Down – “NOLA”


The making of Down’s “NOLA”

released: Sept. 19, 1995

label: East West


If there’s just one person in the world who’ll never forget the exact date NOLA came out, it’s Eyehategod guitarist/Down drummer Jimmy Bower. “September 19th, 1995,” he rattles off. “I remember because it was my 27th birthday.” It was also the culmination of a four-year process in which the members of the South’s biggest, baddest, heaviest bands formed the kind of hard rock/metal confederacy that would make later “supergroups” like Velvet Revolver and Audioslave look even more like the spoiled has-beens everyone knew they were to begin with.

Back in 1991, Bower joined Crowbar mainman Kirk Windstein, newly christened Corrosion of Conformity vocalist/riff-master Pepper Keenan, then-Crowbar bassist Todd Strange and Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo in a friend’s garage and almost instantly struck upon Down’s bruising formula. Combining the towering doom of Saint Vitus (NOLA opener “Temptation’s Wings” takes its name from a line in Vitus’ “Ice Monkey”) with thundering power grooves (“Lifer,” “Bury Me in Smoke,” “Underneath Everything”) and Skynyrd’s infectious swamp-swing (“Stone the Crow,” “Rehab”), the band cranked out a trilogy of demo tapes that quickly became legend in the underground, thanks in no small part to Anselmo and Keenan’s genius guerrilla marketing tactics. By the time Down descended upon Ultrasonic Studios to record their full-length debut, the die had been cast. The record’s title—now a well-worn acronym for New Orleans, Louisiana—was a tribute to the band’s flood-prone home base that extended to album artwork featuring ghostly John Clarence Laughlin photographs, an image of the members strolling through a potter’s field and a picture of the Superdome emblazoned on the disc itself. But it was the unstoppable jams within that make NOLA our latest induction into the Hall of Fame.

—J. Bennett

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