As the follow-up to one of the most impressive debuts of the last decade (1995's Nola), Down II was perhaps destined to be a letdown, especially with the expectations running so high seven years after the release of its predecessor. Whereas Nola was an inspired, focused effort that crushed everything in its path with the sheer strength of the material and the album's refreshingly unpolished feel, Down II appears to have been thrown together more haphazardly, with much of the material falling short of the standard set by the DOWN's classic debut offering.To the band's credit, DOWN—featuring PANTERA's Philip Anselmo (vocals), C.O.C.'s Pepper Keenan (guitars), EYEHATEGOD's Jimmy Bower (drums), PANTERA's Rex Brown (bass) and CROWBAR's Kirk Windstein (guitars)—have stuck to the same basic sound and style that made Nola such an impressive release, with elements of early BLACK SABBATH and southern rock still heavily prevalent in the group's material. Production-wise, as well, the band have made no audible attempts to deviate from the formula, relying instead on a no-frills approach that suits Down II perfectly as the group strip things down to the bare essentials. On several occasions, such as in “There's Something On My Side” (possibly the album's strongest cut), DOWN manage to deliver the same kind of powerful groove that made tracks like “Temptation's Wings” and “Lifer” such standouts on the last release. Equally impressively, the album's most obvious choice for a single (that is, obvious to everyone except Elektra Records), “Stained Glass Cross”, is a memorable, hook-laden number that utilizes a Hammond organ during the verses and the middle section to surprisingly great effect. For the most part, however, Down II appears decidedly disjointed and devoid of the kind of top-notch material that one would have expected to hear in the wake of such a classic debut. This is particularly evident in the album's second half, where we're treated to several slow-moving and uneventful numbers (“Where I'm Going”, “Lies (I Don't Know What They Say But...)” and “Wars”) along with a couple of the more rocking “fillers” (“Dog Tired” and “Beautifully Depressed”). Even album opener “Lysergik Funeral Procession” appears to go nowhere and quickly loses steam as it fails to form anything resembling a cohesive “song”. Despite the above-mentioned flaws, Down II is not without its merits and is likely to serve its purpose as it fills a gap between the individual members' full-time groups' recording/touring schedules. In the long run, however, DOWN's sophomore CD will be widely viewed as one of the biggest disappointments of the last few years.
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