Arson Anthem, the punk super group, though the members would likely bristle at the term, was formed in New Orleans in 2006 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Front man Mike Williams (Eyehategod) lost everything he owned in the catastrophic storm and moved into Phil Anselmo’s (guitars) spare apartment. There the two got into Anselmo’s collection of hardcore punk records, and decided to form a punk band, rounding out the lineup with Hank Williams III on drums and Colin Yeo handling bass duties. A self titled EP was released in 2008 and their debut full length, Insecurity Notoriety, came out late last year.
Insecurity Notoriety, which barrels through 17 songs in 31 minutes, takes the Black Flag school of punk from the southern swamp to the street and back. After the intro track “Naught” fades out, we are instantly reacquainted with Mike Williams’ acidic, Crohn’s-disease-and-withdrawal-symptoms delivery and Anselmo’s simplistic riffs that bounce back and forth between power chords on the neck at speed, with some dissonant passages and non-linear leads that give him a style all his own, with a nod to Greg Ginn. On “Isolation Militia”, Hank III showcases his speed and skill on the kit, and Williams’ rage never lets up for a second. “More Thane One War” brings out the NOLA, that’s New Orleans, Louisiana, for the uninitiated, in Arson Anthem, throwing a little sludge in their southern punk shot of Wild Turkey.
The album’s title track is pure bouncing hardcore punk energy. Anselmo is underrated as a punk composer. He can put all the elements in place skillfully, coming from a lifetime of listening to the punk forefathers. The songs on this album come from a real place. It’s not just millionaire rock star playing punk for a day and footing the bill for his less affluent band mates. He’s not reinventing the wheel, but he definitely took the wheel and put it on his own custom car. His unmelodic guitar work on songs like “Polite Society” gives the Arson Anthem sound a definite edge, and he can also bring out the groove when he wants to.
On “If You Heard This You Would Hit Me” a romping 12 bar blues bass line courtesy of Yeo and Anselmo’s jagged choices in notation bring out the insanity of the song. It’s straight ahead hardcore but with the band’s own nuances. This isn’t a super group aping the greats. They’re out to make their own mark, and the grinding speed of tracks such as “Hands Off Approach” show that the band is no one-trick ratting dog. Anselmo’s days in Superjoint Ritual leak into the music on “Primate Envy”, a song that seems to mock the worship of unworthy heroes. Later, “Codependent and Busted” seems to take on Mike’s arrest and imprisonment for drug possession in the aftermath of Katrina, with the string bends and hammer ons on the track doing the dark mood sonic justice.
The album closes with “Teach the Gun to Love the Bullet”, which begins with a marching beat and a spoken word intro by Williams as he spouts a string of non sequiturs before busting out his trademark, throat ripping shrieks of discontent and pain. The chorus slows down for emphasis following the pogo punk verse that’s all elbows, combat boots, and stage dives. This is golden era material for the modern age that could share the stage with the likes of the Circle Jerks and SS Decontrol.
Arson Anthem's Insecurity Notoriety is out now on Housecore Records.