Sunday, February 3, 2013

Phil Anselmo shreds speakers with southern heavy metallers Down

There is a special bond that metal fans share with their favorite performers  That bond -- the energy both sides feed off of -- are more intense and passionate than in virtually any other music scene. This bond was on full display when Down, fronted by the famed Phil Anselmo, played to a packed crowd Feb. 1 at Chattanooga's Track 29.

Anselmo, the former vocalist of 90s metal stalwarts Pantera, has long owned a reputation for being one of metal's fiercest and most well respected figures; he is a giant impossible to ignore.

Down vocalist Phil Anselmo pours his heart out at Chattanooga's Track 29, while guitarist Pepper Keenan backs him up.

Down is fresh off the release of last September's Down IV Part 1 - The Purple EP, a crushing slab of lurching heavy metal that is the opening salvo in a set of four planned EPs.

Phil wasted little time in showing off his famous sense of machismo, and was not afraid to be profane. Before "Witchtripper," an acclaimed fan favorite from the latest EP, Phil commanded: "if the cocksucker next to you doesn't know the words, scream it in his fucking face!" His adrenaline pumping antics also included ramming the mic against his forehead several times, leaving him with a bloody spot on his head.

His onstage persona was forceful, authoritative, and spirited. He was like a super macho cheerleader, never ceasing to get the crowd pumping. For their part, the crowd went all out. At one point, Phil hoisted a couple of house photographers onstage and instructed them to snap shots of the crowd, saying "they're the reason we're all here."

The sound was excellent, with the crispness and blunt force of every instrument ringing out clearly. The vocals were a little low in the mix, but that's the only possible negative. The setlist enabled Down to showcase several different facets of their sound. "Open Coffin" and "Misfortune Teller" are crunching hulks of doom inflected metal, while "Ghosts Along the Mississippi" veers more toward heavy rock, with mostly clean vocals and a generally relaxed easy going nature. It does, however  contain an extremely sick riff from guitarist Pepper Keenan. "New Orleans is a Dying Whore" meanwhile, is one of the band's go-to grinders. "This song is slow as fuck and heavy as fuck," Phil described.

Scott Shelby of Warbeast demonstrates his mastery of all things metal.

He even got into the act with the opening bands. He preformed a song with Warbeast, who is signed to Anselmo's Housecore Records label, near the end of their set. He also led an impromptu birthday celebration for guitarist Bobby Tillotson Jr, singing "Happy Birthday" with the crowd. Tillotson blew out the candles on his cake, then had it shoved in his face. They handed him a towel to wipe the frosting out of his hair.

Warbeast's sound is heavily influenced by 80 thrash metal. Their singer, Bruce Corbitt, rocked out on a chain link microphone stand while guitarist Scott Shelby was fully clad in leather with spikes on his armbands. Corbitt was pretty chatty; it seemed like he was trying to mimic Phil's style of talking to an audience without being able to pull it off the same way he does.

Houston headbangers Venomous Maximus kicked off the evening with an admirable performance. Their set consisted of traditional straight ahead metal, but was heavy and direct. Vocalist Gregg Higgins's performance was never lacking in spirit or passion.

Gregg Higgins and Trevi Biles of Venomous Maximus in a heavy metal salute.

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