Mouth for War...
Over his career, the former Pantera frontman Philip H. Anselmo has never rested on his laurels and has kept an active role in underground metal. Whether it be knelling in reference to Black Sabbath with the much-loved Down; grinding it out with the NOLA miscreants in his hardcore/punk/crust project Superjoint Ritual; dipping his toes in murky pools of death metal (Necrophagia) and black metal (Eibon/Christ Inversion); or making numerous guest appearances and starting his own record label, Housecore, which has released records by Arson Anthem (a hardcore punk band also featuring Anselmo), haarp, and Warbeast, Anselmo has had a presence in nearly every facet of the scene.
Not even taking into account Pantera’s total domination of ‘90s metal, these are impressive feats from a man who has personally split opinions over the years, but whose life-long obsession with all things musically extreme is undeniable. Anselmo has been threatening a solo album for years, and he has finally gone all Phil Collins on us by finishing his first solo effort, set for release later this year. But ahead of this, Anselmo has now discharged War of the Gargantuas, a split EP which includes two songs off his forthcoming debut and two songs by Texan thrashers Warbeast—who are also set to release a new album this year on Housecore.
Realistically it is Anselmo’s two songs, “Conflict” and “Family, ‘Friends’ and Associates”, which will summon most of the attention here, as Anselmo, who is now backed by The Illegals, is still a massive draw. That is why it’s an intelligent move by “the kid” to release his first solo material as a split EP to include one the protégés he is currently promoting. But credit must be given to Warbeast who more than hold their own on this EP.
On their two efforts here, “Birth of a Psycho” and “IT”, Warbeast showcase a decidedly raucous mix of European and US thrash metal influences, and show great understanding of what it takes to write good music under this genre: charging riffs and screeching leads (see “IT” for a searing solo from guitarist Scott Shelby); relentless beats that underpin the riffs; and most importantly—vicious vocal hooks, which former Rigor Mortis frontman Bruce Corbitt is more than able to rapidly deliver, especially on “Birth of a Psycho”. Warbeast have definitely stepped up to the plate here to match their new levels of notoriety, and these two songs are much better than anything on 2010’s Krush the Enemy.
Turning attention back to Anselmo’s contributions, “Conflict” and “Family…” are two of the most twisted and feral songs of his career, coming across like Superjoint Ritual if they relied on the technicality embedded in death metal, with the volatile attitude of Pantera during their uncompromising The Great Southern Trendkill days factored in. The Illegals—Marzi Montazeri (guitars), Bennett Bartley, and Warbeast’s powerhouse drummer José Manuel Gonzales—are a superb backing band, and the voracious performance of these musicians really pushes Anselmo to the limits, as he screams his scarred throat raw during the swarming riffs and sickly changes of “Conflict”, and shrieks dementedly over the poisoned hardcore punk of “Family…”. Both songs accomplish the task of piquing interest in what Anselmo has in store for his full-length solo release. After decades of sacrificing himself for metal, Anselmo’s extreme metal heart still beats brazenly and he shows no signs of relenting. It’s nice to see (and hear) “Fucking Hostile” remains a way of life for this metal marvel.