Bill + Phil – Songs of Darkness and Despair Review

Bill + Phil - Songs of Darkness and DespairCollaborations between metal artists are quite common. The amount of “supergroups,” like Phil Anselmo’s own Down, can attest to that. Less common are collaborations between metal artists and people outside of metal. Sometimes these are successful, like when Anthrax teamed up with Public Enemy for “Bring the Noise.” Other times you get Lulu. Now resident redneck Phil Anselmo is teaming up with Bill Moseley, who admittedly has worked with Buckethead in Cornbugs, but is nonetheless most famous for his acting career, notoriously portraying Chop Top in the sequel to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Otis in House of 1000 Corpses and, my personal favorite, The Devil’s Rejects. Redneck metal meets redneck horror sounds like a good combination, but does it evoke the true spirit of hillbilly scumbaggery?

Largely it does, though if you’re looking for loud Panteraesque grooves you better look elsewhere. This mini-album is a strange creature in which every track has a different feel, but opener “Dirty Eye” is the only one to feature any straightforward metal, a mid-paced chugfest with few surprises. In contrast, “Corpus Crispy” is an unsettling piece of southern blues, laying down psychedelic lyrics over a traditional beat while a distorted guitar screams incoherently through the fog. “Tonight’s the Night We Die” is a largely acoustic piece that calls Johnny Cash to mind, and “Widder Woman” is a 30-second skit containing a jangling xylophone, a cackling witch and a horror poem about the titular character. It’s a strange and a rather creepy affair that seems thrown together over a hazy weekend.

Turns out that’s not far from the truth, for after Bill delivered the lyrics, Phil and a team of guests from Superjoint and King Parrot wrote the music around the text, and the lot recorded the whole thing in a mere 3 days. In general, this actually supports the unhinged hillbilly feel the album is going for, using repetition to its advantage and focusing on the peyote-inspired lyrics, which are the strongest point of Songs. Using very visual metaphors, these don’t set any literal horror scenes but create an evocative atmosphere of creeping unease. It doesn’t do opener “Dirty Eye” much good, though, as the guitars overpower the vocals and the monotony of the chugging eats away at the impact of the song. Instead of unpolished, it just sounds unfinished, and Bill’s yee-haw wailing can’t quite make up for that.

Bill + Phil 2017

However, Songs succeeds completely in bringing Bill’s lyrics to life, and each of the songs would work as the backdrop to a different kind of hillbilly horror scene. “Catastrophic” and “Bad Donut” contain vitriolic rants a serial killer might spout at its victims in passing, reminiscent of the character Otis, and “Corpus Crispy” evokes the air of rolling slowly through a ghost town in the deep south, passing only crows and a few grinning drifters with rotting teeth. Here is where the roughness and lack of polish help the tracks, as the jagged grime supports the nasty feel of dust and dread. The production, while a tad loud, finds the right balance between clarity and dirtiness to support the atmosphere fully.

Songs is not a masterpiece by a long stretch, and not everything attempted here works. But it’s successful enough as an experiment in lyrics-first songwriting and in bringing murderous hillbillies from the screen into the ears. I’d love to see the pair expanding the palette of instruments and moods further and I can see Bill penning a great horror concept album. If Phil agrees, there might be a great full-length endeavor hovering between the southern gentlemen. There is promise enough for that on this record.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: ? | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Housecore Records
Releases Worldwide: January 20th, 2017

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