Sunday, January 21, 2018

Full Length Review: PHILIP H. ANSELMO & THE ILLEGALS Choosing Mental Illness As A Virtue

Choosing Mental Illness As A Virtue
Season Of Mist (Europe)
Release Date: January 26th, 2018
All-star collaborative bands have been increasing in number and activity for the last ten years. One of these, featuring none other than Phil Anselmo, has caused a stir since 2013. When it comes to bands finding new directions from scratch, I got that spark from listening to their new CD Choosing Mental Illness As A Virtue. Their reconstruction of the crossover of black and death metal, with impressions of accessibility to fans of Down and Superjoint makes for what Pantera was described as having been when Vulgar Display Of Power was released, “a new kind of beast.” Two members of this band worked with Anselmo in Superjoint and two others worked in several death, black and grindcore bands, so it sounds like their symbiotic working relationship in Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals is birthing this new beast and raising it with a mind of its own. If there are questions of whether the material is honest and not deliberately geared toward giving the masses instant gratification, a single listen should be enough to convince you of their honesty. I buckled down and looked into the abyss of their collective effort and found no insinuations of pandering so far. Now I’ve seen my share of negative press on Anselmo, but being able to mentally divorce his work from said negative press, I realize his band/s originality could be another statement aboveground metal needs. If for any reason to blow an even bigger hole in the contrived, choreographed inadequacy of pop and pop-punk. It certainly did for me. The beginning of Little Fucking Heroes is akin to a war cry against it, its message something to think about. Is metal “cool” or a way of life? Anselmo remains as relentless and vital as he has shown himself with Pantera, Down, Superjoint and the other bands he has worked with. His single minded approach to fronting bands is shared by the musicians backing him (guitarists Stephen Taylor and Mike DeLeon, bassist Walter Howard IV and drummer Jose Manuel Gonzales). They all had equal songwriting input, and the entire album was recorded in a cut and dry manner, angry and to the point, described by Anselmo as “unforgiving.” This kind of abhorrence can be an album’s most important asset or cause it to implode from within. Fortunately the band match their inventiveness with enough gumption and devotion to craft to establish their attitude without apology. As if you have to accept their emergence onto the scene whether you like them or not. No lyrics came with the advance stream I was emailed by Earsplit PR but the message and presentation of the first track is enough to convince me this is not a band for those seeking a superficial lyrical fix. Following this are nine more tracks written as hard-hittingly introspective as  the music is relentlessly, brutally heavy. Utopian, The Ignorant Point, Individual, Delinquent, Finger Me and Mixed Lunatic Results, while encompassing their influences from the mid-nineties through the 2000s to the present, sound penned to make Pro-Pain and Type O Negative seem like easy listening by comparison. What's more, Choosing Mental Illness... gives you something different to listen to with each track. Another welcome diversion from the inane pop the industry is oversaturated with. You can listen to any pop radio station and hear how painfully formulaic their rosters are. Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals stay as far as possible from the "sameness sells" mindset, and make the extra effort to stand out from the crowd.  In the album's official bio Anselmo says he hasn't even close to reaching his peak yet, and this is “the tip of the fucking avalanche.” I for one hope so. -Dave Wolff

Track list:
1. Little Fucking Heroes
2. Utopian
3. Choosing Mental Illness
4. The Ignorant Point
5. Individual
6. Delinquent
7. Photographic Taunts
8. Finger Me
9. Invalid Colubrine Frauds
10. Mixed Lunatic Results

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