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Down - Diary Of A Mad Band

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Monday, December 6, 2010 @ 6:04 PM


(Down Records)

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You'd probably be mad too if it took something you did four years to see the light of day, but given that the members of Down all come from other bands, with their various labels involved, and Down's earlier work was issued through other labels again, it's probably a miracle this live two CD/one DVD set ever was released.

Indeed, just when it seemed Diary Of A Mad Band was in the offing in March, the rug got pulled out from under it so lingering "legal issues" could be taken care of. And after three-plus years, what's another six months anyway? During all this time, Down went on to record their third album, 2007's Over The Under, tour a bunch more times and deal with bassist Rex Brown (ex-Pantera) having to endure a year's worth of recuperation from acute pancreatitis.

Recorded during Down's first tour of Europe in 2006, not long after the on-again, off-again quintet - featuring ex-Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo, COC guitarist Pepper Keenan, Crowbar guitarist Kirk Windstein and Eyehategod drummer Jimmy Bower - had regrouped yet again, it captures the immediacy and genuine excitement of a specific moment in time, and as such is an entertaining document, through not a particularly revealing one.

There's really not a whole lot of "diary" on the DVD portion of Diary Of A Mad Band, aside from a bunch of brief backstage/tour stop/travel snippets and the featurette "Tyrades And Shananigans" that is essentially a collection of more of the same. And many of these are merely Anselmo's rantings, ramblings and fucked up, couch-bound philosophizing. There's no back story, per se, offering any insight into what brought the group back together, nor anything of real substance from the other members, which is too bad. You end up seeing and hearing more of Down's tour manager, onetime Skid Row guitarist Dave "Snake" Sabo, than any of the actual band members, save Anselmo. And the best of the backstage moments involves some "special guests," as Anselmo apologizes to Darkthrone's Fenriz and Satyricon's Satyr and Frost for saying "some really stupid shit" - in essence, describing Norwegian black metallers as corpse-painted marijuana farmers - earlier that evening during a show in Oslo. Hi-larious.

From a musical perspective, however, Diary is a veritable bounty, offering nearly four hours worth. The live CDs capture an entire London show and the DVD boasts 17 tracks that were recorded throughout the tour. And it's a pretty rough and tumble collection that hasn't been prettied up afterward - despite all the time they had to fiddle around with it if they chose to do so - so what you might have seen or heard at the time is what you get here. Anselmo's vocals tend to come and go and he seems a bit "wobbly" at certain points, especially on the DVD. Yet, in spite of that, he is still as commanding and confrontational a frontman as there is.

His mates are tight, thick and often explosive, playing with the urgency of a band that, given their history, knows this tour - like any - could be their last. "Losing All," "Tempation's Wings," "Lifer," "Eyes of The South" and "Stone The Crow" are a cascade of riffage that surge like the oncoming tide. And the epic closer "Bury Me In Smoke" is about as intense as it gets, especially on the DVD where the band simply annihilate a dumbstruck Download Festival crowd at like 11 in the morning. Awesome.

***

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