This one time I mixed Coco Pops and Frosted Shreddies together in the same bowl for breakfast and created the ultimate ‘super-cereal’. It was alchemy perfected, albeit an experience that nearly threw me into a diabetic seizure. However a subsequent concoction of Coco Pops and standard non-frosted Shreddies was a little disappointing to me. Now if this isn’t the ultimate metaphor for the fine margins determining the success or failure of ‘supergroups’ I don’t know what is.
So which cereal-based cocktail best describes Down? It’s a tricky one to answer. The three albums they’ve released to date, while good, have never blown me away and so I arrive at the Roundhouse uncertain of what to expect from their live performance having read poor reviews of previous tours. The fabulous Orange Goblin in support have stirred up the hordes to perfection with their brand of rock n’ roll stoner metal, the beer is flowing and masses of black shirts are jostling for position at the front of the stage. We’re met with a blues intro track before those unmistakable members of Crowbar, Eyehategod and Corrosion Of Conformity saunter on stage.“Are you ready for something Black Sabbath style?” drawls Phil Anselmo before Eyes Of The South slowly but surely rumbles into life, 90 seconds of what seems like a jamming session before the groove-laden sledgehammer of a riff kicks in. Awesome.
The last time I saw Anselmo was in April 2000, Pantera playing at the Brixton Academy. Even back then in his relative youth, Anselmo was an imposing beast of a frontman and the evidence on show tonight is that little has changed except maybe his belt size. (Let’s just say his gym membership appears to have lapsed). He stalks every inch of the stage with menace and headbangs like his life depends on it. Back to having a shaved head, caked in tattoos, rarely smiling even when he’s being nice to the crowd, he has the look of a nightclub bouncer you just wouldn’t fuck with.
There is an undeniable chemistry between the band members on stage which is a pleasure to witness; drummer Jimmy Bower and guitarists Pepper Keenan and Kirk Windstein hold steadfast grins throughout. It’s not possible to see what expression bassist Pat Bruders has as his face is permanently masked by his hair, but I reckon he’s probably smiling too. There’s a flow and energy about the band (they must have balanced out their Qi with some amethyst stones and shiatsu massage. I'm making it sound like fucking Enya, hang on...) and they seem to be enjoying unleashing dark, heavy, unstoppable and merciless riffs upon this Sunday congregation, like a steamroller ploughing through a children’s playground. Without the dead children. Or steamrollers. Basically, it's like a figurative plough.
We get a couple of tracks from the newly-released EP 'The Purple': Open Coffins and another whose name I didn’t catch, Anselmo’s impenetrable Southern accent sometimes too much for me to decipher. There’s a lot of chat between songs. Maybe too much. Upon asking the crowd which song the band should play next the bloke next to me, patience wearing thin, shouted ‘Just shut the fuck up and play the whole of NOLA!’, and maybe he had a point. After all the tracks from the first album are the ones which seem to go down the best with the hordes, Swansong and the relatively tuneful Stone The Crows standing out for me personally.
We close with Bury Me In Smoke, support acts taking to the stage to add to the noise and round off a quality evening of old school metal. On this performance Down are clearly on the up (here's your P45, ed).
Posted: Tue 23 October 2012