If the lyrics weren’t clear enough, the music makes it evident that Anselmo isn’t interested in churning out the same old metal.
Review by David Feltman
With all the speed and fury of crust punk outfit Arson Anthem interspersed with the southern accent and groove mentality of Down and Pantera, Phillip H. Anselmo and The Illegals is an unrelenting audio assault. Anselmo uses his solo debut, Walk Through Exits Only, as a State of the Metal Union address. Simultaneously full of wrath and introspection, Anselmo lashes out at others as much as he beats himself up. Snarling lines like “It’s ruined, it’s ruined, it’s ruined. Everybody ruins music, not just me,” and “Regurgitation is boring. Emulation is death,” Anselmo shows he isn’t interested in calling anyone out, he’s looking for revolution.
Anselmo opens the album with a call to war, complete with martial rhythms and the marching cadence, “Time has surfaced for adroit reform.” Track titles like “Battalion Zero” and “Usurper’s Bastard Rant” reveal a heavy militaristic vibe, which is funny for a band called “The Illegals.” Drummer Joe Gonzalez is content to blast beat all comers back to the Stone Age, but the most interesting and unexpected moments come when Gonzalez cools his heels. The songs become playful with time signatures at slower tempos and even begin experimenting with an odd, phase heavy electronic plunking on tracks like “Betrayed” and “Bedroom Destroyer.” The 12-minute, distortion drenched pulsing of “Irrelevant Walls and Computer Screens” is a perfect closer, beginning with typical Pantera-ish brutality before dissolving into an exploratory trek through simmering solos and industrial chugging.
Anselmo has been the big bad granddaddy to southern metal for over a generation now and his multitude of bands and side projects have allowed him to pursue any avenue of extreme music he fancies. This solo project, however, seems to have given him license to open the flood gates of his metal subconscious and let everything out at once. If the lyrics weren’t clear enough, the music makes it evident that Anselmo isn’t interested in churning out the same old metal. Walk Through Exits Only is a vicious mélange of experimental thrash, sludge and hardcore punk. While it’s occasionally messy, this solo is a fascinating peek into the id of a metal icon.