Released: 2013, Housecore/Megaforce Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
With the two songs he offered up for the War of the Gargantuas split with Warbeast earlier this year, Phil Anselmo gave convincing evidence that he meant business and was not about to pull any punches when it came to his solo material. Now that his full-length solo debut is here, Anselmo shows he wasn’t just blowing smoke.
The unorthodox, yet brutally compelling Walk Through Exits Only, however, may leave many scratching their heads at first listen. The immediacy of his work with Down, Pantera and even Superjoint Ritual is noticeable in its absence here. Instead, Exits is a free-form, stream of consciousness work that defies conventional construction as Anselmo and his partners – ex-Superjoint guitarist Marzi Montazeri and Warbeast drummer Jose Manuel Gonzalez, aka The Illegals - plumb the depths of his psyche. A dark and scary place indeed.
The songs here, in fact, aren't so much “songs” as they are confessionals and tirades, with the music framed around Anselmo's rambling, cathartic cadence. “Rant with me,” he implores on “Usurper's Bastard Rant” - which may, perhaps, have been a more fitting title for the album – and rant he does, about the media that has been his friend and foe over the years (“Music Media Is My Whore”), the state of music in general (the title track, with its “Everybody ruins music, not just me ...” bon mot) and politics and manipulation, which often go hand in hand (“Battalion of Zero,” “Irrelevant Walls and Computer Screens” and “Betrayed” with its “'They've' got us right where they want us” warning).
Looking inward, Anselmo tackles the rage and pain, mental and physical, that have been his constant burdens on what read like companion pieces - “Bedroom Destroyer” and “Bedridden.” “Cold beer fattens me up for depression and I use depression … I will use this depression just like a weapon … And it's aimed at me, and anyone who dares to come to close,” he confides on “Bedroom Destroyer.” Heady, heavy stuff.
And Exits is heavy in every sense of the word. Despite the turbulent, even scattershot structure, or lack thereof, of the tracks here, The Illegals craft a visceral soundtrack that kneads together hardcore, metal, death metal and doom. Montazeri's shuddering, discordant hooks and screeching leads match the ferocity of Anselmo's diatribes and Gonzalez brings a jazz-like dexterity to his thunderous percussion as he wrestles with sometimes abstract tempos.
Walk Through Exits Only is an impressively daring effort proving that, despite a two-plus decade career crammed with hits, Anselmo is not content to rest on his laurels nor kowtow to commercial demands. Ugly, confrontational and utterly uncategorizable, it’s uneasy listening that nevertheless demands your attention.