I would have a tough time believing there's a single more dynamic, candid, or interesting frontman than Philip H. Anselmo in hard rock or heavy metal today. He's one of the few musicians always guaranteed to command my full attention, so it's a great thing the man is amazingly prolific these days -- Down just released an incredible EP a few months ago, and now we are given an early glimpse of his first solo material (Anselmo's debut solo album, Walk Through Exits Only, is likely to arrive sometime in spring/summer 2013).
War of the Gargantuas is a four-song split EP between Anselmo and DFW's Warbeast, thrash masters signed to Anselmo's label, Housecore Records. It contains two tracks by each: "Conflict" and "Family, 'Friends' and Associates" by Anselmo; "Birth of a Psycho" and "IT" by Warbeast.
Anselmo's solo band is dubbed Philip H. Anselmo & the Illegals. The Illegals consist of Marzi Montazeri (guitar), Bennett Bartley (bass), and Jose Manuel "Blue" Gonzales (drums; Gonzales is also the Warbeast drummer). Other members of Warbeast: Bruce Corbitt (vocals), Scott Shelby (lead guitar), Bobby Tillotson Jr. (lead guitar), Alan Bovee (bass). This is a most interesting and excellent release because of how consistently crushing and pulverizing it is. Those looking for mellow, gentle, acoustic fluff should absolutely look elsewhere, but anyone eager to be completely bludgeoned would be wise to invest in this beast.
One of the most refreshing things about War of the Gargantuas is instantly apparent upon the first listen: there's nothing derivative here. Everything is wildly unique. This is most clear in the opening track, "Conflict", bathed in caustic screams and ferocious instrumentation. Anselmo fans, it's safe to say we haven't heard The Kid propelled by such intensity in quite a long time. While Down may explore more melodic aspects of his vocal prowess, this is sheer brutality. Gonzales' drumming is also a definite highlight: frenetic precision and indescribable chaos. The lyrics, in true Anselmo form, are raw, vicious, and honest:
I am the one, the excluded
I am an animal, that has been wounded
My insignificance...is significant
The thrashy, furious "Family, 'Friends', and Associates" is an equally gripping listen, with Montazeri's stunning guitar work on full display, the perfect framework for Anselmo's turbulent roars of, "I'm calling... you... out!"
Warbeast is pure mania: some of the most monolithic, straightforward, killer thrash to emerge since Destruction. This is not an instance in which skimping on the volume can be permitted. 'Aggressive' doesn't even touch the surface with "Birth of a Psycho," a track that pairs Shelby's frantic guitar grooves with Corbitt's distinctive vocals, and "IT" is a powerfully impressive slab of speed and monstrosity: "Flee from me...for I am Golem / body without a soul!" Corbitt cries forcefully. In addition to being a compelling live act, these songs destroy, and Warbeast is by all means a band to keep an eye on.
War of the Gargantuas is precisely the type of music release I am pleased to start 2013 with. I am absolutely thrilled to have heard Anselmo say that his two solo tracks featured on here are tame (!) in comparison to what is to come. I highly recommend this EP to fans of all kinds of extreme music.