Friday, 19 July 2013

Phil Anselmo & The Illegals: Walk Through Exits Only - Review

  • Genre: Metal
  • Release Date: 16/07/13
  • Number of Tracks: 8
  • Length: 40:42
  • Record Label: Housecore


There are two things I would like to sort out before I get into the main body of this review. The first is that if you are reading this and you have no idea who Phil Anselmo is then stop reading, listen to the back catalogues of Pantera, Down and Superjoint Ritual (and any of Anselmo's countless other side projects) and then come back. The second point is a little more serious. Phil Anselmo is a legend and has been involved of some of the best Heavy Metal music created since the early 90s. Although it should be noted that Phil Anselmo & The Illegals are not Pantera and are not Down, and by no means should they sound like anything them, I still feel the need to offer comparisons between the bands just to try to make a little more sense of everything and to put things in better context. That being said I can get onto reviewing "Walk Through Exits Only".

There has been a lot of hype surrounding this record for a while as it is being touted as Anselmo's first solo album. I have a lot of respect for the man, being a massive fan of both Down and Pantera, and subsequently I was extremely excited about its release. A few days before the album dropped the video for "Bedridden" was released and this gave me a bit of an insight into the album. I was expecting something similar to Superjoint Ritual that pulled no punches and, in true Anselmo fashion, would be straight to-the-point, crushingly heavy and, most importantly, would be fun and exciting.  

When I first listened to the album as a whole all I can say is that I was wholly disappointed as I felt it didn't live up to the promise that had been shown on "Bedridden". For me it takes a long time for the album to get going. Opener "Music Media Is My Whore" is basically two minutes of Anselmo ranting about the music business, which is fine to a degree and it would be forgivable if it was one of those "throwaway" tracks at the start of an album that only seeks to build up the tension ahead of some riffing goodness in track 2; unfortunately this is not the case. Following is "Battalion Of Zero", which, although very frantic and angry, just feels like Anselmo is making a few points about  politics to some aggressive backing music. The first two tracks set the precedent for the rest of the album and it leaves little to get excited about.

Yes, "Walk Through Exits Only" is reminiscent of Superjoint Ritual but for the most part I find it to be incredibly samey and after a song or two the listener has honestly already experienced everything on offer. My main issue for the album is that there doesn't seem to be any time for The Illegals to do their thing. A good 95% of the album involves some kind of lyrics, which means that there is very little chance for the music side of the album to breathe. A case in point for this is the fact that on every song Anselmo comes in almost instantly, leaving no time to build things up musically. Tracks like "Walk Through Exits Only" feature a couple of cool ideas but as a listener I wanted these to be developed more than they are for two reasons; the first is that I really love riffs and the second is that it would give the album chance to have a bit of differentiation. It isn't that The Illegals aren't good at what they do, it's just that their work feels totally overshadowed.

Something that really annoys me about this record is closer "Irrelevant Walls and Computer Screens". Closing an album with a 12 minute song is a bold move but in this case it feels like the wrong move. If you are talking Phil Anselmo and long ending songs then Down's "Bury Me In Smoke" has to come to the forefront, "that" riff is incredible and it brings such a crushing and heavy end to NOLA (which is brilliant); unfortunately "Irrelevant..." does not quite have the same effect. This track has 5 minutes or so of the same old that you have come to expect from the album and then enters a good (or bad) 7 minutes of random noises, bad solos and the like that feels totally pointless. It doesn't exactly end the album on a high note and more has the effect of petering out the record than bringing it to some kind of triumphant end.  

I find it difficult to pull positives out of this album because everything that is good about it leads me to something I don't like. For example, Anselmo is spot on with his vocals and his lyric writing is as strong and angry as ever; unfortunately there is far more of him on the album than there should be. The riff work is really good in places but nothing seems developed and I want there to be more of it, same for the drums. The guitar solos are few and far between but the solos that do feature are, for the most part, enjoyable. The production is very clean and sounds really good but then I question if it's the right style for the album and would prefer something a little more "raw". Naturally this creates a frustrating feel to the album and prevents me from fully enjoying it.

It is probably evident that I don't think this album is as good as I wanted it to be. I wouldn't go so far as to call the record boring but it becomes very hard to not turn it off because, as with Megadeth's "Super Collider", it does not hold my attention. I remember the excitement that I felt when I heard Pantera, Down and Superjoint Ritual for the first time and that excitement was definitely lacking with "Walk Through Exits Only". I leave the album wanting so much more and this saddens me because I was hoping for one of the best records of the year. Overall "Walk Through Exits Only" is similar, in a way, to Superjoint Ritual but nowhere near as good and truthfully I think that if the Anselmo name wasn't on the album it would have passed into obscurity.


Standout Track: Bedridden

Overall: 4/10    


Just another quick point in that I now have a Spotify playlist for my blog. When I do reviews I will take a couple of the best tracks from the album and bang them on there for your enjoyment. Just search "The Braindead Metalhead" in the search bar and you should find it, enjoy.

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