Who better than Philip Hansen Anselmo to discuss the current state of metal? His time in Pantera pretty much resurrected the genre from extinction brought on by grunge and the short-term shelf life of all those late '80s Aqua Netal acts. And though the untimely on-stage shooting death in 2004 of former Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell may have cut short any hopes for those songs being played live again, Anselmo continues to wave the heavy flag both with his various musical endeavors, most notably Down, and the boutique label Housecore Records, which features, among others, the thrash of Warbeast and the sludge of Haarp.
FUCKING HOSTILE "I'm the biggest fucking pessimist in the entire world," says Phil Anselmo. "Even when I was in Pantera, I didn't expect a fucking thing."
"I love it. I love everything from the camaraderie, the studio work, pulling songs together, helping out — I hate mixing, but I love the end result," Anselmo says, checking in by phone from his home in the swamps of Louisiana. "It is important to me, it really is. I'm very interested in what the thinking bands are doing out there. I love the underground; I'm always looking for anything that is a breath of fresh air because it makes me feel young again and gives me that 'Holy shit, I just picked up Slayer's Hell Awaits record again.' It gives me that feeling, and it's probably good for the circulation."
Down, which also features Corrosion of Conformity frontman Pepper Keenan on guitar and Crowbar vets Kirk Windstein and Jimmy Bower on guitar and drums, respectively, are preparing to unleash the six-song Down IV — Part 1: The Purple EP (Down Records/Independent Label Group) on September 18, the first of four EPs scheduled to drop in the next year that will make up the band's fourth full-length studio release. Early listens to songs like "Witchtripper" and "Misfortune Teller" display a brutal, doom-laden intensity that made the first Down release, Nola, such an unexpected gem when it came out in 1995.
"I put no pressure on myself for this Down record," Anselmo says. "I don't think any of us did. I did what we did when we recorded the first demo. I am never the guy that will sit back and say, 'Oh, we gotta break new ground!' and have all these gigantic expectations. I'm the biggest fucking pessimist in the entire world. Even when I was in Pantera, I didn't expect a fucking thing."
Music fans, on the other hand, were starved for something by the time Pantera hit its true groove with 1992's Vulgar Display of Power. It set the bar ridiculously high for heavy metal with tracks like "A New Level," "Walk," and "Fucking Hostile." A special 20th anniversary expanded edition released earlier this year sounds surprisingly fresh and undamaged by the travails of time. Anselmo turns reflective and almost somber in recalling that period. "We were very strong, in our strongest, strongest bodies," he says. "The injuries had not yet mounted in my skeleton, and . . . gosh man, we were so physical back then onstage. When we had recorded [1990's] Cowboys from Hell, we were playing a lot of those songs live in the Dallas–Fort Worth area, and I know that this has been said before, but the last song we wrote for Cowboys was 'Primal Concrete Sledge,' and if there was any song that there was a possible bridge or a sneak peek at what Vulgar Display of Power would be, it's definitely that song."