The first Down album, "NOLA", was more than just a side project, it was an experience. Phil Anselmo from Pantera, Pepper Keenan from C.O.C., Jimmy Bower from Eyehategod, and Kirk Windstein and Todd Strange from Crowbar united in 1995 for an album that was such a departure from their respective bands, but was loved by most, if not all, of their fans. "Lifer", "Underneath Everything", "Stone the Crow", "Eyes of the South", "Rehab", and "Temptation's Wings" remain personal favorites of mine, and after listening to this countless times for the past seven years, "NOLA" is one of the few albums that is truly timeless.
on May 17, 2004
Although my personal preference lies with Down II, NOLA(an acronymfor New Orleans, Louisiana) is still a force to be reckoned with. Members of Pantera, COC, Eyehategod, and Crowbar coming together to record a Southern-fried slab of 70's style heavy metal? Are you kidding? Gimme!
NOLA has some clear differences from Down II. It's consistently heavier, Phil resorts to screaming his way through much of it, and there is less diversity between tracks. That being said, this manages to be one of the greatest metal albums ever. Every song has at least one classic or memorable riff within--the best tracks 4 or 5. Occasionally, an unorthodox instrument will show up: a water pipe on "Hail The Leaf," bongos in "Jail," plenty of cowbell, an acoustic guitar, etc.
"Temptation's Wings" gives the album a good head start, and is followed by "Lifer," which has a drop-dead gorgeous crunchy riff that shows up about two minutes into it. "Pillars of Eternity" has a pounding/tribal nature about it, and "Hail The Leaf" sets a dichotomy to it by being much slower and moodier. "Rehab" is my personal favorite song off the album due to its unbelievable melodies in guitar and vocals(he sings!). Excellent harmonization on Pepper's part as well. "Stone The Crow" was a minor radio hit back in 1995, and it's easy to see why with its beautiful bluesy guitar lead and melodic chorus. "Pray For The Locust" is a mystical acoustic ditty, and "Jail" is a spooky swampsong--all acoustic, very "Planet Caravan"-esque. Down would perfect this style of moody softer bit with their next record. "Swan Song" has a delicate main riff that kicks it off, and "Underneath Everything" shares a similar style of crunchy quasi-thrash riff with the closer, "Bury Me In Smoke."
To summarize, Down crafted a fine album with NOLA. The album is a time capsule of sorts, because it captures the essence of the South in 1995. The artwork, the band members, the filler paper, the numerous references to a certain leafy substance/smoke/its effects, the CD with a bird's-eye-view of NOLA itself, the Superdome and all...it's the South incarnate. Fans and B.R.O.E.S. alike had seven years to digest the album until its radically developed followup came along the damp and dusty bayou path in 2002, so most listeners' favor falls with this release. In reality, it's a toss-up. Both albums are worth owning.
Be a Lifer. Ride Temptation's Wings. Listen to Down.
on July 11, 2001
From the opening wallop of "Temptations Wings" to the chugging riffs that close out "Bury Me In Smoke," "Nola" packs a power that equals any other metal album I've ever heard. The band doesn't guite go with the full-scale frontal assault that characterizes Pantera's work, instead opting for an album that is dark and brutal but more nuanced and abstract than one might expect from a Phil Anselmo-led band. This album would rate high in my book even if only for the music, thanks to the thick, heavy riffs, huge solos, and crunching rhythm section. The music on this album is not especially polished or complex, just driving and powerful. Despite the outstanding music, Phil Anselmo steals the show with what I consider to be his finest moment vocally. Singing, screaming, growling, whatever else you can think of is all here, and Phil does it better than anyone else. Every line is overflowing with emotion, and you don't need to know the lyrics to realize this fact. There is not a weak song on this album, or even a weak part of a song; this album is completely-filler free. All through it's a stirring, brooding masterpiece. If you're expecting Pantera Part 2 you may be disappointed at first, but if you want everything that makes Pantera great and more, "Nola" is the first place to look.
