III Over The Under
Sept 27th, 2007, Stoney’s, Reno, NV
Warner Indpendent Label Group
Away for some five years, the New Orleans supergroup Down have retuned with a masterful addition to their already accomplished and dynamic discography. Over the Under boasts some of the more menacing yet melodic tracks of their career with the raging brutality of vocalist Phil Anselmo (Pantera) and lumberjack guitar work of Pepper Keenan (COC) still very much intact. Joining the two is rhythm guitarist Kirk Windstein (Crowbar), bassist Rex “Rocker” Brown (Pantera, Crowbar) and drummer Jimmy Bower (Crowbar, Superjoint Ritual, COC). Together they have reclaimed the pivotal domain of heavy music by focusing on song structure and the density that exists when the five channel their energy into one central force. For many, Over the Under heralds back to the openness of their debut Nola (1995) but with thoroughbred songs that go the distance. Songs that are especially potent live. Their confidence in the new material is evident the first night of their North American tour. From the first chords of “The Path” they rip into a gargantuan southern sludge that is more doom than metal. Anselmo’s voice is soulful and strident removing any doubt of his ability to lead this band of outlaws.
The set list is a good mix from the band’s three records spanning 15 years. Keenan fires up “Lysergik Funeral Procession,” complete with its creepy intro, then leads straight into “Lifer” with Brown and Bower thundering behind. Rhythm guitarist Windstein is subtle with little to no movement of his burly frame. Like his idol Tony Iommi, Windstein’s fingers carry the infernal mastery of riff rumbling that keeps “Three Suns and One Star”, “I Scream” and “Losing All” unbelievably heavy. The sold out crowd surged into mayhem when the familiar chug of “Ghosts along the Mississippi” larches from the Marshall stakes. The track is a fan favorite and rightly so as it combines the best of Down’s Sabbath-Zeppelin mix. Keenan’s signature solo phrasing extended out to embrace Anselmos’s wail. Right on cue the band drift appropriately into “Learn from This Mistake.” Certain songs become so ingrained to the listener’s ear that taken out of context they don’t sound complete. Led Zeppelin’s “Heartbreaker” into “Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman)” is just such a combination. Down nailed it when they kept “Ghost” and “Learn” properly paired from the emotional apex of A Bustle in Your Hedgerow (2002).
The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina hangs over the songs from Over the Under like death itself. Anselmo’s ability to pen poignant lyrics is masterful with “N.O.D.” an ode to Sabbath’s “N.I.B.” rising as one of the main stand-out tracks from the new disc. Throbbing, grinding and poised for revolution it’s memorable line being “Lost on a trip / no acid can supply / because LSD ain't what it used to be / to me” delivered with Ozzy’s vocal inflection over a ripping Thin Lizzy chord sequence. The track sits in the middle of the set with Keenan and Anselmo swapping vocal leads in an uncanny caterwaul volley. “Lies, I Don’t Know What They Say But…” slowed things down as Bower kicked out a surging native drum beat followed by the groove of Brown’s baseline. Somber, sorrowful and seething with emotion, the song draws the listener in with ambient guitar and humming vocals. A quick turn around has the wrecking ball of “On March the Saints” finding a headbangin’ tempo turning the sweaty punters into a sea of flailing hair.
Under appreciated “Eyes of the South” is modern Cajun-styled southern rocker at its best. It smokes on vinyl and is a monster live with chugging electricity that comes off like tuned down Molly Hatchet. The first encore of the evening, “Jail” drifts into the set with Spirit Caravan-type lethargy. Reminiscent of Opeth, one can only begin to appreciate the band’s ability to control the ebb and flow of the night’s musical journey. Amid the chaos of living in New Orleans, splicing together three working bands, and creating music that makes you shutter is an all-consuming and almost effortless cause for this band. The final three songs burn the brightest. “Never Try” could easily be an FM hit for the band if radio was still viable. It has that hook chorus and heavy-handed guitar assault that leads to chills. Total Skynyrd is “Stone the Crow” and they pull it off in pure, redneck style. “Bury Me in Smoke” the band’s only real claim to a hit closes the show during a second encore. Word has it Over the Under has already made several charts across different media outlets. Catch the band this fall on one of their 30 stops across the country. Who knows, it may be another five years before you get another chance.