Like that soothing feeling that comes after you've stopped pounding yourself on the head with a hammer, finding a heavy rock album that doesn't sling scratching or MC braggadocio on a wall already spattered with the flavor of the month is a welcome treat. Not that not doing something automatically makes an album any good, but Downer's new self-titled effort, the followup to 1996's Wrestling with Jesus, stands out (or up) from today's tired cock-rock flock.

"Flex" opens the 11-song release with Aaron Silberman's flanged-out guitar line quickly morphing into a bombardment of punch-and-crunch riffs. "You weren't meant to succeed by any means," howls vocalist John Scott (whose no-frills voice recalls that of Offspring's Dexter Holland in pitch), "but that doesn't mean you're easily beat down." This bad attitude also festers on the dropped-tuning sludge of "Mud Bath," while its polar opposite is the basis for "Last Time" ("A sign of hope goes in the air with me and into the sidewalk below... six stories on my head"). Evidently themes about escaping are hard to escape while immersed in Downer's eponymous world view.

Born into the SoCal hardcore scene and raised on jagged scraps of Nu Metal, Orange County's Downer is looking for the mainstream success that bands like Korn (which opened for them at one point) and Offspring (with which they played a pizza parlor in earlier days) have encountered. Despite the fact that the band has struggled with a revolving rhythm section since forming in the early '90s, Downer may make up for lost time.

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