on April 12, 2006
In the mid 1990's, Pantera frontman Philip Anselmo was just starting to dabble in side projects. He started with Christ Inversion in 1994, and later continued on to Down and Superjoint Ritual (among other bands). Christ Inversion didn't last long, so no one really expected much from Phil's other projects. And surely no fan expected Down's 1995 debut to be so good. Down was clearly onto something with this album, and they didn't become so famous just because Anselmo fronted the group. "Nola" (which is an abbreviation for New Orleans, Louisiana) is about as good as or better than anything the band members had made before. Even though the members of Down came from Pantera, Corrosion of Conformity, Crowbar, and Eyehategod, "Nola," sounds like a mix of Pantera and Black Sabbath, with Lynyrd Skynyrd's southern influence. This is a bludgeoning album which is overflowing with thick, hefty, doom-influenced riffs, solos, and crunching rhythms. Plus, Phil's wailing yells sound perfect against the dark, meaty sounding music, helping to give this album a "timeless" feel. Phil's vocal style is pretty much the same, here, as on any Pantera record, but it's an impressive performance nonetheless. His vocals couldn't be more full of emotion; he yells, growls, howls, yelps, bellows, and songs like "Rehab" show he can even sing/croon a little. Plus, I enjoy how Phil builds from a grunt to a scream on some tracks (like the very Sabbath-y door opener, "Temptation's Wings"). "Lifer," "Pillars of Eternity," and "Hail The Leaf," which are very catchy songs with churning guitars, the fiery riffs on "Losing All," the tortured, Crowbar-esque "Swan Song," and the punching, grinding album closer ("Bury Me In Smoke") are some of the standout tracks on here and good representations of the album as a whole. Even with mellower moments (like the acoustic "Pray For The Locust" and "Jail," which is very similar to Pantera's 1994 cover of "Planet Caravan"), there is hardly a weak moment on all of "Nola." Pantera fans should be cautious when checking into this album because it's typically quite slower and sludgier than anything Pantera put out. And, even though it could stand to have a few more fast songs, if you're looking for a very powerful, brooding, and satisfying metal album, put this near the top of your list.
on May 17, 2000
Some of the New Orleans based band members of Pantera, Crowbar, C.O.C and Eyehategod have blended to produce one of the most satisfying records ever. This album is incredible. They toned themselves down to a rock disc that has every song a favorite. Phil Anselmo sings with his incredible voice on this disc(screams to though which is good). They go from a banger like Temptations Wings to a slow great mood song like Jail. The best part of this record is the thought inspiring and personal lyrics actually sang amazingly well by the screaming metal vulgar king Anselmo. Like they have been saying there is a Southern sound in there thats hard to explain. A must have, unbelievable record, buy it. No way will you be dissapointed. Best part is there is a new one supossedly very soon. Classic disk.
on August 14, 2004
Everyone told me what a classic album that this was...I downloaded the MP3s not too long ago and realized that I really needed to buy this. So I went out and finally got it and it certinatly is a classic. This album really sounds like Pantera, Black Sabbath, and Lynard Skynard put in a blender. It doesn't get much better than this. The most notable tracks are "Temptation's Wings", "Eyes of the South", "Losing All", and "Stone the Crows". One thing about Nola is there is absolutly no filler...every track is undoubtably album worthy. You can tell they had fun making this album and jamming out to the tracks. What stopped me from giving this CD a 5 star rating is basically just that the lyrics aren't up to par with the musicianship on here, I personally can't relate to the southern themes. I'm not one for all that southern pride/confederacy shxt. None the less...it matches the feel of the album. If you are a fan of Pantera or any classic metal, this is a must. Pick it up.
