Hello Damnation Vault Family!
With all of the discussion on Mental Health finally coming to light, as well as a lot of people who are in Heavy Metal groups on social media asking for album and song recommendations to help them through dark and rough times that have relatable lyrics, it only feels right to write about the full-length album, Choosing Mental Illness As A Virtue by Philip H. Anselmo and the Illegals.
The album was released on January 26, 2018 through Housecore Records, making it a little over four years old now! The lineup on the record features drummer Joey ‘Blue’ Gonzalez, who played in Warbeast and Hank III, former bassist Walter Howard IV, who currently plays in Vaginal Bear Trap, guitarist Mike De Leon who also plays in Flesh Horder, guitarist Stephen Taylor, who is also in Superjoint and En Minor, and the man behind many bands, vocalist and lyricist, Philip H. Anselmo, who we all know and Love from Pantera, En Minor, Down, Scour, Superjoint, Arson Anthem, and many more! Shortly before the album was released, former Cattle Decapitation bassist, Derek Engemann, who also plays guitar in Scour, took over on bass duties for Walter Howard IV.
It is their second full-length album which follows up to their 2013 debut release of Walk Through Exits Only. The lineup featured New Orleans bassist Bennett Bartley and former Exhorder guitarist, Marzi Montazeri, who played guitar with them up until 2015, when Mike De Leon took over.
In January 2019, the amazing Liz from The Earsplit Compound set up the most incredible interview with Phil and we talked about the then somewhat-taboo subject of Mental Health. In our very raw, open, and honest interview, Phil gave insight and advice on combatting depression with Music, writing, and even the little things that can be really hard to do on some days, like stepping outside your door and getting some fresh air to your brain. He also expressed his Love and support to our Veterans who make sure we’re living in a safe United States of America, especially those who were in combat and even those who are actively fighting in the Military right now, and how Music helps them get through those unimaginable, abhorrent situations. The same rings true for Veterans all around the World who keep their countries safe. He also shared details of creating and writing Choosing Mental Illness As A Virtue.
Here are some favorite quotes from our interview:
“Agreed. I’ve heard from many Veterans that Music keeps them sane, it keeps them grounded, it keeps them aware that there is a freedom waiting for them back in the United States. War is Hell, literally. Music is at least, in conditions like that, I think that it’s a grounding thing. For a lack of better words… It brings a bit of calmness to the hectic times that are around them, in all hours of the day, 24-7.”
“I will say, when you get out there and you work out and you stretch out and you sweat and you hit the bag, whatever your thing is, that helps fight depression. And then when you get in the room with your guys, and you start inventing the Music and putting the Music together, that helps your depression. And then finally, when I get down and I’m by myself, and I’m penning lyrics, that helps depression.
That’s a three-pronged attack at the depression angle. I know that there are other people who do not have this outlet. I think the only advice that I can give, or the only advice people could take away from what I’m saying is to get outside, break a sweat, get some fresh air…Get your workout in, is what I’m saying! Get your damn workout in and then take a look at your problem. Getting that fresh oxygen to your brain is paramount. It’s huge. You got to do it. And especially for the people out there who want to turn their lives around. I’ll tell ya, I’m guilty of all of the depressive factors here.”
“People that want to actually punch a hole in that depression, the people that will take your advice, [they] get out, walk, work out, rehab, write their emotions down on paper; whether you’re a good writer or not, just scribble it down. Once that pen hits the paper, you can take off from there. What you get out of that is, what you make. Once again, you might not be, you might not feel like you’re a great writer or anything. That’s not the point. The point is to spill your guts one way or another.”
When asked about how Phil connects with the title of Choosing Mental Illness As A Virtue, he profoundly responded with, “Well. [pauses] I guess I’m recognizing the fact that yeah, I am imperfect. And yes, I do suffer, and I have suffered with the bleakness of life. But at the same time, I’m not willing to throw in the towel and give up. So, in other words, I have no choice but to embrace whatever demons that I have and round them up and hold them in a Goddamn headlock while I march through this as honestly and as purely as I possibly can. In other words, take that negative energy and twist it on it’s head and do something positive through it. Don’t let it work against you, like it does, like it wants to. Don’t let it have the upper hand. Fight, fight, fight.”
You can read or listen to our incredible one hour and 40+ minute interview in it’s entirety here! Must say, listening to his wise words definitely resonate more with you! 🙂
With that said! Let’s move on to the album! 🙂
The opening track is titled, Little Fucking Heroes, a song which Phil had the following to say in our first interview, “It’s fuckin’ true, man. It’s realistic enough. There’s not so much lamenting in that song as there is in observation. I can’t say that that song’s about mental illness initially, but it is a great starting point or a launch pad, so to speak.”
