Wednesday, 22 November 2017
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Album Review: BILL + PHIL – Songs of Darkness and Despair

BILL + PHILEarly 2017 brought an indelible collaboration comprising two distinct mediums: horror and heavy metal. The first is represented by acclaimed movie actor and musician Bill Moseley, while the latter is by multi-faceted Phil Anselmo (Pantera, Superjoint, Down, et al.). Under the simple moniker Bill + Phil, the two find themselves working with an equally stripped-down palate – straight-ahead guitar, bass and drums, peppered by blunt, often satirical lyric themes. All of the elements come together to define their debut EP, Songs of Darkness and Despair.  From a wide perspective, this combination seems effective. However, it’s the unified delivery of these elements that especially give the EP its merit.

Instantly, the opening “Dirty Eye” draws me in with its 70s doom stylistic leanings. Moseley’s vocal tonality and range work well here as they allude to formative efforts of Pentagram. Anselmo, who is of similar footing on the grounds of horror, sensibly complements these stylings. His vocal presence is sparse, populating the template by way of sludgy guitar riffs instead. This skeleton becomes fleshed out from additional input by guitarist Andrew “Squizzy” Livingstone-Squires of King Parrot, along with bassist Kevin Bond and drummer Joey “Blue” Gonzales. Merging both familiar and fresh blood, each member exhibits solid interplay off one another. Next up is “Corpus Crispy,” the EP’s extended number, which dives into the band’s humorous side. I’d interpret substance behind the lyrics from two standpoints. Whether it comes across as painting insightful, abstract scenarios, or spouting disjointed, psychedelia-laden drivel, both means are surprisingly competent. The main riff has decent momentum, while the Moseley’s vocals sit comfortably, and especially amidst additional textures as the song progresses. “Catastrophic” proceeds to cap the first group of tracks with its scrawling intro and equally searing lead. By this point, I started laughing uncontrollably at Moseley’s deadpan banter, and especially the intentional awkwardness implemented in the delay effect. Honestly, there isn’t much else to comment on from a lyrical perspective, save for its rather tongue-in-cheek view of a broken marriage. However, the fullness of the guitars during the chorus is definitely worth a headbanging session, or a handful tops.

The second group begins with a short interlude, “Widder Woman.” Consisting initially of a loud, repetitive snoring clip, an alarm clock then provides certain ambiance as the backdrop for Moseley’s mutant-voiced spoken word piece. Its content is equally bizarre, centering on the unfortunate aftermath of a one-night stand, and speculating what form the resulting spawn would assume. That notion gets even more twisted with the track to follow, “Tonight’s the Night We Die.” Out of context, this song plays like a somber-but-content outlook on the inevitability of death. In fact, I’d be surprised if this hadn’t already been released as a single, considering how long the EP has been out. On the other hand, the song could be pertaining to the epiphany of newfound motherhood, and how the unwanted complications brought on by going through such involvement had driven said women to a bitter low. In that case, the final track, “Bad Donut,” covers the ‘flight’ aspect of the “fight or flight” mechanism. Its rolling punk rhythm comes coupled with bombarding mundane questions, once again referencing the tension that may stem from familial instability. When the full arrangement is considered, there’s that signature quality of Moseley’s humor that ultimately makes the ride all the more entertaining and enjoyable.

Overall, Songs of Darkness and Despair is an unexpectedly cohesive and functional effort. Given the limited time allotted to produce this project, Both Moseley and Anselmo exhibit a tight rapport with one another. Each contributing musician experiments in a zone that extends beyond their comfort, and the result is something sincerely organic. Had the guys ever thought of revisiting Bill + Phil, I’d certainly be intrigued to hear a follow-up.

 

About Jake Küssmaul

Jake is a musician and writer from the hamlet of Hawthorne, NY. Despite having mild cerebral palsy, he continues to break barriers, developing solid connections and lasting friendships with bands around the world.

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