on October 6, 2000
This is one of the truly great "supergroup" albums of all time. While these projects usually pale in comparison to the individual bands that the members hail from, "NOLA" is in many ways greater than the sum of it's individual parts. Comprised of Phil Anselmo (Pantera, superjoint ritual, christ inversion, etc..), Pepper Keenan (C.O.C.), Todd Strange (Crowbar), Kirk Windstein (Crowbar) and Jimmy Bower (Crowbar, Eye Hate God), NOLA is better than anything that these bands have ever put out. In fact, NOLA may be the greatest "heavy music" album of all time. The fact that it (in my humble opinion) eclipses all of the Pantera, C.O.C. and Crowbar CDs is saying something, as I love 'em all. However, NOLA is so good it's scary. Starting off with the immense "temptation's wings" through the finale of "Bury me in smoke," NOLA burns with an intensity and conviction that makes most albums sound puny and contrived by comparison. Phil's vocals and lyrics have never been better (...Good lord where are you found? Carry judgement on underground. I hear you laughing out loud. Should have changed my ways by now... from Swan Song is an example), and the southern death ride crunch of Keenan, Strange and Windstein is something that I think will never be repeated on record. On top of all this Jimmy Bower's drumming is just awesome, hard and heavy, but unpolished, which would be a great way to describe this CD. Mere Words do not suffice here, go out and buy NOLA today and become a "Lifer" with "Eyes of the South". Pray for locust, pray for locust.
on May 9, 2006
being an avid fan of pantera from day one, i had read in early '95, i believe, an advertisement in some mag. about Phil Anselmo's new side band Down, was releasing an album/cd of heavy, Sab. like metal. i new at that point that is was going to be a good one. you know how you often can't wait for a new title to be released, then are a little disappointed when you buy it, and listen to it? well, let's just say the opposite happened here. i was literally blown away! this is surely one of the best releases of the '90's, and maybe one of the best heavy releases of the last 20 years. sludgy, riff laden, well engineered, you name it, it has it. having owned over 2,000 titles from the last 30 years or so, this ranks right up there with some of the best. check it out. i have turned more people on to this cd than probably any other, and none have been disappointed, or thought i over-hyped it's merits. read the reviews. see if i'm lyin' to ya, then buy it, and join the club. peace.
on January 13, 2007
This is monumental southern metal from a very talented group, combining their talents for, well, apparently...fun! What an excellent reason.
The leviathan band is comprised of Pepper Keenan (COC), Phil Anselmo (Pantera), Jimmy Bower (Eyehategod) and Kirk Windstein (Crowbar), so something of a who's-who of southern metal combining for the love of music. "NOLA" is the first offering from this outstanding group, and what an album it is.
"Temptation's Wings" kicks the album off in style, instantly setting the scene with its big idiosyncratic Keenan riffs, no-nonsense drumming and of course Anselmo's distinctive and powerful vocals. The song is a strong opening statement, and one that's continued with one of my album picks "Lifer", which showcases the redeeming skill of this band - their ability to write good song structures. The song eases its way through varying sections, altering in pace, style and aggression, leading to its ultimate climax of a rolling, sluggish Keenan riff. Solid tracks such as "Pillars of Eternity", "Rehab" and "Hail The Leaf" (which shows another passion of the band) continue the flow and style without a moment of weakness.
The second half of the album is what really does it for me though. "Eyes of the South" simply took my face off the first time I heard it, starting with a quiet and brooding bass line, slowly and patiently the whole band comes in with a flooring main riff. Combine this with some typical Anselmo aggression (with the fist-wielding yell of `god daaaaaam' when the main riff comes in) and an excellent outro riff that the band plays for a couple of minutes straight (which may seem like a long time, but with riffs this good, time flies), this is Down in full flight. The band is also slightly more experimental in the second part of the album, with songs such as "Jail" and to an extent "Stone the Crows" acting as subtle and needed breaks from the slogging, relentless attack of the previous songs.
