Sound — 8
Personally, I was still reeling from Rex Brown leaving the fold back in 2011 and now Kirk Windstein has quit the band and been replaced by Bobby Landgraf. Honestly, I didn't necessarily feel too strongly about Kirk, but I've been a Rex fan for a long time. Rex's replacement, Pat Bruders from Crowbar, has done a respectable job filling Rex's shoes but I still hate to see him no longer be involved with Down. Instead of releasing a 4th studio album the band decided to release it in parts via EPs, with the first part coming out in 2012 and titled as "Down IV Part 1" and has been nicknamed "The Purple EP," and the part we're discussing today is "Down IV Part 2." The EP has six tracks with a runtime of approximately 36 minutes, and the track "We Knew Him Well" was released as the lead single from the EP.
The EP opens up with "Steeple," which immediately goes about building an incredibly heavy ambience that builds into some almost Sabbath-style riffing. That riffing quickly morphs into more of what you expect from Down, with equal parts stoner metal and groove. Next up is the single "We Knew Him Well" and we're back to some solid stoner riffing and Phil's signature vocals. "Hogshead/Dogshead" opens up with some wah-saturated riffs and lays down some heavy groove. "Conjure" brings Sabbath back to mind pretty much immediately - these riffs are exactly like something you would expect from Tony Iommi back in the day, and the bass lines that go along with it are definitely in the Geezer Butler category. Honestly, Phil sings a little bit like Ozzy on this track, too. "Sufferer's Years" seems to pull its influences from something slightly different than the rest of the album, but not in a bad way. It has one of the most memorable solos from the EP for me. The EP closes out with "Bacchanalia" which slowly fades in and sounds like something you might have heard if you were sitting in the band's practice space during a jam session - and I don't mean this in a bad way. The end of the track has a mostly acoustic/clean passage with a distorted lead guitar wailing in slow motion which almost feels like a separate track. The tracks on this EP breathe in a way a lot of music coming out doesn't. There are going to be people who don't like this album, but to me the rawness of the music and the feeling like the band is just jamming in their practice space (which honestly can be imagined for most of the album) is very refreshing. There is a certain energy that it seems Down has tried to capture in the past, and this is possibly the closest they've come to their goal.
Lyrics — 7
Phil Anselmo is pretty much legendary at this point, right? Well, he consistently performs respectable metal vocals in various projects. He is versatile, though not super versatile on this specific release. I'm still not complaining because this EP is filling a certain stoner/groove metal niche. From the track "We Knew Him Well" we have the lyrics: "Consume it All/ so drink up/ one two three go/ distrust the honest/ say enough to be hanged/ from troubled tree tops/ word of death to men/ was it not good enough/ a ten year steep decline/ tangled in a (brother's mothers smother?)/ a history of a brother/ distrust the honest/ say enough to blind/ genius eccentric/ sympa-f--king-thetic." Sorry for that "brother's mothers smother" part, but I honestly can't even guess what Phil is saying there. I can't always get behind Phil's lyrics or even see the value in them all the time, but I can appreciate his attitude and his ability as a vocalist.
Overall Impression — 8
I haven't always been the biggest fan of Down, but they've definitely grown on me. This EP has definitely got my interest enough for me to go back and listen to their earlier releases to see if I'm just listening to them with "new ears" with this release, or if this release is head and shoulders above their previous releases for me. I really enjoyed the entire EP, with probably the single, "We Knew Him Well," being my least favorite track from the EP. I like the sludge of this EP and the way they build up their groove inside that sludge and makes it seem like something that would be extremely fun to play, myself. For me, if listening to any music makes me want to play guitar or bass then it is a winner in my book.