“Journey with me into the mind of a maniac…” – Dr. Dre

When it comes to heavy metal frontmen, only maybe Ozzy Osbourne and Rob Zombie, may be more recognizable names than Phil Anselmo. Known mostly for his time in the legendary Pantera and his current project Down, Anselmo has been a constant staple in heavy metal music for over two decades now. At 45 years old, Anselmo seems to be the most pissed he’s been in a long time and is using music as a creative outlet for his frustration. This leads us to the man’s first trip into solo material territory with his backing band The Illegals and the long awaited Walk Through Exits Only.

This is arguably the most frustrating 40 minutes I’ve ever listened to in my entire life and after spending a week to determine where it falls in my enjoyment scale, I’m still as clueless as the first moment I listened to it. Anselmo, who wrote all of the music for the record, seems to have taken anything he’s been listening to at the moment and cramming it all into one idea. Anything from Sludge, to thrash, to anarcho-punk/hardcore, to groove metal; it’s all in there. Couple that with super odd old school jazz time signatures and you have a bit of chaos that falls somewhere between musical genius and an insane mess. If I had to give an easy comparison I would liken it to Phil’s former project Superjoint Ritual with a little more aggression but song structures that make absolutely no sense.

While the confusing song layout is debatable as to whether it’s a pro or a con, there are a ton of great riffs and some ultra-heavy, near slam metal like breakdowns. Phil sounds like the Phil we want, instead of the singing Phil of Down. He does have some sort of effect on his voice that remains constant throughout the record but it actually adds a cool dimension to that familiar sound. As I stated in the beginning, Phil appears to be pretty angry this time out and gets pretty primal with it. Through the albums 8 tracks, Phil lets the world knows how he feels about the current state of politics and society as a whole. It’s been a long time since we’ve heard Phil vent like this and it’s a welcomed return.

Overall I have an “I don’t hate it but I also don’t love it” feeling about this record. There is something attractive about the bizarre song structures but at the same time having trouble deciphering where to insert headbangs can become annoying rather quickly. I’m also willing to admit that Phil is one of those guys that tends to get a pass with a lot of things and this album is probably one of them. I agree that if this wasn’t a project he was involved with, it probably wouldn’t get half the chance that I’ve been giving it to see if I fully come around on it. Walk Through Exits Only….with caution.