All of this leads to "Bury Me In Smoke", which I think deserves its own little paragraph. This song is THE Down song. If you need proof that this band kicks the s*** out of 90% of metal acts out there, listen to this song. Starting with an infectious dirgy riff, the band slow things down with a chugging verse section and Anselmo singing in his loveable desperate style. Combine this with an excellent chorus, which sees the opening riff to good use and the powerful line of `when I die / bury me in smoke' you have a great song. But the band are not content with just great, they want more, and they deliver more by creating one of the biggest, heaviest, head-banging inducing riffs I have ever heard. Add some slick little solos from Keenan and you have one of the best metal songs ever, and definitely metal album closers of all time. This song is perfection.
And for that matter, this album is almost perfection. Never before have I heard such a thing from a supergroup. The understanding of each other's instruments and capabilities seems perfect, the balance and energy they fuse rivals, and maybe even betters, anything any of the members have done before. This is a modern classic in every sense of the word.
on May 4, 2003
Heavy-metal, as a genre of music, is ripe with cliches. Its very nature is to be larger-than-life, whether it's being the loudest band, the fastest band, the heaviest band, the most shocking band, the band with the most intricate time-signatures, the band with the killer guitar solos, etc. Generally speaking, it aims to impress its audience with either brute force or with a uniquely emphatic and uncompromising brand of musicianship, aimed at a specific audience of the disenfranchised, outcasts of society, giving them an outlet and a sense of brotherhood that is unique to the metal community.
And while metal often times loses its appeal with age, there's always certain things you can come back to. For yours truly, that band is Down and the album is N.O.L.A. That's probably because Down's first album is more than just your standard heavy-metal album full of aggressive guitar playing, screaming, pounding drums and throbbing basslines (which it has in spades). No, there's more to the album than that, something inexplicability raw, authentic, and for lack of a better term: spiritual. It could be said that N.O.L.A. has a soul.
Soul is not a word that is typically associated with metal, and we're certainly not talking about Mo-Town soul or Dr. John-type soul (although these boys are from New Orleans). We're talking about a darker type of soul, a soul drenched in pain, regret, anguish, and desperately seeking atonement. A soul that could only be born out of the Southern experience of isolation, loneliness, and depression.
All of these themes are delivered convincingly by frontman Phil Anselmo, who rages with a great sense of anger and passion throughout the album, although not in the same vein as his primary band at the time: Pantera. There's a genuine sense of torment and penance in his singing and lyrics on N.O.L.A., as opposed to Pantera which reeks of macho-ism and power. Throw in Down's ability to create a haunting and spiritual mood via some of the more mellow/acoustic moments, and you have a very original and compelling heavy-metal album.
Down comes out guns-blazing with the explosive "Temptation's Wing's" which sounds like the long lost lovechild of Black Sabbath and Pantera, but with a uniquely southern swagger. That summation is pretty representative of the album as a whole. Its ferocity and heaviness demands attention, rarely letting up in intensity throughout the album. However, when it does let up, it often reveals some sublime moments, like the guitar solo on "Temptation's Wings". It's raw, sweet, slow, and effectively channels the anguish of the song that deals with drug addiction. Then the band's raw power comes back in full-force inducing an epic head-banging jam to close out the song.
And that's just the first song. The next track "Lifer" is one of the best songs on the album, incredibly gritty, passionate, and of course: heavy. Pepper Keenan and Kirk Windstein absolutely blaze through this song with their steady, propulsive twin-guitar attack. It's an epic jam with an all-conquering sound, custom-made for headbanging and mosh-pits, which again is also a good description of the album as a whole.
"Pillars of Eternity" follows, opening with Jimmy Bower's over-powering drumming, eventually launching into an incredibly swampy death-stomp riff as Phil screams over the punishing and pummeling sound the band creates. One of the straight-up heaviest tracks on the album, straight-up dirty. Awesomely powerful.
