Down Records/ILG 2012
Marking their departure from the traditional album cycle, Down‘s “The Purple EP” finds the legendary outfit at their most relaxed to date. Serving as the first in a series of abbreviated homebrewed releases from the group—it also sees them soldiering on without bassist Rex Brown—who has since been replaced by Pat Bruders of Crowbar, etc. fame.
While Brown‘s absence isn’t outwardly noticeable, these members/alumni of Pantera, Corrosion Of Conformity, Crowbar, etc. have certainly turned a corner. Without question “The Purple EP” is their most raw and grizzled output to date—but that is not to say that it’s their hands down best.
The creature comforts of working at their own pace seems to have left them stewing at a slow boil. Thus this EP is very much a sluggish, warts and all, experience. It conjures few of the Sabbath-level riffs of the groups past; instead delivering a meandering run through loose sludgy grooves and ominous Southern doom.
Vocalist Phil Anselmo checks in with a fittingly bluesy performance that is heavy on melody. But the years of accumulated damage also find his parts to be somewhat lacking in range. The guitar work, while intently busy and barbed, remains altogether a touch too swampy for its own good. The rhythm section fares a bit better with sharper parts; but the steely nature of the drums in particular are perhaps too piercing.
It could be said that in paring down the fat the group have gotten rid of some of their muscle as well. As smoky and gritty as this release is, it feels singular in focus and light on any big picture ideas. The somewhat muddled production doesn’t aid this, though it does certainly befit the bands marshy onslaught.
Overall “The Purple EP” rarely leaves Down‘s wheelhouse. It delivers a canon experience but has few aspirations to be anything other than Down at their most comfortable. With slowburn grooves and few meaty hooks; it proudly showcases all their scars and bruises, but tells little of the memorable stories behind them.
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