Down IV Part I - The Purple EP
posted on 10/2012 By:
Considering that Down has basically been a full-time band for several years now, the development of the fourth entry in their recorded catalog sure took a long damn time. Eventually they announced that Down IV would not be a new full-length, but rather a series of four EPs. Entry one is fittingly entitled Part I - The Purple EP, and welcomes the returns of original members Pepper Keenan, Phil Anselmo, Jimmy Bower, and Kirk Windstein, along with new bassist Patrick Bruders, who also provided the low end on the most recent Crowbar album.
After a classic and two strong follow-ups, fans have good reason to expect quality from Down, and the first impressions of The Purple EP are that this trend is continuing. They’re still pulling off the same Sabbath / stoner / Southern / sludge / bluesy hybrid that they’ve executed since NOLA, and the production is maybe the best they’ve provided since the debut, adding a tad more thickness to the guitars but giving everything a ton of clarity. But after just a few spins, it’s clear that something is missing, and while The Purple EP is far from weak, it doesn’t exactly foster the same enthusiasm that past releases have.
The issue here isn’t some shift in style or extreme weathering of the band’s abilities, but rather a lack of truly impactful songs, with only a couple really begging for repeated listens. Opener “Levitation,” “Open Coffins,” and “The Curse Is a Lie” are all good tracks, but the only real reaction they cause is to not necessarily illicit a strong reaction. They’re merely okay, nothing special; thanks for giving us new tunes; see you guys next EP. The band seems to feel the same way, with performances that occasionally drift from being free and loose to a tad phoned-in, particularly in the lead guitar department. Further, “This Work Is Timeless” is a downright forgettable, poorly arranged track that does nothing but expose the aging in Phil’s voice and limitations of Bower’s drumming. Sure, Down has been imperfect in the past, but one or two filler bits on an album with 12-15 songs does far less damage than to an EP that runs just over a half hour.
That being said, the two songs yet to be mentioned nearly justify the purchasing price on their own, especially for long time fans. “Witchtripper” is, for lack of a better term, a fucking rock’em-sock’em riffing machine, complete with a brash attitude and never-let-up drum impacts. It’s an upbeat doom / stoner hybrid that really shows how alive these grizzled vets can sound when they get ahold of some golden material and choose to go balls out. Closer “Misfortune Teller” sees the band diving into some heavy doom, delivering mammo riffage and key “doom hooks” (those familiar Down harmonies), building to a huge chorus that flips the any earlier questions of Phil’s aging on their head, showing exactly how much he still has in the tank when he really reaches for it.
And that’s the frustrating aspect of The Purple EP. The merely decent material would be easier to take if the band wasn’t also showing us how great they can still be. Gray areas are hard to deal with for dedicated fans. It’s almost easier when a band completely tanks it than when they tease us, as parts of this seem to be doing. There is little doubt that The Purple EP will be enjoyable for long time fans, but it does little to create enthusiasm for upcoming entries in the Down IV cycle. If anything, it leads to the assumption that the band would have been better off cutting the filler and jam-packing a full-length with monster romps. Hopefully the next three entries prove this to be totally unfounded bullshit.
To be continued...
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