Just take a quick look at that album cover: we have a topless lady with a Mammoth or a Mastodon (wink wink) head, standing in the middle of the desert with smoke puffing up into the air. I can’t think of a more overt stoner rock album cover than that, and that’s exactly what you get with the musical package inside, well mostly. Fire Down Below are a fuzzed-out stoner rock/metal group from Belgium, and their style also borrows elements from 90s grunge (think Soundgarden), prog, and heavy psych. When the band are on fire (sorry), in the shorter, punchier tunes, the result is quite electric. There’s a decided focus to (most of) the compositions, and a nice organic live feel to the recording.
On the other hand, when the group venture into more long and complex arrangements, things tend to go sour, as repetition that’s less psychedelic and more skippadelic seems to take over. The six-minute mark seems to be the magic number separating the quality from the overlong here; just compare the full experiences of “Roadrunner” and “Dashboard Jesus”, one under and one over the mark, and how things seem to go off the rails after five minutes. That said, it’s the closer “The Mammoth” that hints at the possibility of truly great things to come. I hear bits of a stoner version of Tool in this 11-minute jam (that’s overlong again, but when it’s on point, it fantastic).
It’s emblematic of the record as a whole: Fire Down Below offer up a host of fun and punchy riffs, punctuated by catchy compositions and a more focused (for stoners) songwriting ability. If they can build upon the solid foundation of this enjoyable debut, Fire Down Below have the chance to be something special. For now, this is a remarkably fun (sometimes tedious) but forgettable first outing.