Philip H. Anselmo and The Illegals – Walk Through Exits Only

Philip-H-Anselmo-The-Illegals-Walk-Through-Exits-Only

Philip H Anselmo is a man that truly needs no introduction: lead singer of the legendary groove metal band Pantera and such hard rocking acts Superjoint Ritual and Down, the man knows how to rock. Despite having been around for so long, however, music fans had yet to see Phil release a true ‘solo’ album; that is, until now. The long overdue venture for the front man everybody knows, the album could have been any combination of genres: groove metal, sludge metal, death metal, etc. The man has done so much in the music business that it wasn’t known whether he was going to stay in his comfort zone ala Mark Tremonti on his solo venture or go way out of bounds like Chris Cornell did on his second solo release. So, what’s the verdict on Phil’s first solo album? To be perfectly honest, if you want heavy, you got heavy.

For a guy like myself, who really enjoyed the first few Pantera albums but listened to little of Phil’s work elsewhere, his voice now sounds a great deal more hoarse, yet just as effective given his backing band this go ’round. Each of his groups subsequent to Pantera had their own distinctive sounds removed from the aforementioned group, though this album does offer up some of the most extreme sounding stuff since Far Beyond Driven. As a matter of fact, Phil sounds very angry on this album and the music doesn’t do anything to alleviate that feeling; from the get go, the listener should expect unrelenting heaviness, and that’s what we get.

Phil’s vocals range from high shrieks to low growls, some of his screams reminiscent of latter Pantera albums, and Warbeast drummer Joe Gonzalez goes crazy behind the kit, mercilessly beating the hell out of the drums on virtually every song. Phil has sounded every bit as angry for a great deal of his career, so it should come as no surprise that that’s still the case. Look no further than Betrayed; where he spews out the lyrics ‘I’ve been betrayed/Revolt! Revolt! Revolt! just as the song opens. It’s not just the lyrics, but the delivery that brings the point home; Phil sounds like he is going to explode with anger with virtually every word he belts out, so the combination of lyrical content and vocal delivery really drive home the message that he is pissed off and there’s nothing anyone can do to change that.

Surprising, however, were the constant time signature changes; not nearly as intense and shifting as The Dillinger Escape Plan, they still provide a diverse listening experience on a few tracks to make them stick out amongst all of the brutality. In fact, this is probably where the album suffers the most; despite time changes left and right, the album really lacks variation, as a whole. Blast beats occupy many of the tracks, Marzi Montazeri overuses pinch harmonics and overall there is very little variation with the nice exception of the solo on Usurper Bastard’s Rant, the bass is nearly inaudible in the whole mix, and Phil’s relentless growls/screeches can grow a bit tiresome with no melodious chorus present to give both the listener’s ears and Phil’s voice a break. This is another aspect of the solo album that differs from his other work; there aren’t any songs on the album to break it up a bit and provide some relief; what you get on track one is what you get on the final track, with absolutely no let up in between.

The final verdict on whether or not to give this a listen comes down to a few different questions: does the would-be listener want to hear unrelenting thrash metal for 40 straight minutes with no break? If you have heard the other work of Phil, does the thought of his work with The Illegals provide enough reason to listen to an album that can be described inherently as Phil Anselmo through and through? If the answer to the first question is yes, then listen to this album. My answer to the second question was yes; Phil has done exceptional things in music, so his name alone was enough reason to give this a listen. Despite the flaws in the album, it surprised me as it’s been awhile since I’ve listened to something this heavy. It’s recommended simply for the fact that it’s unapologetically harsh from the first second to the last seconds of the last track (before the strange guitar sounds for the last eight minutes).

Final rating: 3.2/5

Tracklist:

  1. Music Media Is My Whore
  2. Battalion of Zero
  3. Betrayed
  4. Usurper Bastard’s Rant
  5. Walk Through Exits Only
  6. Bedroom Destroyer
  7. Bedridden
  8. Irrelevant Walls and Computer Screens

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