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Philip H. Anselmo & the Illegals obliterate all preconceived notions with debut

Philip H. Anselmo & the Illegals
Philip H. Anselmo & the Illegals
Danin Drahos

Philip H. Anselmo & the Illegals - Walk Through Exits Only


"I am...a meticulous man," states Philip H. Anselmo, vocalist of Pantera, Down, and countless other bands in the beginning of the song "Bedridden".

He is definitely not kidding. How necessary it is for a musician to come along every once in a while and utterly decimate any predictions or stereotypes. Anselmo is a true original and an innovator in every sense of the word. He has consistently delivered unique material over his long career, keeping things dynamic and interesting all the while. To say that I have been highly anticipating his first solo outing, Walk Through Exits Only, would be tremendously understating matters. Meeting expectations is one thing. Absolutely pulverizing expectations -- in a good way -- is quite another thing, and Anselmo certainly does precisely that with this new release (which he wrote every single note of).

Together with 'The Illegals', Marzi Montazeri (guitar), Jose "Blue" Gonzales (drummer, also known for his work with DFW thrash masters Warbeast), the New Orleans-based icon has unleashed a truly brutal, gripping, raw masterpiece. Bass is performed on the record by Bennett Bartley, while Steve Taylor will be doing live bass on the upcoming tour (kicking off July 31, in Tulsa, Oklahoma; full dates can be found here). People should not go into this record expecting Anselmo to play it safe. Walk Through Exits Only is unrestrained chaos, and it definitely works.

Some of Anselmo's most intense, riveting vocal performances since Pantera's The Great Southern Trendkill are on full display here. "Battalion of Zero" pairs chill-evoking screams with Montazeri's blistering guitar attacks, showcasing one of the record's most phenomenal and extreme moments. "Betrayed" frantically encapsulates Anselmo's roars of "There'll come a boiling point!"The song's eerily quiet, somber outro is also rather unexpected and trippy.

"Walk Through Exits Only" has to be the album's highlight, and is a likely candidate for 'Song of 2013'. The song instantly barrels into Anselmo's ferocious lament of, "It's ruined, it's ruined, it's ruined, everybody ruins music -- not just me / jaded and over it, sick of the whole of it." The lyrics throughout the album are a fascinating fusion of unbridled rage and clever sarcasm.

"Bedroom Destroyer" further inundates listeners' craniums with its manic pace, properly displaying Gonzales' insanely impressive drumming talent. The song pairs quite well with "Bedridden" -- both have this indescribable, maniacal, claustrophobic feeling, and the lyrics pertain to Anselmo's frustration stemming from the occasional lack of motivation. "Bedridden" clocks in at just 2:28, yet leaves a devastatingly powerful impact. Montazeri's otherworldly skills are staggering, to say the very least. With each listen to this song in particular, I notice something new he does, and I love that. Anselmo & the Illegals recently released a video clip for "Bedridden" -- check it out here.

"Irrelevant Walls and Computer Screens" is mind-bending, chaotic, and takes multiple unexpected turns, with layers of Montazeri's wildly fluctuating guitar riffs. This is the perfect album closer, a strange summation and mishmash of the fittingly jarring journey preceding it.

Walk Through Exits Only is a rewarding listen, becoming even more engaging and gripping upon each listen. I crave originality in any genre of music, and this album has by all means exceeded the already-high expectations I had of it. I highly recommend Walk Through Exits Only to fans of all things extreme and experimental, to those seeking ridiculously heavy music which opts not to play by the rules. Anselmo has crafted an album with stunning songs when examined individually, yet they also work together so well to make for a killer listening experience from beginning to end. Album of the year.

Read my July 12, 2013, interview with Philip H. Anselmo: