Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals – Choosing Mental Illness as a Virtue (2018) REVIEW

As someone who hit puberty around the same time that I bought ‘Far Beyond Driven’ on cassette, Señor Anselmo’s presence inadvertently represents both a  period of futile rebellion and serves as a figurehead for the early 90’s sea-change that brought a new heaviness and extremity to mainstream rock music. As the scowling and tattooed hillbilly screamer who boxed light fixtures by day and douched up front for Pantera by night he was an accessible idiot for dumb white suburban kids like me. It all looked pretty stupid on that ‘Cowboys From Hell’ VHS tape but seeing the band live left a big impression on me in terms of Morbid Angel also being on the bill and seeing a yokel Texas thrash band manage to outshine them pretty hard.

Well, whatever I mean the guy moved on and did great things with Down and I think I’m not alone in being blown away by that first Superjoint Ritual album. Maybe I was just a dumb stoner kid in the late 90’s early 00’s but I ate up most of the shit his bands put out with a spoon. Nearly eighteen years later I hadn’t followed up and dismissed his first ‘solo’ album with the Illegals as a strange half-return to Superjoint‘s punkishness and the groove metal he was known for. Here’s the second album and I hear something closer to Soilent Green in style that mirrors Phil’s frenetic 80’s Rollins-isms and kicks up modern extreme metal’s dusty butt-flaps with straight-forward aggressive and grinding sludge metal.

As ‘Choosing Mental Illness As A Virtue’ plays out it goes from ground-out sludge punk towards brooding death metal riffing and hits upon some of the darkest extreme metal I’ve heard Phil’s voice set to. It is a huge improvement over his unfocused debut from 2013 and outclasses everything he did with Superjoint beyond that first record. I dunno, it surprises me that I can still listen to this guy’s voice after 20 years and still appreciate his range, especially since that range has expanded out into death growls, grind croaks, and black metal gargling. In 2018 it feels necessary to divorce my preconceptions of Phil as “that guy who sang in Pantera” and see him as just another guy doing a pretty good job of making music he enjoys and doing a pretty good job of making modern and relevant music that isn’t pompous diarrhea.


Artist Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals
Type Album
Released January 28, 2018
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp! Follow PHA & The Illegals on Facebook

Objects are irrelevant. 3.75/5.0

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