Down - NOLA
Elektra Entertainment Group Inc.
Stoner Metal
13 songs (56:33)
Release year: 1995
Reviewed by Khelek
Archive review

With the advent of the stoner metal genre in the late 80s and early 90s, many bands came out of the woodwork to add their contributions to what soon became an overcrowded genre. Down was started by Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo and veteran Corrosion Of Conformity singer/guitarist Pepper Keenan along with other well-known members of bands with similar influences and interests. With these two talents writing almost every song on this album you can only expect great things, and great things are what happened for this now famous stoner supergroup. On their first studio album Down proved they knew their way around the doom/sludge influences that brought them to the point of stoner metal. The influences are not so obvious as to take away originality from the band at all, rather it is refreshing to hear songs that seem so familiar yet have a sound all their own.

First of all I have to talk about the guitars, because this really is a guitar centered album. Pepper Keenan and Kirk Windstein are both really on top of their game for the entire duration, layering their riffs and leads in a way that hearkens back to traditional doom at some points and straight up speed metal at others. Right from the opening riffs of Temptation's Wings you can hear that this is going to be an album centered on fuzzy guitars and original riffs that take their cues from 80s doom and heavy metal. Lifer opens similarly with a bit faster, more hard rock driven sound. Anselmo's vocals are more akin to his work with Pantera. The drumming that opens Pillar Of Eternity is simple yet effective in getting the song moving, with the fuzzy riffs coming in soon after, but keeping the song much in the realm of doom. Stone The Crow is hands down my favorite song from the album. Beginning with an infectious southern rock style guitar lead and soft vocals from Anselmo, the song soon opens into crushing riffs for a chorus that just makes you want to headbang and sing along. It's understandable that after hearing this album for the first time you might think that stoner metal is over and done with as a genre because these guys have taken all the good riffs. Anselmo's vocals are often very similar to his work with Pantera, however he definitely throws in more raw screams and growls than the usual Pantera album. His vocals are also less in-your-face however, and sometimes the clean, deep singing is actually relaxing. Jail is a good example that actually reminds me of Pantera's cover of Planet Caravan in many ways. It's a melancholy take on the Down sound and it works very well here. Bury Me In Smoke is the final track on the album, plodding mostly through doom/sludge territory, but speeding up every so often to make sure you’re still alive. You may feel like someone has attempted to suffocate you, and it wraps the album up nicely too.

In the end what you have here is a stoner band who created a very listenable album that keeps me hooked every time and definitely helped bring stoner metal towards the mainstream. The first time I heard this album I could not believe more people were not talking about these guys. This is an excellent album that showed just how awesome a stoner metal album could be while at the same time have mainstream appeal as evidenced by the handful of singles it had. Stone The Crow, the first single, shot up the mainstream rock tracks in North America, getting the band far more attention than most of the mid 90s stoner bands. I think the biggest reason for that is the quality of the songwriting first and foremost. Yes the guitars are played to damn near perfection and Phil Anselmo's voice is probably at a level that is on par or perhaps even above Cowboys From Hell, but at the end of the day it all comes down to catchy, memorable songs that keep me coming back time and time again. With a group of individuals this talented you know that they are not going to settle for anything less than their best, and that's what they gave in this debut.

Killing Songs :
Lifer, Stone The Crow, Swan Song, Bury Me In Smoke
Khelek quoted 92 / 100
Other albums by Down that we have reviewed:
Down - Down IV- Part II reviewed by Kynes and quoted no quote
Down - Down IV Part I - The Purple EP reviewed by Khelek and quoted no quote
Down - III: Over The Under reviewed by Dylan and quoted 80 / 100
Down - II reviewed by Jay and quoted 95 / 100
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