The song starts off with drum beats that start-stop-start-stop overlaid with tuned down guitar riffs with Death Metal undertones for the first ten seconds before kicking in with Joey’s unrelenting and incredibly fast drumming as Phil lets out a blustering scream. As the song progresses on, the blast beats seem to get faster and faster and you hear some Black Metal inspired riffs come across that have a hint of Grind to them. Toward the last minute of the song, you can really hear Walter’s bass in sync with Mike and Stephen’s riffs as the melody slows down with Doomy, spiralized sounding riffs as Phil screams out:
it’s evident and a sickness…
And just because you’re ‘down with the cause’,
don’t ever assume the ridiculous mistake,
that the cause is down with you.
LITTLE FUCKING HEROES!”
The next song is titled Utopian. It opens with some taunting riffs of what’s next to come with some Slayer vibes as you hear the simple cymbal taps gently overlaying in the background. As the song kicks in, you’re struck with a very apparent and eerie early Norwegian Black Metal sound, as it then takes a 180 degree turn with Phil’s higher register growls and heavy influence of Grindcore in the background. It sounds as if it would be paired perfectly in a Horror film during a slasher chase, especially when the song slows down around the 2 minute mark when the vocals take a deeper and much more guttural turn. The riffs toward the end are definitely laced with some Sludge and Doom!
Subject in the palm of depth’s left hand,
Imperturbable possession of grieving faculties,
Wise not to provoke ire of this scorn,
Manipulating battery of cordial contempt and fear,
Maligned vengeful obnoxious projections,
The vintage enemy checklist exists.”
The third track is the inspiration behind the longer album title. It is also the only song that has a Music video on the entire album. The video for Choosing Mental Illness, which can be viewed above, was filmed by Mike Holderbeast and directed by Kate Richardson-Anselmo, who also created the Artwork for the album! It also guest stars Michael St. Michaels, who is known for playing the lead role of Big Ronnie in the Horror-Comedy film, The Greasy Strangler. In the Music video, he is first introduced as ‘Nurse Ratchet‘ in a mental facility. Phil is escorted in wearing a black beanie and leather jacket as the guards are releasing him from the handcuffs into the institution where the rest of the admitted band members are. The video rolls on as Nurse Ratchet sinisterly calls for “medication time” as the video cuts to the splatter edition vinyl spinning and the Music begins playing! You have to watch the rest of the entertaining video to see what all happens, especially at the end!
It definitely showcases some comedic sarcasm when it comes to the medication band-aids that many facilities, doctors, and psychiatrists give to patients while harshly judging their mental anguish, rather than trying to understand the actual root of what’s causing it in a compassionate, human way. …Please note, it is realized there are also MANY understanding facilities, therapists, and doctors out there who truly do dedicate their lives to helping people come out of mental torment – and we thank you, the REAL ones out there!
The song starts out with vocals that have a bit of a Suicide Note Part II vibe and transitions back and fourth between Phil’s deeper Death Metal style vocals in the rest of the song. The instrumentals in this one have a heavy Grindcore element to them with the insanely fast Black Metal blast beats, bass lines, and riffs.
Phil harshly yells out a line, “I SWEAR, IF I COULD MERELY SHAKE IT OFF, I WOULD.” …A line we ALL can relate to when we’re in that dark haze that just doesn’t seem to lift, no matter how fucking hard we try…And how pissed off do we get when people constantly try to tell us “Stay positive! Change your thinking! Your mindset determines your future!!!!!! Be grateful you were put on this earth! YOU NEED JESUS!!!!!!!!” when all we’re doing is trying to reach out and talk for some real human interaction? …Yeahhhh, we would change our mindset instantly if we fucking could! Why else would we have this major issue affecting us and most people we know throughout the world if it was that fucking simple?! Even when you think your friends are fine, a lot of people are good at hiding their pain and stay silent about it because they don’t want to hear the above comments shoved down their throats all the time.
The haze, the darkness is something that lifts and clears over time, no matter how much we wish and intend for it to happen instantly… Sometimes these dark hazes we have are things that are deeply rooted from traumas, which could be from actual war and combat, Life handing you a rough card in general, and/or addictions and alcohol to mask those traumas, and each passing moment can feel like a fucking warzone in itself processing through all the shit with all the grief and pain we’ve gone through. …This is why Music helps us through it, especially with fucking heavy songs like this one with the message of embracing your mental illness, rather than letting it consume you, which sometimes are inherited through our genetics.
