Legendary Pantera, Down and Superjoint (Ritual) frontman Philip H. Anselmo is back with the 2nd installment of his Illegals project and the follow-up to 2013’s “Walk Through Exits Only.” Accompanied by current Superjoint bandmates Stephen Taylor (who moves from bass to guitar) and drummer Jose “Blue” Gonzalez, along with new Illegals Walter Howard on bass and Mike DeLeon on lead guitar, Anselmo continues along the extreme thrash meets black metal path of the first Illegals record and with no noticeable reduction in aggression and lyrical nihilism.
Since there have already been volumes written about the Pantera breakup, I thought it best to ignore that already well-charted and highly speculative territory and focus instead on Anselmo’s latest offering with as little historical baggage attached as possible. It’s not easy to ignore that kind of past, but I’ll give it a try. The record kicks off with “Little Fucking Heroes” and clearly the anger and musical misanthropy is turned up to 11 right out of the gate. One wonders immediately if this might not be music better suited to your local mosh pit than say your iPhone. The production is raw and abrasive and there is nothing even remotely radio-friendly, or maybe even socially-friendly, contained within. Blast beats and dissonant guitar lines weave in and out behind a wall of distortion and Anselmo’s aggressive vocals on standout tracks like “Delinquent,” “Photographic Taunts,” “Finger Me,” the title track “Choosing Mental Illness” and the more experimental album finale “Mixed Lunatic Results,” which has an interesting deconstructionist feel as it winds the record down.
While there isn’t the kind of stylistic variation of a Pantera or a Down record (ahhh… I said I wasn’t going to reference the past!) there is solid musicianship throughout and a single-minded purpose that should appeal to fans of Anselmo’s work with Superjoint and the first Illegals’ record.