Down I Go Prove That The Rest Of Us Are Just A Bunch Of Mere Mortals
Down I Go and you’re coming with……..
If I could get a mulligan on my 2015 Album Of The Year list, I would most definitely have booted one album so that I could enshrine Down I Go’s You’re Lucky God, That I Cannot Reach You into hero status for that calendar year. I wrote one of those blog post thingies on this very subject. I had discovered it after the fact and have found myself going back to it repeatedly and enjoying the ever loving shit out of each and every successive listen ever since. And while my track record on band discographies is Swiss Cheese at best, I delved into their 2011 EP Gods a few months ago and it further cemented something that was already evident about this band – they are on another level entirely.
How does one go about describing what Down I Go is doing? Botch meets Mr. Bungle? A proggy Clutch or Rage Against The Machine? Drunken sailor math rock? Maybe be throw in some Candiria? All that and add in some Yes influence and you are only beginning to get wind of what is at hand with Down I Go’s music. So yeah, throw all those descriptions in a blender, hit the smoothie button and Down I Go is what comes out. All told, the end result is unlike anything you’ve ever heard unless of course you’ve heard Down I Go before.
When we last left Down I Go, they had regrouped to record the aforementioned You’re Lucky God, That I Cannot Reach You and that was supposed to be the end of it because with of each of the band members being scattered across the globe, the whole writing, rehearsing and recording thing presents quite the predicament. Enter technology and the burning desire to do what you love – create music. Down I Go cannot quit music apparently as they’ve made a surprise return with this four song EP that further cements their already forward thinking legacy. This EP was, according to the press release, written in a basement in Toronto, Canada, tracked in a barn in Illinois and then shipped to Sweden where vocalist Pete Fraser would record and expertly croon over what was sent his way. The end result is Mortals and it is now ready and available for your ear consumption.
“Psyche” starts things off with let’s say…..a funky riff. George Clinton would approve. “Free your mind and your ass will follow”, would most likely be his reaction. That riff proceeds to bounce, twang and contort as it serves as an accompaniment to the almost poppy vocal stylings of Pete Fraser (more on that later). Things get slightly aggressive midway through the track and the vocals have themselves a Mike Patton-esque schizophrenic freak out. As “Palaemon” begins, you may notice a pattern forming here. The pattern being that Down I Go don’t really care much to lure you with an intro, they get right down to it with the entire ensemble coming in all at once with more of those bouncy, funky, bendy riffs, three part harmony vocal arrangements and there’s these instruments called drums and bass, perhaps you’ve heard of them. We’re on a metal blog here, but I would suspect that the majority of our audience does not listen to metal/hardcore/all around heavy shit exclusively. That which is heavy may take precedence over other genres, but you gravitate towards this style of music for the aggression, the emotion and most importantly, the against the grain and counter punch that it represents to popular music. Down I Go’s music falls into that counter punch to pop music while staying away from the heavy for the most part. While “Palaemon” dazzles with a head nod-inducing groove, it goes in other directions as well. Like going off tangent in a proggy fit of rage, then kind of breaking it down while still maintaining the hypnotic groove and then closing things out with some spacey keyboard elements. Sounds like a potential mess, but Down I Go move through all these transitions with ease while you hardly notice because the song just flows. Closing track “Heracles” is nothing short of phenomenal. It serves as a summary to all you’ve heard in the previous three tracks and then introduces other instruments to the equation in the process. After hearing the first three tracks, horns and pianos should come as no surprise. Down I Go has been gearing you up for it the whole time and it’s nothing short of brilliant. The refrain of “bring it back” at the back end of the track takes an odd turn into a jazz lounge outro and that will shock no one. There’s just something about the collective efforts of this group that pulls off some extraordinary musical successes and you’re better off just accepting it and moving on then trying to turn yourself into a pretzel and figure out what’s wrong.
If you are listening to/experiencing Down I Go for the first time, you will immediately take stock of how well performed the vocals are. This is not some auto tuned wankery of some Guns And Ammo subscriber who just recently experienced his worst opening week in sales on his latest record. Pete Fraser’s vocals sound like someone who is studied when it comes to singing. Take “Pandora” for instance. In the beginning of the track, the way the vocals are layered and how each register hits a higher notes in rapid succession is just something you don’t hear even among your most respected vocalists. It’s on another level entirely and most importantly, it jives with the music behind it. Add all the collective efforts of this EP up and you have yourself one hell of a listening session in the span of just 15 minutes. Seriously, I got stuck in traffic with this on repeat and couldn’t conjure up an ounce of aggravation because I was totally mesmerized with how excellent the sounds coming out of my speakers were.