But I embrace it,
Non compos mentis and pixilated,
Objects illogical and irrelevant.
Accepting the factors of
hereditary mental illness,
Accepting the factors of inherit illness.”
The Ignorant Point is the fourth track on the album. This song is heavy on the Black Metal riffs as well as the Grind. The riffs sound like a depiction of energy being created and destroyed and created again with whatever distortion pedals they’re using too! Toward the end of the song, you notice some apparent Superjoint vibes.
Of less appetizing aspect of species,
Sarcasm paints a fitting portrait,
Darker intentions employer,
Sarcasm paints dishonest portrait,
of concealed impassive mien,
Sarcasm paints dead ringer portrait,
Placebo drills on those who would kill.”
Individual is the fifth track out of the ten that make up the album. It is one of the longer tracks on the album at six minutes and forty-nine seconds long! We are initiated into the song with Phil’s higher register growls as you hear an amalgamation of Black Metal, Death Metal, Grindcore, and even some very fast paced notes of Groove between the guitars, bass, and drums. It also features a very psychotically demented guitar solo by Mike De Leon.
This song has empowering lyrics that may be about those certain people we all know who constantly try to destroy you and try to cause you grief, especially online whether it be on social media or in the actual media, because their views aren’t the same as yours on whatever the subject matter may be. This song bites back at all these people and gives you a sense of you can take on anyone and everyone who gives you shit with the “Lone Wolf Mantra“!
I don’t need a fucking one of you,
If you disagree with me, that’s good,
That’s great, it’s understood. I don’t want to be part of your pack,
Or your leader, your follower, your ambassador.
Shut the fuck up,
And don’t even listen,
Individuals will disperse,
The lone wolf mantra is primal and divine,
Nothing is impossible, and it never was,
The lone wolf mantra should be lauded, not opined,
Nothing is possible, without these jaws that bite down.
I don’t want to be part of your pack,
Or your leader, your follower, your ambassador.”
Delinquent, the sixth track, is about those certain people in this world, who are given mainstream platforms and power to try and dupe the public into their ways of thinking, rewarding those who have ‘intellectual deviance’ while shaming those who have original ideas.
The song starts off with some Groove and Thrash riffs and beats that would actually be funny to try the hilarious “Try Not To Headbang Challenge” with, and chances are if you did, you probably wouldn’t get through 3 seconds without some sort of head and neck movement before breaking out into full-on headbang mode. It’s also another song with insane riffs that make it sound like you’re spiraling down into the abyss, reminiscent of OLD school Horror film background Music like you’d hear in Alfred Hitchcock films, just quite a bit heavier!
Parroted groupthink nonsense exalted,
This culture rewards intellectual deviance.
The denigration of contrarian thinking,
Regurgitation of the likewise ignorant,
Stupor on an industrial scale.”
The next song is called Photographic Taunts. Lyrically, this one may be the most Death Metal style song on the album, as it literally reads as a song about a low-IQ serial murderer outsmarting his prey while taunting the law with photographs at the crime scenes, who later commits suicide at the end of his killing spree with an unknown victim count. However, you do know that it definitely have some tongue-in-cheek messages about society within the lyrics.
It has quite a bit of guttural vocals mixed in with some of the higher register growling heard on previous songs and Hardcore screaming. It’s also a little more melodic sounding throughout some of the song and at some parts more Groove oriented with Thrash and Death Metal interwoven. It is another song you can blatantly tell is heavily influenced by the Horror film genre.
But she missed,
Slashed tires, feigned distress,
Crestfallen, feigned intent,
The last of eight,
Went on a spree that hasn’t ended,
Corpses found, mutilated,
Wounds suggestive of cannibalism,
The eighth track is called Finger Me and takes aim at the joke of what some Music news has become when it comes to those certain websites who do nothing but attack and try to exploit the Artist with their headlines and comments, all for those clicks and likes!
The song starts out firing in your ear drums right away of insanely fast blast beats, which may be the fastest heard on the album, maniacally distorted riffs and bass lines, and a mix of all the dimensions of different vocal styles heard throughout the album.
