Forget the way he bellows and barks in Down for a second. Because behind the music, Phil Anselmo is the most intense person I’ve ever met.
Speaking to the former Pantera frontman for a Decibel cover story a few summers ago, I quickly learned that you don’t ask Anselmo questions. You simply sit back and let the tape roll; let him talk, not be talked to. After all, he’s got a lot to say, whether it’s about the murder of Dimebag Darrell or the debilitating back injury that caused him to take up heroin and nearly die several times. And, well, as slow as he talks—poring over every…single…word—the guy always seems on the verge of snapping. Which would be a very bad moment to witness firsthand, given the massive “body/blood, joy/pain, life/death” tattoo on his left arm.
These days, Anselmo is healthier than he was throughout most of the ’90s. He’s a hell of a lot happier, too, enjoying Down’s shift from its status as an underground metal supergroup (featuring members of Eyehategod, Crowbar and Corrosion of Conformity, along with Pantera bassist Rex Brown, who’s currently facing surgery for acute pancreatitis) to everyone’s fulltime job. An exciting prospect if you’re into any strain of sludgy rock. Hence the band’s decision to bring the Melvins on the road this time around. A perfect pairing, really, especially considering the showmanship of both artists, from King Buzzo’s stoner witch facade to Down’s old-school grasp of guitar solos and a fanbase that’s frothing at the mouth for a reason.