This album could not have come at a more perfect time. My second to last piece for this column before I pull the plug – I'll talk about my plans for the finalé soon – and it is quite possibly the only angry hate-filled rant I have in my system that could possibly top the giants that preceded it. If you've read much of the review work I've written then there's no doubt that you'll have seen me shit on Pantera with an alarming frequency. I will never get the attraction; generic chugged guitars and horrendous abuse of pinch harmonics to try and make you wince in physical pain, bland drumming and tunes that shamelessly pretend to be Exhorder if they were all mentally retarded, but personal dislike for a particular artist isn't quite enough for me to hate them. That said, whilst we're on the topic, lets get everything out of my system: I would never wish for the death of a guitarist regardless of how dreadful I think they were, and no I don't buy the whole “Pantera are responsible for Nu-Metal and Metalcore” argument other 'hayterz' love to toss around. It gives them far too much credit and only works if we ignore every other artist who assisted in the styles development (go look up Faith No More's “The Real Thing” and tell me they didn't play a part) and the fact that evolution and development of a genre is very much required to prevent stagnation, whether or not you like the new direction taken or not. I'm sure plenty of people got pissed off when the first thrash metal bands appeared, crying “but it's not Trad.” No dipshit, it's not. The whole argument is almost as retarded as those defending them by screaming “Pantera saved metal” because they managed to get on the charts, as though some evil genius had rounded up every last metal fan, CD, and Vinyl and tied it all to some train tracks, cackling until Pantera rode in on horses with cowboy hats like some cheesy as fuck knock-off Clint Eastwood Western. Meanwhilst, just off camera stand the Atheist boys scratching their heads as Immortal run around pulling silly poses (again). It's complete bullshit.
So all in all, let me clarify once and for all that I do not hate Pantera. I hate Phillip Anselmo, and on reflection is probably why the final edition of this column is less filled with humour as much as it is a personal attack on his very person. This is the skinhead to give all the others a bad name. Let's ignore the fact that they made one of the biggest left turns in all of musical history the moment he joined; that their earlier Glam/Power material (that actually wasn't dreadful I'd like to add) suddenly disappeared for the new flavour of the month, a fact that could forgivable if they then didn't spend the rest of the musical careers pretending it never happened. It's as though he brainwashed the entire band and made them ashamed of the music they had written previously; manipulated the other members into his line of thought like some sort of musical L. Ron Hubbard (founder of Scientology). Ok, so he joined a band, convinced them their work was shit and they should follow another path. What path do you ask? Why the Neo-Nazi White Power path of course! Fact: When you have to open a seven minute speech with “now I don't mean to be racist, but...” it's gonna be fuckin' racist. At least if he opened with “Hi, I'm Phil Anselmo and I hate black people” he could add a dash of honesty to the rant before he goes on to make straw man arguments by taking unintended inferences and stereotyping the entirety of black culture.
Can you imagine just how awkward it'd be if you were the lone black fan in the audience as he's screaming out “this is a white thing”? Y'know what he wore when he was asked to defend the accusations of being racist? Why the AWB flag of course; the logo for the far right party in South Africa that didn't want apartheid to end. Here's the interview, and just so you're sure, here's the Wikipedia page for the party. The most common argument I get in response is that “oh but you don't understand what it was like at the time.” True, I would have been too young and in another continent to know what it was like at the time. What I do know is that shortly after Cowboys From Hell was released, footage of Rodney King being beaten within an inch of his life emerged, and I can't help but look back and wonder if those police officers were Pantera fans... The jury may still be out on whether he really was racist or simply an idiot with a habit of saying - and wearing - the wrong thing; of presenting himself in a manner that he didn't intend to, but there can be little doubt that he's become the poster boy for morons, bigots, racists and assholes. But at least the past is behind us and we can move on. Or so I thought. Then I heard the news he was releasing his first solo album. God damnit.
Part of the reason this review is coming so late is because it's taken me so long to manage to make my way through it. Often I can intently listen from beginning to end with, at worst, maybe a smoke break or two in between, but here I had a barrier to overcome. All too often I would find myself distracted by something odd glowing in my peripheral vision. My current theory was that somehow it was creating some sort of reaction whereby my body was actively trying to encourage me to hibernate as a sort of precautionary measure against the harm conscious listening would do to my body, and that glinting was nothing more than the natural moisture of the eye being squished as my eyelids drooped as though they had weights hooked onto the ends, refracted by the light of my lamp. Perhaps if I listened to more Pantera in my youth, my cognitive abilities would have been suppressed and demolished to the point that this review would be written in the form of grunting and I would be ecstatic by what was discovered here. Be thankful I'm actively demolishing my brain cells for this review, I guess is what I'm really trying to say, because yes, it's most definitely Anselmo alright, but at least this is an Anselmo whose learned from his mistakes in the past.