We all know how it feels when people judge and attack us, it can be quite infuriating, especially when the shit you’re hearing out of their mouths or are reading online has zero Truth to them. This is a song with very strong messages that can help anyone get through whatever you or someone you know may be going through, whether it be dealing with people trying to tear you down in fucking vindictive, vile ways online or even in person with disgusting psychological abuse tactics and you’re at your wits end, or if you’re going through or coming out of domestic violence, traumatic situations and memories in general, which could stem from being in combat or things that make you feel like you’ve been in a war…Could even be issues at work with other employees who definitely don’t see eye to eye with you – we all have experienced that at some point or another. Or maybe it’s something like coming out of the addiction/sobriety haze when you’re doing your best to get through the withdrawals or temptations and you’re not sure you can because you just want to feel better by taking or drinking something, yet at the same time, you definitely don’t want to fuck up and start the cycle over yet again. You can use this song as another mantra to get through your dark and rough days. Phil repeats several times throughout the song, “WALK THROUGH FIRE, WALK THROUGH FIRE, I WALK THROUGH FIRE” and wow do you truly feel that state of mind when listening to it and it gets you fucking pumped and determined to get through the bullshit!
WALK THROUGH FIRE
WALK THROUGH FIRE
WALK THROUGH FIRE
I WALK THROUGH FIRE
I WALK THROUGH FIRE
I’LL WALK THROUGH FIRE
I’LL WALK THROUGH FIRE
There is hatred in these words,
No crooked finger could finger,
Despite how much you want it,
There is loathing in these words,
That no finger could finger,
Despite how much you want to.
I DO MY JOB AND YOU WILL DO YOURS,
I DO MY JOB AND YOU WILL DO YOURS!
I can count on my fingers the times….
And I know I can count on you….
I simply count on my fingers the times…
And it always equals FOUR. FUCKS. AND. YOU!”
The ninth song is titled Invalid Colubrine Frauds. This one is about the major issue we have that’s especially within the United States when it comes to mass shootings. It is a story of a 16 year old who goes on a senseless shooting rampage killing five people and by the time the cops get there, it’s too late, causing distress and mourning for the Loved ones and community affected by this absolute terror.
The lyrics make you stop and think about how many of these people who clearly need help are just right around the corner, who could snap at any given moment, they may even be somebody you know. It also brings awareness to the harsh fact that this shit does happen too much, in too many places, too close to our homes. It enlightens you to do your best to understand Mental Health and illness better rather than being so quick to judge one’s state of mind and figure out ways to help these people who are in such torment that they feel the need to kill innocent people, so that this atrocity will fucking stop before it even happens. It may even put the idea in your mind that maybe by talking and listening to these people who have committed such acts, in a nonjudgmental, unbias, and human way, could help us all understand and prevent this from happening over and over and over, no matter how disgraceful it may seem to do so. It’s an idea. Yes, it’s easier said than done. Really though, it seems that they are all thrown in prison [if they’re alive anyway] while the media goes ape-shit over the stories, exploiting the grief of everyone affected, and then once the media rollercoaster hysteria is over, that’s that, it’s all pushed to the side and there goes any form of understanding anything… … … …. …………
…One step at a time. ONE. STEP. AT. A. TIME. …Anything is possible.
The song starts out with the bass drums heavily highlighted along with provokingly sharp guitar riffs overlaying the beats in a sync of every second or so…It’s followed by some dizzying guitar riffs, followed by some harmonious Groove moments. It also has it’s very Thrashy instances as the song progresses and even some Melodic parts toward the end with guitar squeals that sound as if they were inspired by Dimebag. You truly feel the intensity of the lyrics and the anger and sheer frustration about this subject with the vocals.
Render them invalid, bloodsuckers of peril,
Colubrine frauds amongst humans,
Render them invalid, vultures of peril,
Colubrine frauds amongst the sane,
Render them invalid, leeches of peril,
Colubrine frauds amongst humanity,
Render them invalid, devourers of peril,
Colubrine frauds amongst our future,
Mixed Lunatic Results is the final track on Choosing Mental Illness As a Virtue and also the longest at six minutes and fifty-seven seconds!
It starts off with some intense Down vibes, from Three Suns and One Star off the Over The Under album. This one definitely is the most Black Metal sounding song on the album Musically and lyrically. It also has it’s intense guttural Death Metal moments as well. The very last minute of the song has psychedelic tribal feel to it.
Just glance at the wreckage in its wake,
Never see the same again,
The sliver caught behind the pitched eyes,
Has risen three times from death.
And has seen the truth of ambulances,
Overrated yet informative,
Insensitive to consequences whence immersed,
Until it strikes the shell and organs,
And infuriates the riddled violence further,
Like a drug addiction but worse,
A vicious cycle rumbling under flesh,
Bleeding out in rivulets in name.
Alas! A Philip H. Anselmo and the Illegals post like this is only complete with one of their live performances of Walk from their Vulgar Display of Power set they’ve been doing the last few years all over the world! The video above is from their show in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2019!