ALBUM REVIEW: Choosing Mental Illness As A Virtue – Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals

Phil Anselmo is undoubtedly an iconic name in music, his time in PANTERA, DOWN, SUPERJOINT and more have raised him to the top of his game. Following the vocalists many controversies, Anselmo has not let it take him down and continues to pour his energy into his musical projects. PHILIP H. ANSELMO & THE ILLEGALS is another explosive journey in its own right and now after 2013’s Walk Through Exits Only, Choosing Mental Illness As A Virtue makes another solid footprint on Anselmo‘s music career.

Choosing Mental Illness As A Virtue follows the path that its predecessor took, but in no way does it revisit the past and instead explores new ways to be angry at the world. Little Fucking Heroes kicks the record into play with an almighty force and sets the bar high for the heaviness that is to come from the album. The immediate notice is the creative input that comes from Anselmo‘s band, previously the front-man wrote everything for Walk Through Exits Only, this time he worked together with his band and it’s made it feel a lot more free to roam off where it needs to go. The devastating blows that come from Little Fucking Heroes are an excellent example of how to create proper ugly music.

Utopian is a stand-out track and the vocal style switches to a more blackened approach, the visceral aggression that comes out of it feels like a knife. Choosing Mental Illness is where the album packs a brutal punch, that blackened vibe still stands and appears more often throughout the rest of the record but the title track from PHILIP H. ANSELMO & THE ILLEGALS is weighty and offers itself as one of the most destructive songs on the record itself.

The Ignorant Point is where the ugliness of the sound turns almost hypnotic, the blistering speed feels psychotic and it is here where the title of the record truly makes sense and serves its purpose. Individual on the other hand has a magnitude of damage, the guitar work is uncomfortably mesmerising and the drums feel catastrophic, it is nothing short of a being a mammoth of aggression.

Delinquent and Photographic Taunts are nightmarish, here Anselmo‘s vocals are gut-wrenching and the work from THE ILLEGALS is like a freight train of fury. As Photographic Taunts ends, the blistering blackened sound seeps into Finger Me, at almost 6 minutes long it sits on an uncomfortable balance between pleasure and pain. Despite the blackened sound, there’s a lot of thrash influence that comes into play and makes for something sinister.

The penultimate track, Invalid Colubrine Frauds sets up the ending of Choosing Mental Illness As A Virtue for a force to be reckoned with. It’s definitely got that more DOWN vibe to it as opposed to how the album has been sounding throughout with it’s chugging riffs and thunderous drums, Anselmo leads with low, bellowing vocals, setting the tone perfectly for Mixed Lunatic Results. The closing track is just under 7-minutes long but has that two section parting to it, it’s dark and brutal from the offset, but as the halfway line comes into vision there’s a brutal chug and a more darkened sludge vibe before closing atmospherically. The softness that comes from such a disgustingly aggressive record is haunting but there is no doubt that it polishes off everything nicely.

Choosing Mental Illness As A Virtue is strong, powerful and ugly. When talking about the album, Anselmo mentioned that it would be hated or loved, it’s no walk in the park and is potentially the heaviest release of his career, but it works. Walk Through Exits Only was a brilliant debut for PHILIP H. ANSELMO & THE ILLEGALS but felt uptight in some areas, the progression of the writing is noticeable with this second release. Without a doubt, this album cements why this musical project needs to carry on and just get uglier.

Rating: 9/10


Choosing Mental Illness As A Virtue - Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals

Choosing Mental Illness As A Virtue is out January 26 via Season of Mist


Jessica Howkins

Co Editor-in-Chief for Distorted Sound Magazine, Music Journalism student.