Downset – Review


by Scott Hefflon

Kings may be dethroned and gods may fall out of favor, but it doesn’t happen often. It’s too easy to leave the untouchables alone and forever compare those that dare to challenge as “close, but no cigar.” Occasionally, some unknown Rocky comes along and beats ass. Yeah, sure, they sound like other bands, but the title changes hands and suddenly, everyone is being compared to the newcomers. This seems to be the case with both Machine Head (Roadrunner) and Downset. (Mercury). I’ll leave the former for someone else to try and and describe and focus on Downset.

The press kit was the size of a Stephen King novel and just as scary. Trying to glean pertinent facts and getting mostly “these guys are hot” hype. No shit, fool! Seeing industry mags froth within strict word count, side by side with ‘zine ragged-edge rantings about how fucking rad the band is… Well, perhaps we have a hero in common. Whether you understand their politics and agree or not, you have to respect their power and sheer intensity. Rey, singer/messenger, roars true school hardcore like an urban battle cry and spits rapid-fire hip hop more accurately and lethally than a burst from an AK-47. The band blasts like a rhythmic double barrel shotgun, damaging by bulldozer force rather than speedbag tempo. The comparisons to Rage Against the Machine are there for a reason, but after reading numerous snide comments that seem to be shot in that direction, Rey and the boys have one major difference. They’ve been playing this style for over a decade (with a few modifications, of course) and did not just jump the bandwagon cuz it seemed a cool new trend or there looked to be a bit o’ moola in it.

The raw power behind their tunes drives the weighty topics raged by Rey. To quote from the lengthy lyric sheet often weakens the potent content, but these Power Words (followed by exclamation points to really drive the point home) are the sort that upper level execs would jot in their daily planners and toss into conversion whenever possible. To wit:

“Yup they killed my daddy! And if I don’t blast ’em back, you know they gonna kill me, do me like they did NATASHA, back turned from a gat hollow tip to the dome they got ya. April 29, L.A. swine not guilty, fools down for the payback on Florence and Normandy.” from “Anger.” Lyrics by Rey

The classic lines in “Prostitutionalized” are ranted with a passion that really hits home. “Question the intentions of this alternative generation… Is “Doc Martin” more important than a movement…” and the ending “I am more than a musical byproduct.” (how about “buy product?”) say it all.