Review: Bill & Phil – Songs Of Darkness And Despair (EP)

By Ryan Falla

With any good side-project, there always comes a bit of history to enjoy the full understanding of the project’s context. Bill & Phil’s ‘Songs of Darkness and Despair’ EP was written, performed, and produced by Phil Anselmo (Pantera, Superjoint Ritual, Down) and Stephen “Big Fella” Berrigan (Down, Eyehategod); featuring multiple guest appearances as well as cult horror movie icon Bill Moseley leading the charge as lyricist and singer. You may know Bill Moseley from B-horror movie staples such as ‘House of 1000 Corpses’ and ‘Devils Rejects’ (Otis Driftwood) and ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2’ (Chop Top), continuing his trend of being the man in front with this project; this time as a singer.

That is correct, Bill Moseley takes vocal charge on this project over Anselmo, and I was just as surprised by that fact as you are. Phil Anselmo is nowhere to be heard on this album aside from the occasional extremely subtle backup vocals, relegating himself to writing the music. You may have had the impression that this would be a Phil Anselmo fronted project, yet from the first track it is apparent this is not the Phil show. Not knowing Phil Anselmo’s role in writing the music away from the vocals would lead you to believe this is a Bill Moseley project 100 per cent.

Previously, Bill had collaborated with Buckethead on the project ‘Cornbugs’, which is no surprise that he would have another high-level collaboration under his belt, as the lyrical mastery he weaves on this EP makes it apparent it is not his first rodeo. Bill Moseley’s strength as an artist doesn’t lie simply in his ability to sing a good song, but craft an intense and unique atmosphere with every song he touches.

The collaboration on this EP is truly a work of art, with the music supplementing the atmosphere Bill aims to create to the absolute letter. It truly is remarkable how the music written by Phil Anselmo and Stephen Berrigan connects so perfectly to Bill’s lyrical atmosphere, sounding as if this entire album was written by one person.

Out of the gate, Bill and Phil hit you hard and dirty with the track ‘Dirty Eye’, forcing a shot of moonshine down your throat and delivering a swift kick to the skull. Like any Bill Moseley project, participating in his art instills the feeling of being a drunken hillbilly on a week long liquor-binge. While ‘Dirty Eye’ lays down a heavy and dirty foundation for the EP, this project immediately takes on a journey exploring a carefully crafted atmosphere through different points of view; driving home the fact that this is a catalog of music explicitly featuring songs of “Darkness and Despair”.

If you followed the inception of this project you would have already heard the track ‘Bad Donut’, which the band streamed ahead of release for promotion of the EP; a song so overly aggressive, some would call its masculinity “toxic”. Bill and Phil pull no punches with this track, shoving your face into a pile of mud while lecturing you on how worthless of a human being you are. ‘Songs of Darkness and Despair’ takes the chance at creating a unique and immersive experience on every track, being wildly successful with each attempt.
Songs like ‘Corpus Crispy’ and ‘Catastrophic’ keep you on your toes throughout the duration of the EP, continually shifting the musical narrative in drastic manners. ‘Corpus Crispy’ is an experience in desert delirium, frying your brain on peyote as Bill and Phil walk you through a spiritual vision quest in the lands of sand and sun. The heavy percussive undertone crafted by Jose “Blue” Gonzalez shines with this song, pushing the tribal atmosphere to the forefront of your mind with the assistance of Kevin Bond (Superjoint), and the psychedelic guitar work he provides.

My favorite track on the EP ‘Songs of Darkness and Despair’ would definitely be ‘Catastrophic’, sounding like a lost track from the LuLu album by Lou Reed and Metallica; except this track sounds like an organic work of spoken word vocals on a sludge metal track than the unfortunately disjointed work on LuLu. Even with the differing tones throughout the album, the Darkness and Despair is ever-present.

Coming into this EP, I was expecting another heavy Pantera-like Anselmo side-project, yet I came out understanding what a completely different experience it is from anything Phil Anselmo has ever done. Bill Moseley is truly a skilled artist at creating a lyrical atmosphere that takes you on an ever-morphing trip from start to finish. Phil gracefully takes a backseat to Bill’s beautifully unique handle on the art of lyricism, resulting in what is one of Phil Anselmo’s most interesting works and a project that is as memorable as Bill’s performances on film.

Releasing on Janurary 20th, 2017 via Phil Anselmo’s Housecore Records, ‘Songs of Darkness and Despair’ is a dirty, trippy, fun experience through different worlds; fronted by Bill Moseley and backed by Phil Anselmo. A must-have, not just for fans of Phil Anselmo or Bill Moseley, but any person who wants a record that does what many struggle to do nowadays: take you on a journey that you could not find anywhere else except this singular record.

Rating: 8.5/10

Record Label: Housecore
Release Date: January 20th 2017

Track Listing:
1. Dirty Eye
2. Corpus Crispy
3. Catastrophic
4. Widder Woman
5. Tonight’s The Night We Die
6. Bad Donut

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