PHILIP H. ANSELMO & THE ILLEGALS at SUMMIT MUSIC HALL | 1/15/14 After the stage was cleared of any strange musical contraptions left behind by opening act Author & Punisher (more on that in a minute), Philip H. Anselmo & the Illegals took the stage, and instantanly, it was strange seeing Anselmo on a smaller stage compared to the arena-filling epicness he brought with Pantera. Here at the Summit, he looked like your average cranky and drunk neighbor with a beer belly and a sleeveless shirt.
Not to far into the band's set, it's was amazing seeing how similar of a musician guitarist Marzi Montazeri and drummer Joey Gonzalez are to Dimebag and Vinnie Paul -- it's much more noticeable live. They both had a hard time not getting ahead of themselves with their instruments, though, packing it all in and letting it loose with every split second. It didn't take long for us to get a Pantera song. "Death Rattle," from Reinventing the Steel, felt like it was plucked out of nowhere from that band's hefty catalog.
Anselmo and company continued at an angry ADD-addled pace, with fast, short, and brutal songs that sounded like they ripped the skin off of traditional NOLA metal and played in that irritable puss-filled wound for everyone else to feel the fury. Inevitably a fight broke out, but it was stifled quickly by security, and inspired an admonishment from Anselmo who said, "No fighting, we're here to have a good time, motherfuckers." The former Pantera frontman still has the magnetic presence of a pentecostal pastor preaching to his flock, arms extended, filling impressionable minds with tidbits of his wisdom, particularly while transitioning from songs like "Battalion of Zero" to "Walk Through Exits Only."
After tripping out into the "Dazed and Confused" lethargic intro, the band ripped it up with its single "Bedridden," which gave the crowd the sense that it was all coming to a close soon -- "I choke on my existence." Puff clouds ascended after Anselmo lit up a joint given by a front row stoner, while Marzi shredded a lengthy solo. Then came the very fast and brief "Waiting for a Turning Point," a Superjoint Ritual original. The close of the show cascaded down into a rushing waterfall of "A New Level," a Pantera power punch that made the large moshpit go apeshit one last time. Every time the chorus came around, the crowd chanted, "A new level of confidence and power."
Earlier in the evening, Hymns opened the show with its lead singer Adam Crosier, a big dude indeed, standing in front of the engine-like thingy and setting the testosterone-fueled tone of the evening. Relatively motionless on an already packed stage, Hymns started to come off as lazy and lethargic, except for drummer Logan Nelson, who was stuffed in the corner of the stage like he was going mad in a jail cell to the other prisoners' enjoyment.
Hymns played a half hour set of doom accented black metal, speedy and low with an occasional gut-ripping screech to counterbalance its bipolar moodiness. The band's entire set was a constant announcement for their self-titled debut album released on Anselmo's Housecore Records ("Cryptic Fountains," "Regal Invitation," "Distant Graves"). Crosier's last screamed words before walking stage right were, "You're fucking fake," to a crowd who wasn't faking its depth of inebriation.
It didn't take long for Author & Punisher's (aka Tristan Shone) one man atmospheric industrial doom metal to inspire some crowd members to attempting a very slow robot dance to accompany the heavy, deep and sludgy tempo. Before the first song could finish, every person in the Hall had their eyes glued to his every subtle movement as he worked his multifaceted musical contraption, the crowd feeling his brooding anger incredulously.
Shone's musical contraption looked like something straight out of The Matrix. Three levels of instruments had a sliding metal board on the bottom with five knobs just above it, a keyboard that swung in and out on the second level, and the top level had three gas masks for varied emphasis on his breathing grunts.
A rainbow of pained expressions crunched Shone's face in-between grunts into the lacrosse stick end shaped microphone that resembled three curved, fused harmonicas. He look like a fully-clothed, one-man S&M show blowing into the microphone with a demented dog collar strapped to his vocal chords. The collar was connected to a mixer with what looked like car audio wire (which could explain the pained expressions). The industrial metal, at times, overpowered the doom-metal feeling, like Ministry dropped acid or Trent Reznor went solo, only considerably heavier with more bass.
After six songs that seemed to blend into each other, Shone raised his beer bottle to the crowd, his only acknowledgement to their existence before jumping ship. Overall Shone's sound didn't mix well for those antsy to hear Anselmo & The Illegals, but sheer mental musical engrossment infected the greater majority.
Personal Bias: I went to Pantera's last Denver show at the Denver Coliseum before they broke up, and it was the best concert I've ever been to, to date. Random Detail: Anselmo bloodied his forehead from pounding the microphone on his forehead so much. By the Way: Reefer wasn't anymore present than any other previous concert. The stoners will be stoners.
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