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Wednesday December 6, 2000

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(Roadrunner Records)

Grade: C

Back in the good old days, when metal ruled the earth, there was a sub-genre for every taste. Everyone had their own metal sound, from the football player (Scorpions) to the skinny kid with the mullet who drove the low-rider mini-truck (Queensryche). Today's metal fans are impoverished by comparison - they really only have two choices.

First, there are the angry guys, the "break stuff" posse, the Limp Bizkits and Korns and Slipknots. Then there are the mopey guys, the Tools and the System of a Downs. Each is pretty much recognizable by a few typical features: hip-hop beats and crazy, chunked-out guitars on the one hand, and bass-heavy, syncopated rhythms and atonal, downbeat vocals on the other.

This band's name makes it clear where Downer is trying to fit in. For the most part, Downer keeps to the well-worn, mope-metal path, laying down a steady chug-chug-chug while singer J Scott does his best to twist his naturally high-pitched, Offspring-like voice into a deeper octave more suitable for singing about his "angst and frustration." The band periodically breaks into "heavy" parts, presumably in an effort to channel more aggression and emotion. Unfortunately, since Downer's definition of "heavy" translates into plodding guitar riffage, devoid of melody and inspiration, the only sensation the listener is likely to experience is a hangover-like throbbing in the temples. Downer isn't terrible, just uninspired. The only real "downer" here is a group who is content with its half-assed, middle-of-the-road sound - a band that doesn't even bother to try to break the neo-metal cookie cutter mold.

-Phil Leckman