Normally the term “supergroup” refers to a band comprised of members of other well-known bands. And although this term is often affixed to Down, it’s hard to find people outside of the hardcore metal scene who have heard of Crowbar, Corrosion of Conformity, Eye Hate God, or Pantera (Pantera being the probable exception). For it is from these bands that Down was formed in the early 90’s, fronted by Pantera’s snarling vocalist Phil Anselmo. But for those in the know, metal-wise, this is a supergroup.
Down’s sound can best be described as a mix of Black Sabbath-like metal riffs, coupled with Zeppelin-esque blues grooves, and a sprinkling of growling metal ire. The head-banging moments are much fewer and far between than Pantera’s offerings, but they are certainly there, spread amongst Down’s three albums “Nola,” “II,” and “Down III: Over the Under.”
The near-capacity crowd at Northern Lights in Clifton Park last Wednesday night came to rock out, and Down did not disappoint. From the opening notes of “Lysergik Funeral Procession,” the metal-head frenzy began. Throughout the show, Anselmo was more than happy to let the crowd sing the lyrics on fan favorites like “Lifer,” (which Anselmo announced was in memory of Pantera’s flame-throwing guitarist Dimebag Darrell) “Hail the Leaf,” and “Bury Me in Smoke.” Anselmo seemed genuinely impressed with the crowd’s enthusiasm, and devoted almost every between-song lull to expressing his gratitude.
Despite their metal leanings, Down really showcased their southern-rock roots and influences on songs like “Stone the Crow” and “Ghosts Along the Mississippi.” And it’s tunes like these that makes Down a dynamic and diverse assemblage of metal talent.
Preceding Down were veteran pre-grunge Seattle rockers the Melvins, complete with dual drum kits and trademarked by guitarist/vocalist Buzz (aka King Buzzo) and his finger-in-the-socket hairstyle. The Melvins’ brand of metal, though still as unconventional and occasionally atonal as in years past, got the crowd rocking and jamming to the dark grooves. It’s hard to qualify their sound – sort of a cross between the prog-metal assault of Tool and the quirky punkish style of the Butthole Surfers. But even after so many years, they still sound tight and their style works.
The show opened with Weedeater, a North Carolina heavy metal trio featuring a bass-playing virtuoso named “Dixie” Dave Collins. Think Les Claypool meets Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris meets a bottle of amphetamines. Monstrous metal grooves and Collins’ howling vocals had the crowd swinging. But the group really shined during a couple of instrumental numbers, the smashing drum beats and the wailing guitar keeping pace with the lightning-speed bass line.