Although my personal preference lies with Down II, NOLA(an acronymfor New Orleans, Louisiana) is still a force to be reckoned with. Members of Pantera, COC, Eyehategod, and Crowbar coming together to record a Southern-fried slab of 70’s style heavy metal? Are you kidding? Gimme!NOLA has some clear differences from Down II. It’s consistently heavier, Phil resorts to screaming his way through much of it, and there is less diversity between tracks. That being said, this manages to be one of the greatest metal albums ever. Every song has at least one classic or memorable riff within–the best tracks 4 or 5. Occasionally, an unorthodox instrument will show up: a water pipe on “Hail The Leaf,” bongos in “Jail,” plenty of cowbell, an acoustic guitar, etc.”Temptation’s Wings” gives the album a good head start, and is followed by “Lifer,” which has a drop-dead gorgeous crunchy riff that shows up about two minutes into it. “Pillars of Eternity” has a pounding/tribal nature about it, and “Hail The Leaf” sets a dichotomy to it by being much slower and moodier. “Rehab” is my personal favorite song off the album due to its unbelievable melodies in guitar and vocals(he sings!). Excellent harmonization on Pepper’s part as well. “Stone The Crow” was a minor radio hit back in 1995, and it’s easy to see why with its beautiful bluesy guitar lead and melodic chorus. “Pray For The Locust” is a mystical acoustic ditty, and “Jail” is a spooky swampsong–all acoustic, very “Planet Caravan”-esque. Down would perfect this style of moody softer bit with their next record. “Swan Song” has a delicate main riff that kicks it off, and “Underneath Everything” shares a similar style of crunchy quasi-thrash riff with the closer, “Bury Me In Smoke.” To summarize, Down crafted a fine album with NOLA. The album is a time capsule of sorts, because it captures the essence of the South in 1995. The artwork, the band members, the filler paper, the numerous references to a certain leafy substance/smoke/its effects, the CD with a bird’s-eye-view of NOLA itself, the Superdome and all…it’s the South incarnate. Fans and B.R.O.E.S. alike had seven years to digest the album until its radically developed followup came along the damp and dusty bayou path in 2002, so most listeners’ favor falls with this release. In reality, it’s a toss-up. Both albums are worth owning.Be a Lifer. Ride Temptation’s Wings. Listen to Down.