In his blustery way, Phil Anselmo has embodied everything that is right and wrong with the heavy metal lifestyle.
Fronting the legendary Pantera, he raised the bar with one timeless album after another. In Down, he combined soul and sludge. With Superjoint Ritual, he brought forth a mix of hardcore punk and groove. Throughout his life, he's been the pillar of the party — notorious for heroin abuse that led to a near-fatal onstage heart attack — and the ax that caused it to come crashing down. And let's not forget his array of death metal projects and independent label Housecore Records, which stands as a true representation of the extreme underground.
Since the dissolution of Pantera in 2003, Anselmo has followed his muse wherever it's taken him, into the depths of black metal and acoustic Southern rock. He's unblinkingly charted unknown territory. His new forthcoming solo album, Walk Through Exits Only, follows that singular path.
"Well, I was writing songs, and I've been doing Down for a long time," Anselmo explains to heavy-metal website Blabbermouth. "There's an extreme love in my heart for I guess what would be called extreme music. I wanted to basically just get this mad nagging out of my system, these songs."
Anselmo turned to guitarist Marzi Montazeri, drummer José Manuel Gonzales (of Housecore act Warbeast), and bassist Bennett Bartley to help solidify the riffs and ideas into a fully formed project.
"I feel pretty constrained with an instrument in my hand onstage," says Anselmo. "So I really need a guitar player so I can be myself up there with a microphone."
Fans eager for a taste of Anselmo's new songs will be sated by War of the Gargantuas, a split EP with Texas thrashers Warbeast, released January 8. The record is not only a sample of Anselmo's solo works and new material — it's also a precursor to what's to come from Housecore in 2013.
Fronted by Bruce Corbitt — of pioneering thrash outfit Rigor Mortis — Warbeast is a perfect example of the kind of metal Anselmo pushes with Housecore — not afraid to walk the margins. Corbitt says it was an easy choice to collaborate on the EP.
"The man's got so much experience and knowledge when it comes to recording," Corbitt says of Anselmo. "He does this thing where he cups over his mouth and it creates its own effects so you don't have to use effects through the board or anything, and he also records his own echoes."
The appreciation extends both ways — Anselmo met Corbitt at a show in the '80s, when he started the pit at a Rigor Mortis show. Pantera and Rigor Mortis were fierce Texas rivals — but the competition pushed both bands, and on the EP, you can hear the trading of influences and experience back-and-forth between Anselmo and the five-piece.
"Conflict" and "Family, Friends, and Associates" are bolstered by double bass, paired with Anselmo's visceral screams. Warbeast's "Birth of a Psycho" and "It" display how the band full of veteran players continues to shift and progress the '80s metal template.
This year, Corbitt will issue Warbeast's sophomore album, Destroy, and the long-awaited Rigor Mortis album Slaves to the Grave.
"In one year, I'm going to release more material than I have in my entire career so far," says Corbitt. "And I'm so excited for Destroy; it's like a Reign in Blood-type album from start to finish, a heavy assault."
For lifers like Anselmo and Corbitt, the old days can't compare to right now.
"Bands have a way to be seen and heard on the Internet now," Anselmo says. "The underground is thriving."