Phil Anselmo has nothing left to prove. As the frontman of Pantera, Anselmo pushed heavy metal forward as the genre began to morph and mutate in the face of grunge. He was one of the last great vocalists of the classic metal era, and his legacy is solidified. However, after Pantera disbanded in 2003, restlessness set in for Anselmo or perhaps it’s prolificacy, or an unwavering devotion to rock ‘n roll, as he’s joined and started numerous bands, supergroups, and one-off collabs with icons such as Tony Iommi and Hank Williams III.
All of these projects sound entirely different from one another and far removed from the Pantera sound. His latest group, The Illegals, moves even further into left field, straight towards blackened thrash metal. The quartet’s debut, Walk Through Exits Only, nets Anselmo in a primal rage; he’s still pissed at society and the government, but he’s never sounded this angry. “I’ve been betrayed/ Revolt, revolt, revolt!” he howls on “Betrayed”, which borders on anarchopunk. Guitarist Marzi Montazeri drives the album with his sinister tone that’s equal parts Zakk Wylde (they both love their pinch harmonics) and Hellhammer.
There’s a strange overdub effect on Anselmo’s vocals on Walk Through Exits Only, as if the vocal take was recorded at a slower speed, sped up, and then mixed with a take at normal speed. It’s polarizing, adding an evil bite to some songs (“Battalion of Zero”, “Bedroom Destroyer”) and rendering others unlistenable (“Music Media is My Whore”, the awkward socio-political rant that opens the LP). That vocal effect carries through every track, and when combined with the persistent blast-beat onslaught, becomes monotonous.
It’s great hearing Anselmo unabashedly projecting his aggression, but Walk Through Exits Only lacks variation, making the 40-minute runtime too long.
Essential Tracks: “Battalion of Zero”, “Betrayed”