Friday Night: Down and Warbeast at Warehouse Live
"Seems like we just played here," said Philip Anselmo as he surveyed the crowded Warehouse Live ballroom from the stage on Friday night.
The feeling was understandable: The singer's band, Down, had indeed played the same stage just eight scant months ago. But that hadn't stopped the venue from filling up once again with heavy metal precision.
It doesn't really matter how often Down comes through Houston, or any of Anselmo's other projects, for that matter. Every trip he makes through Texas is greeted as cause for celebration. In the hearts of fans, the ex-Pantera vocalist stands alone as the undisputed king of the state's heavy metal scene, and they always turn out to see him.
In a band stacked with New Orleans' top heavy-metal talents, including Pepper Keenan of Corrosion of Confomity and Kirk Windstein of Crowbar, Anselmo got the biggest cheers by far. He was at home in Houston right off the bat, energized and ready for the first night of a Western jag to the coast dubbed the Weed and Speed Tour in honor of Down's pairing with Arlington thrashers Warbeast.
"Since this is the first show back, let's fuckin' have a fuckin' good time," Anselmo said, in his characteristically florid manner. "Fuck everything, man. Let's go for it."
By the time he took the stage with Down, of course, the party was already rolling. The opening band, Austin superboogie trio Honky, damn near stole the show with their high-octane rock and roll ruckus. Their diesel-soaked riffs and Hill Country harmonizing had the crowd hooting right along, especially the thunderous "Snortin' Whiskey."
Last time through town, it had been Warbeast attempting to steal the show from the openers' slot. This year, with Warbeast providing direct support to Down, the band couldn't help but sound and feel more established. The crowd greeted them with a familiarity that wasn't there eight months ago.
It didn't hurt that Anselmo could be seen lurking back behind the band's amps, air-guitaring and drumming along to guitarist Scott Shelby's shredding on tunes like "Krush the Enemy" and "Egotistical Bastard." Warbeast singer Bruce Corbitt couldn't resist dragging Anselmo out front and center to duet on a song from that album, the appropriately titled "Warbeast."
Sorry or not, it was a good move. If Warbeast hadn't gotten the crowd's full attention before, handing Phil a microphone did it. All of a sudden, the mosh pit swelled and exploded as Anselmo added his trademark gravelly shriek to the band's whipping Texas thrash.
Anselmo has been a major backer of Warbeast in recent years, not only signing the band to his Housecore Records label but taking them out on tour a couple of times with Down and even mixing their forthcoming sophomore album, Destroy. His passion for the music was on full display as he screamed over Shelby's leads. The crowd loved it.
Cool as that was, Warbeast sounded best on its final songs of the night: "It" and "Birth of a Psycho" from their brand-new split EP with Anselmo, War of the Gargantuas. "Birth" was the fastest song of the night, with the rolling thunder of drummer Joey Gonzalez's kick drums whipping the pit into a dangerous swirl of black-clad bodies.