2014 may mark the 20th anniversary of Pantera’s uncrowned metal masterpiece “Far Beyond Driven,” but next year we most certainly should be bestowing the same accolades to the seminal debut LP of Phil Anselmo’s longtime side gig Down. Those who were always of the mindset that the Texas titans’ one-time frontman was always the cerebral slice of the creative pie saw their assumptions confirmed after Anselmo admitted to Rolling Stone that he was largely inspired by Birthday Party-era Nick Cave back when he was writing the lyrics to “Driven.” But with Down, the singer was able to allow his roots in heavy blues and Southern rock to take form, helping 1995’s “NOLA” achieve the classic status it holds among metal experts today.
Now, two decades later, the powerhouse combo of Anselmo, Corrosion of Conformity guitarist Pepper Keenan, Goatwhore bassist Pat Bruder (who replaced former Pantera four-stringer Rex Brown in 2011), Eyehategod drummer Jimmy Bower, and new second guitarist Bobby Landgraf —quite possibly the closest thing metal has come to its own private Blind Faith — have returned to finish the fourth chapter of their ongoing studio saga. And while it is considered an EP by design, “Down IV Part II” very much plays out more like a six-song full-length as Phil and the boys continue to bleed the lines between Angel Witch and the Allman Brothers in ways unheard since their 2002 sophomore gem subtitled “A Bustle in Your Hedgerow,” from the slaying swampiness of tracks like “We Knew Him Well” to the epic nine-minute closer “Bacchanalia.”
It’s too bad both “Down IV Part II” and its 2012 predecessor “Part I: The Purple EP” could not have been released as one massive double LP of destruction. But it’s great to have the New Orleans noisemongers back in the spotlight once again nevertheless.