“Just Like Every Cowboy Sings A Sad, Sad Song…”
Phil Anselmo had, uh, quite the year. Fresh off yet another spell of scene vilification and gig cancellations, resulting from yet another one of Anselmo’s own miniature Mel Gibson moments, Phil’s teamed up with horror actor and multi-instrumentalist Bill Moseley to prove once and for all that you can’t keep a good ol’ boy down.
Songs of Darkness and Despair is the debut EP from the dudes’ new project, cleverly dubbed Bill & Phil, from which Anselmo’s angry, caveman shouts are conspicuously absent. Instead we are greeted by Moseley’s hoarse, strained yowls over the chunky riffage, string-bent wails and pinch harmonics of “Dirty High,” a style much akin to those of Anselmo’s sludgy supergroup Down and many other New Orleans-area metal bands. The pun-heavy “Corpus Crispy” dishes up a strange samba beat played through a distractingly fuzzy guitar, and the duo go the extra mile and drop in some psychedelic layered vocals, Indian hand drums and sitars to simulate what might have happened if The Beatles picked up meth instead of acid all those years ago. And while reverb-drenched, overdriven guitars wail on in the background of “Corpus,” almost completely disconnected from anything that’s going on in the actual structure of the song, a trend begins to emerge in Songs of Darkness and Despair: much like yelling “white power” in a public setting and then blaming it on an inside joke about wine, none of the Songs seem very well thought out.
Another example of this vague disconnect is “Catastrophic,” a song that is one-half angsty, low culture rant about the quality of the speaker’s trailer and government repo men and one-half arrhythmic bellowing, neither of which particularly gel with the plodding, leaden guitar riffs underneath the heap. In the spirit of southern spookiness, Moseley’s wild yelps do have a swampy touch of Dr. John about them, but Bill & Phil’s songs lack the satisfying payoff that inevitably came with John’s ever-building crescendos. The liner notes reveal that Songs of Darkness and Despair was mastered by Pig Destroyer guitarist and heavy production whiz kid Scott Hull; and the EP certainly sounds it. The levels and mixing are customarily overdriven and harsh – a hallmark of Hull’s Visceral Sound – with a distinctly extreme metal crunch that both clashes with and complements the Creedence Clearwater laid-back, hillbilly slide guitar vibe that Bill & Phil go so far out of their way to establish. It is only a six-song EP, but several of the Songs of Darkness and Despair trudge along at a place that would make even Mike IX Williams check his watch with impatience.