From Pantera to Down to Superjoint Ritual and half a dozen more side projects, one band has never been enough to contain all of the musical ideas rattling around inside the shaven, tattooed head of legendary metal vocalist Philip Anselmo. This year, fans will get to experience the purest strain yet of his musical vision when Anselmo delivers his highly anticipated first-ever solo album.
To tide metal maniacs worldwide over until it drops, the singer offered up a sneak peek this week. On Tuesday, Anselmo released two new solo tracks on War of the Gargantuas, a split EP with Arlington's Warbeast on the vocalist's own Housecore Records label.
It's the first music he's ever released under his own name.
The two solo tracks on the EP, "Conflict" and "Family, 'Friends' and Associates," are a far cry from the smogged-out sludge-metal the singer will perform with Down Friday at Warehouse Live. Anselmo says that he deliberately chose a couple of his more aggressive tunes for the split to match Warbeast's classic thrash attack.
"My solo stuff covers a lot of ground, so it's like I've written stuff for at least four different releases," Anselmo said. "A lot of it sounds very different and has its own approach. So I picked these two songs for this EP because, in my opinion, they fit better with the straight-ahead thrash thing.
"They're very different, in my opinion, than the full-length record, which is more unpredictable."
Did we mention that Phil wrote every riff himself? 'Cause he did, and he's pretty proud of it, too. That's not to say he didn't have any help, though. In fact, he tabbed a local metal luminary to add a few ripping leads to his own chainsaw guitar parts: Longtime Houston shredder Marzi Montazeri, who's shattered eardrums with his rather large collection of amplifier cabinets for decades.
Turns out, the pair go way back.
"I've known Marzi since the late '80s," Anselmo says. "Really, it goes back to my early days in Pantera where Dimebag (Darrell Abbott) was always this incredible, insane guitar player with this extra-terrestrial fuckin' talent. And he knew it! And he would let you know it: He was really critical of other guitar players a lot of the time, and he was correct a lot of the time.
"All of a sudden, we play Houston, and this guy Marzi comes up, and I think that he was the first guitar player that Dimebag stepped back and said, 'Whoa. This dude's a bad motherfucker,'" he continued. "For this particular project, I really needed an executor. Without a doubt, Marzi was the guy for the job. I wrote every goddamn note on the record, and he executed them to a 'T.'
"I let him do his thing when it came to leads and when it came to sonic ideas, because he's really a master at fucking sounds. He likes to push the extremes, and I adore that attitude," Anselmo said.
Thanks to Marzi and the boys in Warbeast, the sound of Texas metal is well-represented on War of the Gargantuas. More than 20 years after the Lone Star State embraced Pantera as its very own metal gods, Texas still holds a very dear place in Anselmo's heart.
"Texas will always be fuckin' extraordinarily important in my life," says the New Orleans native. "It's my second home, there's no two ways about that. You gotta look no further than my work with Warbeast. Those guys were DFW staples! You figure [Warbeast's] Bruce [Corbitt] being in Rigor Mortis, and Scott Shelby being in Gammacide -- I grew up watching these bands.
"I went to many a Gammacide show, many a Rigor Mortis show and supported them and loved those fuckin' bands," he added. "When I moved to Texas from New Orleans, I had a tiny fuckin' miniature gym bag with, like, two pairs of shorts and two T-shirts in the motherfucker. I didn't have anything, man!
"And I moved and joined Pantera, and the people that surrounded me, even outside of the band, were so loving and giving and supportive and real and honest with me," adds Anselmo. "People that I consider still some of my best friends in the world are in Texas."
The love goes both ways. Fans are certain to pack out Warehouse Live this weekend to hear Down once again, but Anselmo says there's a strong possibility they'll soon get a taste of his new solo material live, as well.
"I do have an obligation to Down and the hardcore Down fans, because the (The Purple EP) just came out, so I got a lot of touring to do for that," the singer said. "But believe me, I've been getting secret Dropbox folders of the guys practicing all the new solo shit and whatnot. I think they're aiming for [a tour], so it's in the works, it's a plan.
"I'm not gonna say it's definite thing yet, but chances are pretty fucking good."
Fitting another tour into his 2013 schedule may be a serious challenge. In addition to Anselmo's Down touring and his work with Housecore -- including mixing the forthcoming Warbeast record himself -- the singer is also slated to sit down and complete what promises to be one of the great heavy metal memoirs of all time.
"I'm still kind of haggling with that and trying to make everything right contractually," says the singer of his book deal with Gallery/Simon & Schuster. "But I guess he biggest point would be, it's not just a Pantera book. It's a Philip Anselmo book, and of course Pantera is a tremendous part of my life, but I wasn't born in Pantera, if you feel me.
"It's a lot more than that," he continues. "Of course I'm going to go through in vivid detail the low points in life, and also the high points and what I've learned in my 45 fuckin' years on this earth -- the good that comes from hitting rock bottom and coming out of it. There's a lot of major lessons learned in life that, shit, I could share with people that could have a lot in common with me.
"Believe me, I know that living with chronic pain and stuff is not my own," he adds. "There's a lot of people out there that are in the same boat and could maybe learn something from the old codger, here."
Exciting as the book and the new solo album are, though, Anselmo sounds most excited about continuing his work as head of a successful indie label in the new year. Legend though he may be, the singer still gets a charge out of hearing and supporting new music from his favorite underground acts.
"I got a couple bands that I have in mind that I've been kind of working with that I can't wait to help propel their careers and get some records out, get them some recognition," he said. "Ah shit, man, I got a full plate! (laughs) Every day's gonna be filled. But you know what? That's good. That's life. That's how I roll, man."
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.