First of all, the color is amazing--a deep yet vibrant blood red without a hint of muddy brown tones. I have never come across a shade quite like this. Other reviewers have commented that this is brown based, but I don't see a hint of 90's brown. On me at least, it is a deep garnet shade. That being said, the coverage is fairly sheer for a full coverage lipstick. If you have brown toned lips, the color will pull brown. My lips are naturally very red, hence brown tones are absent.
My love for the product ends there. I own 7 other NARS Semi-matte lipsticks (mostly vibrant red shades) and all offer exceptional coverage. Unfortunately, Fire Down Below does not live up to the other shades in this line as it goes on patchy no matter how I apply it. Primers, lip liners, lip brushes make little difference. The color tends to migrate to the edges on my lips for that unattractive "I've purposely over-lined my lips with mismatching lip liner" look. When I tried this on in the store before purchasing, I noticed that the formula was drier and less smooth than my other NARS lipsticks, but I chalked it up to the tester and not necessarily a flaw in the product. I probably should have returned it, but the color is so fabulous that I grudgingly decided to keep it in the rotation despite my reservations.
After much trial and error, I've developed a preferred method for application:
1. Exfoliate and moisturize lips.
2. Apply a base layer of lipstick with a firm brush and allow to set for several minutes.
3. Apply a second layer with lip brush.
4. When the formula has mattified, apply a light coat of lip balm with a lip brush and fill in patchy areas.
5. Allow to set again and blend out harsh edges.
6. Do not rub lips together, ever.
7. Be prepared to touch up frequently--10-15 minute intervals.
8. Repeat the entire process after you eat, sip coffee, or talk for any length of time.
Even after the elaborate lipstick application ritual, the coverage is not perfect. This is definitely not an apply-and-go type of lipstick. I've received many compliments when I wear it but I'm not sure it is worth the effort. If you have an extra 30 minutes in the day to touch up your lips by all means try this, just be warned that this lipstick is like a nagging toddler that demands constant attention. For all the effort, the finished look is unpolished and I have relegated this to casual/non-professional wear. Most of the time, I can't be bothered with the hassle. Mac Dubbonet (while not an exact dupe colorwise) can be used to achieve a similar look.
Given the caveats, the price is exorbitant. NARS' other red semi-mattes are still my absolute favorite everyday lipsticks. I don't think I'll purchase this color again unless the formula changes dramatically.