Well, one of them at least. Despite the questions surrounding any racial prejudice he may have held - perhaps still holds - it's an issue that is avoided in it's entirety. That much remains clear, even if my neanderthal translation capabilities are sadly quite rusty, and it isn't helped that all he does is incoherently shout a lot vaguely in time with the song in the background. He's angry. We have no idea of the details as to why he's angry, but I can definitely glean that he's angry about something and likes to bark like a dog and beat his chest in order to prove just how angry he is about, y'know, that thing he's angry about. Either that or he's constipated. There are vast portions where it may in fact be a recording of him trying to force through out that shit – I mean literally here – from all that curry he ate earlier.
In fact, and this is probably the nicest thing I'll say about this entire album, many of the song titles seem to display an unexpected honesty. There's “Usurper Bastards Rant” where he no doubt points out he should never have been deified, is a bastard, and then rants nonsensically for a bit, and right off the bat we have “Music Media is my Whore,” which I assume is where he admits that he could fart into a microphone and have fans flock to it in their millions. Why on earth the spectacular finalé to the following track wasn't included here is beyond me, because he quite literally pretends to sneeze into the microphone (seriously, Batallion of Zero, 3:25 in. Tell me I'm wrong) which makes his point quite well. In fact, this whole album feels like a test of that theory as he never really seems to make a point, and the instrumentation largely sounds like they just started improvising around whatever he was yelling; that they all wandered into a studio and recorded the first shit that they could come with.
Sadly, not all of them are so intelligent. “Walk Through Exits Only” for example, the title track from where the album takes its name is really something of a "no shit Sherlock" moment. Did you only just figure out what a fucking exit is? Are you still struggling with the notion that you need to enter something before you exit it? Did you just scream in peoples faces about how walking out through entrances was a “white thing” and that they “wouldn't understand?” Fortunately for me, he also finishes off with a monolothic 12-minute epic entitled “Irrelevant Walls and Computer Screens,” (though he could have just called it "Irrelevant") which means I can comfortably call him
(Skip to 3:24)
Ok, modern post-production. I get it. I hate it, but I get that you want the music to sound “loud,” and you do that by decreasing the dynamic range so that everything is cut off at the same volume and then pump up the volume of the disc. This is a “loud” album, so congratulations, you have accomplished that perfectly. You've also understood the modern Deathcore logic that the best way to make an album sound heavy is by downtuning every guitar to the point that ears struggle to physically distinguish between the notes, but you've combined the two and gone with the attitude of “more is better.” As a result, the entire album feels like a wall of bass. It actually has less tonal variety than shitty "Drum and Bass" tracks because at least there, on the odd occasion, the drums and the bass stop and play something ever so slightly different. But not you, you thought you'd make forty minutes of a single bass note. Thank god there's at least one guitarist who bothered to slap five other strings on his guitar else you'd really be in shit street. It's just a shame that, he too, has pumped the distortion up to eleven and believes every great solo is dependent on how fast you can play. The actual notes are clearly irrelevant, so long as it's not the same one that was just played. I can just imagine how it happened in the recording studio: “Keys? Scales? Fuck that, learning is for pussies. Melo-what now? Ain't that a girl's name? Do I look like a girl to you? Harmo- Oh that's fucking it, you're gonna get it you piece of shit.”
The first time I tried to listen to this album, after what felt like an eternity I had to turn it off. I was halfway through track two. After a few more attempts I finally managed to make it from beginning to end in a single sitting; my mind had become numb to the monotonous noise of a drunk man yelling incoherently and the thick blurred wall of bass only broken up by the guitarist trying his hardest to recreate the sound he makes when he has an orgasm. If you thought Pantera used too many notes when they made “Walk,” or the solos weren't quite incoherent and headache inducing enough then you're gonna love this shit. For the rest of you, c'mon? What were you expecting? There's no rhythm, no sense of groove or melody. It doesn't really belong to any genre because there's nothing here to form a link to it. The closest comparisons I can come up with would be the likes of John Cage's "4:33" or just about anything done by Merzbow; it almost questions whether it can be considered music such is the void of musicality, except this is done less through experimentalism or philosophical pretentiousness as much as it is done through him being borderline mentally retarded. “Everybody ruins music, not just me,” he yells. No Phil, you're still fucking it up in a pretty monumental way. Take out the 8 minutes of pick scraping and feedback that finishes the album and it barely clocks in at half an hour, and even that feels far too long. Just when you think he couldn't make music worse, he comes right back and proves you wrong.
I couldn't have put it better myself.