aa.jpgPhil Anselmo isn’t even the vocalist for his latest project – he’s the guitarist. He left the front man duties to Eyehategod’s fresh-from-prison Mike Williams, and it was a smart move: Arson Anthem – the band and the album – is a knuckle-scraping punch of aggression and hostility, and outside the warmth of Anselmo’s spotlight, I suspect it will only find its way into the hands of those that will really appreciate it.

Just as well. The last time Anselmo tried to start a hardcore band, we got Superjoint Ritual, a group that mostly ended up sounding too much like re-heated Pantera to ever be able to warrant a favorable comparison to the main source of Anselmo’s acclaim (Superjoint’s bassist, the one n’ only Hank Williams III, handles drum duties here). Arson Anthem finds its roots in a considerably more old school mentality: the eight songs on this EP don’t even run for eleven full minutes, owe more to pre-crossover D.R.I. and punkier-flavored Die Kreuzen than Hatebreed or Terror, and, production wise, generally sound like total shit. And when I say that the production sounds like “total shit,” I mean it in the nicest way. Apparently this whole album was recorded in under a week, and it sounds that way. Retired tape traders, take note.

That’s not to say that there aren’t moments of metallic sheen here and there: the elephants-plodding crescendo of “The Avoider,” screeching tornado that is the midsection of “Year of the Fork,”the groovy second half of “Hammer Them Out,” and the grindcore-tastic 35 seconds that are “Cops Shoot Coke” (lyrics: “Copsshootcoke copsshootcoke copshootcoke copsshootcoooke!”) all push into Convergian almost-but-not-quite-metalcore territory.

Even if Arson Anthem isn’t quite brilliant, it is certainly a semi-precious gem. And for once, the name isn’t false advertising: it is, in fact, quite easy to imagine myself burning down someone’s house to this music. I mostly just wish that there were more of it so I’d have more time to watch it burn.

(three and a half out of five horns)


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