Album review: PHILIP H.ANSELMO & THE ILLEGALS – Walk Through Exits Only

Season Of Mist – Out Now.

Philip H. Anselmo is probably one of the few active musicians who, I would presume, is in the enviable position of being able to sit back and rest on his laurels without having to record a single new note. I mean, Pantera albums are still selling by the bucket load and his Doom/Stoner/Sludge super group Down is received today by their numerous fans with the same anticipation and reverence as when they recorded their stupendously addictive debut release “NOLA” back in 1995.

In view of all that, it is both refreshing and admirable to find this great frontman in need of artistic creativity outside his day-job projects – hence the birth of his first ever studio album, entitled “Walk Through Exits Only”.

Anselmo is a confessed Metalhead with a music taste fairly close to my own, so you can appreciate how excited I became when, while reading this album’s accompanying press release,  I came across descriptions such as ‘devastatingly heavy’ and ‘devastating thrash and Southern Sludge’!

Now I am not sure whether the person who wrote said press release has actually listened to “Walk Through Exits Only”, since the above-quoted descriptions could not be further from the truth! Sure, the guitars are as low-chorded as they possibly can be and Anselmo’s multi-layered vocals are, as expected, filled with anger and raw energy, but the end result is more akin to a more unnecessarily technical version of Napalm Death than to being the perfect hybrid between Pantera and Down that I am sure is what most of you were looking forward to.

I still recall how confused and disappointed I was when I first heard the opening track “Music Media Is My Whore”, a two minute composition consisting of short, repetitive riffs and a multi-layered vocal which lacked, to my ears, both direction and purpose – an opinion that remained unchanged many, many spins later.

Though genuinely happy to find Anselmo indulging in musical experimentation, the performed rhythmical manipulation on compositions such as “Battalion Of Zero”, “Usurper Bastard’s Rant” and “Bedroom Destroyer” was difficult for me to get my ears round and might lose even the most Progressive/Technical orientated fans amongst you.

It is only in the duet “Betrayed”/“Walk Through Exits Only” that the Napalm Death-meets-Voivod formula seems to be working but, sadly, to a limited extent. Then, by the time the overly complicated and terribly forgettable twelve minute “Irrelevant Walls and Computer Screens” is performed, do not be at all surprised if you find yourself lacking the motivation to repeat the same arduous process of listening to the album again.

Philip H. Anselmo is a man whose artistic endeavours I have enjoyed and supported in equal measure these last twenty years but, much as I am saddened to admit it, “Walk Through Exits Only” is one musical trip that I simply cannot embark on together with the Louisiana-born noisemaker.

What – at best – sounds like an honest and aggressive effort, seems to be no more than a confusing and unnecessarily complicated release that, had it not featured Anselmo’s name and face on the cover, would probably have been left unnoticed by most of you. Sorry Phil, mate, but I will simply have to pass on this one!

John Stefanis

Rating: **1/2 (2.5/5.0)


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