Down – NOLA
Although a going concern for a number of years beforehand, sludge-supergroup Down seemed to come out of nowhere with the release of their debut album NOLA in 1995. With a line-up that screamed sheer class – Phil Anselmo (Pantera), Pepper Keenan (Corrosion Of Conformity), Kirk Windstein (Crowbar), Jimmy Bower (EyeHateGod) & Todd Strange (Crowbar) – Down were a metal fans wet dream and NOLA certainly didn’t disappoint.
Due to the exposure afforded by having the likes of Phil Anselmo and Pepper Keenan in their ranks, Down were able to open doors for those who weren’t overly familiar with metal of a ‘sludgier’ nature. Admittedly, while not as heavy as some of the sludge-encrusted filth rising from New Orleans at the time, the riffs of Pepper Keenan and Kirk Windstein were still tar heavy and the majority of the music found within NOLA is suitably oppressive; as if birthed by the primordial Louisiana swamps themselves.
The vocals of Phil Anselmo may have been a tad more melodic than the style he had been using with Pantera but the vast majority of his lyrics painted a familiar picture of a man operating in a drug induced haze. Fortunately, substance abuse didn’t affect the quality of the songwriting on NOLA which is home to some nailed-on belters. “Lifer” unveils an irresistible upbeat swagger while the bluesy “Eyes Of The South” and “Stone The Crow” are Southern metal juggernauts. However, it’s the laidback keyboard drenched melancholia of “Jail” (a finer reworking of Sabbath’s “Planet Caravan” you’d be hard pressed to find) and the stoner anthem “Bury Me In Smoke” that elevates NOLA to classic status.
Some may argue that Down have never bettered this album but thats another story for a different day.