To chronicle the past five years leading up to the release of DOWN's new album, "III - Over The Under", singer Philip Anselmo (ex-PANTERA) has been issuing periodic installments leading up to the release of the record. This is Philip's personal communication to the band's loyal fan base and gives a first hand account of the tragedy, isolation, rebirth and ultimate triumph of one of the most important bands of our time.
The third installment is as follows:
"I don't want to skip over some of the finer points of interest that occurred during the writing of 'Over the Under'. So, I'm going to jump back and tell of some key happenings.
"Before DOWN began writing new material as a whole band, I was four months out of surgery, and two months into physical therapy and was asked to sing with ALICE IN CHAINS by Jerry Cantrell (opening up for the majestic HEART). I hadn't been on stage in two years, but I accepted immediately. It was an honor. Layne Staley (R.I.P) was a friend, and an incredible singer. I hadn't sang in a long time, and singing his songs was no easy task. I did the gig. With my mobility still extremely compromised, I still felt confident. The show was spiritual. The surprise, and response of the fans, the tears, the symbolism/homage to our deceased brothers, so thick over the event, we could feel them. The band played with tight emotion. They were amazing. All of this was overwhelming (AIC is in my heart). This is what I needed. A catalyst. I was home on that stage. I needed it back, and I would have it. After that incredible experience, my workouts became even more intense, and the writing of the new DOWN began for real.
"The songs to this point were very raw, recorded on hand-held cassette recorders and jam boxes. But, those tapes became priceless to us. We carried them everywhere we went, and became a canvas for ideas that consumed us all. After workouts and practice, I would spend my time intimately with a pen and paper, a guitar, an old generic amp (with a crushing tone!) and an old cassette four-track. I wrote insidiously. I dug through mountains of tapes, and found quite a large amount of jam sessions we had recorded over the years. Everyone else also had their own private library of jam tapes as well, and soon we were overwhelmed with riffs and half-songs. I put them all onto one CD. From start to finish it ran over an hour. There was enough material for four albums, and, they were all damn good parts. Jim [Bower, drums] and I recorded some raw parts for a few songs (just guitar and drums) at Balance Studios with 'the puma' courtesy of my partner in adventure and the owner of the facility Gene Joannen. After that, we were interrupted, pleasantly, by opportunity. We had to switch gears completely.
"I was six months out of surgery, and we did a five week tour of Europe. Playing our own 'Evening With Down' shows, as well as the giant, (in)famous, outdoor summertime festivals, including being the unannounced, special guest band to play the main stage at Download that year (U.K./European fans, our homeland, YOU, our sisters and brothers, are incredible! THE LOYAL!!! We shall return…soon). It was a big deal.
"DOWN had never been to Europe before. Word had it that our contingency there was insane. It would be our first tour in over five years, and there was no better way for us to return. We decided to document the event to be used as a movie (no release date yet). It was directed by one of my best friends Jim Van Bebber ('Deadbeat At Dawn', 'The Manson Family'),and his cinematographer, the ever-cool Mike King.
"With Snake, our ever-loyal, kick-ass road crew, the film crew, and (us) the band, we all got onto a plane for an eight-hour flight. We landed in Hamburg, Germany, then piled into two buses. The shows were awesome! The audiences in Europe are as hardcore as you can get. As a band, we were in no way, shape, nor form, any where close to the standards we were capable of, but we pulled it off.
"The highlights of the tour are many. Playing the Gods of Metal festival in Italy, seeing old friends like Satyr and Frost from SATYRICON (you fucking killed!),TESTAMENT, SODOM, and many others. But one of my greatest memories of all… The mighty VENOM (hail to Cronos, Antton, and Mike!) headlined the festival, and invited me onstage to sing 'Die Hard' (from the 'Bursting Out'/'Die Hard' EP). It made a part of my life.
"Running into VOIVOD in London was an all night blast! (Much love to Snake and Away. You've influenced two generations of heavy metal, and are one of my favorite bands. We are friends for life! R.I.P. Piggy. I can't say enough about you as a person, neither your beautifully unique guitar talent. At rest, your legacy is forever).
"The Download festival was great for us, and our last show in the U.K. We opened the whole show at 11 a.m. and the crowd was packed in and ready. They sang every word. It was a fucking jam session. We had the opportunity to watch a wide variety of bands that day, and the crowd were fanatic throughout (love to Dez, Tim, and anyone I left out)!
"METALLICA (gods!) headlined that year. It was the anniversary of the release of the massive 'Master of Puppets'. They ripped through the entire LP from beginning 'till end. They were very animated, extremely tight, and they dominated the masses of fans, who could not get enough. It was as heavy as heavy gets.
"Making it through that tour was a giant re-learning experience. Being in front of an audience again, and a great audience they are, our groove as a band came quickly. It was clumsy here and there, but there were more great moments than bad. It most importantly was extremely instrumental in the re-sharpening of our chemistry as a band, and, friends. On a personal note, in the back of my mind, there may have been a glimpse of doubt about the wear on my spine at that point, but my WILL saw me through. I knew I had a ways to go, but I'd get it. And it proved WE were damn well ready to roll on..."
Check out photos at this location.