel free to flame/comment as you see fit.

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user ratings (485)

Comments:Add a Comment 
September 5th 2006


Album Rating: 3.5

OK so 3.5 is 'great' by Sputnik's standards. I didn't think it was a great album but i thought 3/5 was maybe too low. This rating also takes into account the little PS point that I made...Thanks for reading and commenting

September 5th 2006


Yeah, I can understand you rating it against NOLA, I would do exactly the same. this album was such a dissapointment after hearing NOLA first, where did the riffs go? It's not particuarly bad, just not great.

Good review.

November 23rd 2006


Album Rating: 2.5

Phil's vocals are getting tired. I can't stand them on Down II. They were easier to handle in Down's debut though. The 2.5/5 rating pretty much goes to Pepper Keenan for his guitar work.

Royd Rage
February 6th 2007


***my weird account still makes me post twice. thank you mods for not deleting my posts -roy***

i don't get you guys.

DOWN II is like NOLA but better. it expands more and holds my interest still. i have been listening to these albums non-stop for the last two weeks. can't wait for DOWN III!This Message Edited On 02.06.07

February 21st 2007


Album Rating: 4.5

I personally love this album.

May 10th 2007


good review, I personnally agree with you, NOLA seems to unfortunately shadow II, although it is a good album you cant help but feel a little disappointed.
Cant wait for Down III!! i have high hopes for it

June 12th 2009


Album Rating: 2.5

Listening to this for the first time in four years I think, and its right now at a 2.5/5 unless something special comes I'm turning it off. Dosen't even touch NOLA. The recording qauilty sucks, Anslemo is pretty shity on this, and the guitars are really really sloppy. Hopefully when I buy Down III today it will be better.

June 13th 2009


Nah its better than that
Might review this

December 12th 2009


Album Rating: 4.0

NOLA is the best but I wouldn't say Down II dissapoinedt me in any way.. it's totally different vibe, there's heaviness like in There's something on my side but also a lot of blues - just listen to Learn from this mistake or Where I'm going, or you can have it both - beautifully depressed for example.

And vocals are simply superb, totally different from NOLA - and I like them more than on Down III. Every time I'm listening to it I feel like I'm somewhere in New Orleans, LA sitting in some dark, muggy club smoking weed, watching some local band - and I think that's what they're trying to achieve on this album. Or maybe I smoke to much hahaha what you guys think?? before you post comment - play Where I'm going and you know what I'm talking about.....

December 13th 2009


Album Rating: 4.5

This album is awesome. Too many good songs to pick favorites. The whole story of how they made the album is interesting in itself, and is probably the reason all the songs have the same vibe to them. I'd say this is a little better than Nola, or equal to it. Nola and this are definitely better than Down III, but that album is great too.

December 13th 2009


Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah, if comparing this album to NOLA, then you would be disappointed with this album. But if you think about it, this came out 6 or 7 years after NOLA? I am sure they wanted to experiment a little bit, and see what else they could come up with. And with that, it became more bluesy and jammy. But this album has many awesome tunes on it when looking at individually. NOLA was a mix of Crowbar riffs and COC's southern rock/metal hybrid with Phil doing the vocals, where II is more of it's own entity.

August 30th 2010


Album Rating: 5.0

Down 2 is a classic example of what a great super group type of album should sound like.I love the diversity and was quite impressed that they would take it to this level.

August 30th 2010


Album Rating: 4.0

not as good as NOLA, but more experimental and still really badass

this has grown on me lately


September 26th 2010


Simply the best Down album

September 27th 2010


This is awesome but Nola pips it.

April 30th 2011


Album Rating: 4.0

Blasting my ear drums with this & nola ehile getting dddddrrrrrrrrrruuuuuuunnnnnnkkkkkk oh yeah!!!!

April 30th 2011


Album Rating: 4.0

Listened to this today, still awesome but not as good as NOLA or Over the Under

April 30th 2011


Album Rating: 4.0

Review is dead-on. I love the delta blues of 'Where I'm Going'. Writing and recording down in the Louisiana swamps had a definite influence on this one. Very cool atmosphere.

April 30th 2011


Album Rating: 4.0

I like this better than III -- that one just sounded too polished or commercial or something. this one and NOLA both had that rough, dirty, southern/bluesy edge that made them exciting listens, whereas III sounded like a standard BLS album or something to me.

not that it's bad, just not as cool as the first two.

May 9th 2011


Album Rating: 4.0

^Musically, I agree. But the vocals are better on III, in my opinion. And the lyrics really affect me much more on 'Over the Under'.

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