Philip H. Anselmo and the Illegals at Warehouse Live, 1/10/2014
Philip Anselmo might be a New Orleans metal icon, but it's hard to imagine he's any less beloved here in Houston than in his hometown. This city is home to a vast number of frustrated Pantera fans still smarting from the loss of slain guitarist Dimebag Darrell nearly ten years after his passing. A local visit by the band's former lead vocalist is always treated as a chance to celebrate Pantera's musical legacy and stomp a few heads flat for old times' sake.
It shouldn't have been surprising, then, that Anselmo easily sold out Warehouse Live's studio room with his new solo act, Philip H. Anselmo and the Illegals. Not since the breakup of Superjoint Ritual nine years ago has the singer offered up such a punishing set of new music, so heavily influenced by the spiraling universe of underground heavy metal that Anselmo loves so dearly.
The venue was already crowded and sweaty by the time Arkansas' Hymns opened the show with an epic suite of mildly progressive black and death metal. The band is one of the latest to score a deal with Anselmo's Housecore Records label, and the crowd clapped and cheered for them politely as they sipped their drinks and waited. Unrecognized by most, Anselmo himself could already be seen watching the show from behind the group's backline, headbanging incognito in a black hoodie.
Author & Punisher's music proved a tad more challenging for the metal-starved hooligans packing in ever more tightly into Warehouse Live. Surrounded by a thicket of custom-fabricated electronic controllers and instruments, one-man band Tristan Shone looked like a human trapped in the vast battery farms of the Matrix as he pumped out a droning, low-fi take on industrial crunch.
At his best, Shone produced songs that sounded like Gary Numan had joined Ministry during the band's druggiest days, but there were just as many blasts of pure, incomprehensible noise that excited some in the crowd and turned others off completely. By the time the artist began packing up his projection screen, some in the audience were cheering his music and some were cheering its end.
There was no so ambivalence in the crowd when the Illegals appeared at last, of course. Anselmo's very silhouette was enough to make the crowd go bonkers, and when the lights hit his face, every fist in the room was in the air. The singer soaked in the adulation with a stoic and determined look in his eye.
'I'ma tell you what, you got potential," Anselmo said, sizing up his people. "I love you so much I can't put it into words right now, so we're just going to jam out. Let's have a fuckin' good time."
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