Down: Diary Of A Mad Band: Europe In The Year Of VI

Five men went to (Ansel)mo. In Europe.

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Never a man to shy away from a touch of self-mythology, Philip Anselmo (and, we can safely assume, the rest of Down) is clearly eager to propagate the notion that his current band’s 2006 European tour was very much an underground, under-the-radar affair.

In fact, the former Pantera frontman remains so revered and lauded within the metal community that he could do card tricks in a supermarket car park in Stevenage and several thousand people would turn up to be mesmerised by his every palmed ace, but even bearing his inarguable hero status in mind, there is something deliciously raw and organic about Down and their unashamed dragging of Black Sabbath’s pentatonic rumble through the Louisiana swamps.

Playing in sizeable venues full of ecstatic fans that had never seen the band perform on this side of the Atlantic before, Anselmo and his fellow riff-disciples played like demons on that tour, and thus it’s not hard to hear why Diary Of A Mad Band is a live album that needed to happen. Kick this much arse, it ably demonstrates, and the punters will succumb.

Recorded live in London as the band rolled across Europe like some giant, spliff-chewing, Marshall stack-humping armadillo, this comprises a full 100-minute performance, replete with plenty of Anselmo’s mischievous between-song banter. Thanks to raw but satisfyingly meaty sound quality, swaggering renditions of crowd-pleasers like Lifer, Temptation’s Wings and the swirling implosion of Bury Me In Smoke come unnervingly close to capturing the electrifying essence of this band’s live shows, while a shimmering, darkly psychedelic Jail proves that there is more to Down than huge riffs and whisky-fuelled grimacing.

As if a great live album might be insufficiently entertaining, there is also a full DVD documentary from the same tour. With bursts of behind-the-scenes banter, post-bong philosophising and impenetrable arsing around breaking up the uniformly thrilling live footage, it works brilliantly as a subtle study of how playing live brings friends closer together both on and off stage.

Fiery but loose as they open their Hamburg show at the beginning of the tour, Down are a well-drilled and unstoppable machine by the time they level a field full of sunburnt drunks with a titanic Bury Me In Smoke at the UK’s Download Festival some weeks later.

Dom Lawson

Dom Lawson has been writing for Metal Hammer and Prog for over 14 years and is extremely fond of heavy metal, progressive rock, coffee and snooker. He also contributes to The Guardian, Classic Rock, Bravewords and Blabbermouth and has previously written for Kerrang! magazine in the mid-2000s.