Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Anselmo enters the solo arena with 'Walk Through Exits Only'

Former Pantera frontman, Philip Anselmo, can add something new to his already lengthy rock 'n' roll resume. He is back in the music spotlight with his much anticipated album, titled Walk Through Exits Only. Unlike his other projects--such as Down and Superjoint Ritual--Walk Through Exits Only is considered to be Anselmo's first true solo project. The album was recorded at his very own studio, Nosferatu's Lair in New Orleans, Louisiana, with his backing band, The Illegals.

Phil Anselmo has always been an interesting character, with his history of substance abuse and his very public rivalries with his former band mates--most notably, Pantera's Vinnie Paul. Anselmo has proven to be a very volatile rocker, leaving music fans always wondering what he will do next. Walk Through Exits Only does its best to answer that question.

"Music Media is My Whore" is the perfectly placed intro track on the album. It serves as an announcement for what to expect--"The rise of authentic anti-music / unearthly timbers, ominous sonorities, relentless, iterated non-melody / A shuddering original, unlike anything that has come before". Phil is definitely stating that he's trying to do something different, and he's using the medium of music as his "whore" to do it. This song and album are powerful and aggressive right from the start. Jose Gonzalez's drumming is fiery and militant, and Marzi Montazeri's guitar playing is heavy and distorted. "Music Media Is My Whore" is a short track, but it packs a lot of punch in such a small package.

The title track, "Walk Through Exits Only", is equally aggressive, with Phil shouting "It's ruined! It's ruined! It's ruined!" as it begins. The drumming in this song is extremely fast, sounding almost like a machine gun blast. The guitar riffs rival that speed, and the higher pitched parts give the song a slight classic metal sound. The rest of the song boasts lower guitar tones that are equally fast. The angry lyric, "Everybody ruins music, not just me" really sticks out in my mind. It seems as though it is Phil's way of responding to some of the criticism of his previous post-Pantera projects.

"Bedridden" is the single Phil and the band have recently released a video for. It features some of the album's best guitar riffs--if not the best--and has a heavy, driving rhythm. Phil's vocals are higher and throatier in the beginning, but they return to his usual range for the rest of the song. The highlight of "Bedridden" is when he sings the line, "Stay in that fucking dress, and I won't change a fucking thing!" It has such a killer pulsating beat accompanying it. It is one of the shorter songs on Walk Through Exits Only, but one of the most memorable.

The album's last track is called "Irrelevant Walls and Computer Screens". It contains lyrics about being lied to about who the "real enemy" is by the powers-that-be. It is angry and aggressive just like the other tracks--and then some. It features varying vocal styles from Phil, ranging from higher pitched to a lower growl. Also, unlike some of the other songs from Walk Through Exits Only, it has an impressive and substantial guitar solo. Clocking in at 12 minutes, it is the album's grand finale and quite unusual. The song winds down five minutes in and it becomes much slower and quieter with distorted guitar effects and ambient noise. It is crackly, scratchy, and filled with static for quite some time. At the very last minute, the song changes directions once more--having a laid-back bluesy melody with guitar, bass, and drums.

Walk Through Exits Only has some great moments that have the potential to satisfy fans of the angriest of metal music. Some hardcore Pantera fans may like it too but I can see how it could be very difficult to separate "solo Phil" from "Pantera Phil". One particular fan I listened to the album with said it was almost like a rehashing of Pantera vocals with studio musicians. He felt like he was waiting on a Dimebag solo that just wasn't coming--leaving him sad, disappointed, and confused. He added that the songs from Walk Through Exits Only are good and they are a good indicator of "what could have been" with Pantera or any of Anslemo's other bands. He absolutely nailed it with his observations, and I believe Down and Superjoint Ritual were stand out projects, partly because the bands were so cohesive and had so much substance to them.

While I admire Phil's unapologetic rage and aggression, the band he currently has assembled--The Illegals--lacks the same soul. With this solo career, it seems as though Phil is trying to replant his roots in different soil, and it's just not working.

5 1/2 out of 10 stars

Housecore Records/Megaforce

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