Up next is "Rehab" which starts out with a borderline funky opening jam, as Phil channels Eddie Vedder with his gritty and grungy singing style. Any similarities to grunge are soon forgotten as Phil's blows the door off the hinges as he screams "...and I'm DROWNING!!!" as the band shreds a deep and slow, menacing metallic groove behind him. A lot of funky, slam-dancable twists and turns on this track, another classic.
"Hail the Leaf" follows, in all it's hazy, riff-tastic glory. An ode to the "sweet leaf" indeed, with a nice water-bong solo thrown in for good measure. But this track isn't necessarily glorifying the drug, but rather shining a light on the darker side of being dependent on marijuana. Another gritty jam.
The intensity continues with "Underneath Everything" which features a consistently grinding and headbanging-inducing riff that recalls doom-metal with its low-end heaviness. The intensity of the track becomes almost overwhelming towards the end of the song, as Phil screams his head off while the band shreds away behind him, when suddenly, something happens.
The shock-therapy sound slowly fades out, and in its place is a beautiful, almost haunting acoustic guitar to close out the song. This is where the soul of the album starts to show its face, creeping in at the end of an incredibly brutal song to offer a sense of relief and calm amidst the barrage of heaviness that proceeded it.
This brief lull in the storm provides the perfect transition to one of the best songs on the album: "Eyes of the South". This song absolutely has it all, starting out slow with some fantastic classic-rock inspired, bluesy guitar, slowly building up in intensity until the band fully explodes into an epic mosh-pit inducing stomp riff, ignited by Phil's righteous shout of "god-damn!". I get chills just thinking about it. It's one of the best intros/build-ups to a metal song ever. After the epic intro, Down gives us a break in the middle of the song with a brief melodic guitar-solo, only to close out the song with one of the best stomp-heavy jam sessions on the album. The entire song is epic from start to finish, and really takes the album to a new level of riff-tastic glory.
After that monster of a song, Down takes us down (no pun intended) to a deeper, trippier level on the next track "Jail". An incredibly mellow, acoustic-based track filled with beautiful melodies, echoic vocals, and light tribal drumming, listening to "Jail" can be a transcendent experience. As relaxing and trippy as the song is, it also has a haunting and meditative quality to it that truly makes it a special piece. It's beautiful, but it's dark too, somewhat somber in tone, with an undeniable spiritual quality. One of the most beautifully haunting songs ever made. Very compelling.
Out of the mist comes the blazing "Losing All" as Down fully launches the listener back into the metallic frey once again. A fantastic song from start to finish, "Losing All" features all the trademarks that add up to a great Down song, namely blazing guitar solos, swampy riffs, intense vocals and lots of rhythm. Righteous song.
The next track "Stone the Crow" is probably the most accessible song on the album, and sounds like it would be at home on any quality heavy radio station. But in this case, that's not a bad thing, as "Stone the Crow" manages to keep its dignity while still being accessible at the same time. It's simply a great song, no way around it, and easily one of the best on the album.
Down revisits acoustic territory with the all too-brief "Pray for the Locusts". It's a really beautiful and haunting piece that again shows the spiritual and soulful vibe that adds a special quality to the music throughout the album.
After the somewhat underwhelming (compared to the rest of the album) "Swan Song" the band gears up for the epic closer "Bury Me In Smoke". Simply put, one of the best heavy-metal songs of all time. Its main riff sounds like a slow, steady death-march, as it methodically slays the listener into submission. The song eventually culminates in perhaps the greatest metal jam of all time to close out the song. It's gritty, it's slow, it's dirty, and it rocks hard in all it's righteous, hazy-smoke filled headbanger glory. An epic way to end an epic album.
N.O.L.A. is easily of one the best metal albums of the 90s, but also one of the greatest heavy-metal albums of all-time. What makes it even better is the fact that is was recorded by 5 friends, with zero pretentions, jamming together with no expectations other than to make a badass metal record they would like to listen to.
In the end, they made something much more than that. They made an album full of heart, grit, integrity, passion, soul, and spirit, all amounting to my personal favorite heavy-metal album of all time.