The first release by the Anselmo-led version of Pantera, 1988's Power Metal, wasn't up to the standard of future releases, however, but it was strong enough to land the quartet a recording contract with the Atlantic Records subsidiary EastWest. The group's look and sound quickly transformed from glam rock (à la Mötley Crüe) to straight-ahead thrash metal (Metallica), as evidenced by 1990's Cowboys from Hell. The album helped create a strong buzz with metalheads worldwide, which resulted in a pair of successful breakthrough releases that catapulted Pantera to the top of the metal heap: 1992's Vulgar Display of Power and 1994's Far Beyond Driven. Although it appeared on the surface as though this successful period would bring the bandmembers happiness, around this time Anselmo developed a substance abuse problem behind the scenes.
During a brief break from Pantera in 1995, Anselmo formed a side project, Down, along with Corrosion of Conformity's Pepper Keenan (guitar), Crowbar's Todd Strange (bass), and Eyehategod's Jimmy Bower (drums). With a sound slightly more melodic than Pantera and more aligned to classic rock/metal, the quartet issued a well-received debut album the same year, NOLA, before Anselmo returned back to his full-time gig. But a few months after the release of Pantera's 1996 release, The Great Southern Trendkill (and just as a supporting tour got underway), Anselmo overdosed on heroin in July of the same year, and nearly died. Admirably, Anselmo refused to cancel the tour, and successfully rid himself of drug addiction on his own. Following the release of Pantera's first ever live album, 1997's Official Live: 101 Proof, Anselmo concentrated on a non-musical project, focusing on launching his own interactive haunted house in Jefferson, Louisiana, called the House of Shock.
The same year that Pantera's fifth studio album with Anselmo was issued, 2000's Reinventing the Steel, the singer began releasing albums with a plethora of side projects. Such Anselmo projects included Necrophagia (2000's Holocausto de la Morte and Legacy of Horror, Gore and Sickness, plus 2001's Cannibal Holocaust), Viking Crown (2000's Innocence from Hell and 2001's Banished Rhythmic Hate), Superjoint Ritual (2002's Use Once and Destroy), a second Down release (2002's Down II), Christ Inversion (a self-titled release), an acoustic outfit with his wife Opal called Southern Isolation (2001's self-titled EP), and a solo project, Philip H. Anselmo & the Illegals (2013's Walk Through Exits Only). As if his plate weren't full enough with side projects, Anselmo has even more on the horizon, including Eibon, Enoch, and Body & Blood, and is said to be included on the debut recording by the much rumored and delayed Nine Inch Nails side project Tapeworm. In addition to his side projects and his work with Pantera, Anselmo has lent his vocal talents to recordings by other artists, including Vision of Disorder's Imprint, Biohazard's Uncivilization, Tony Iommi's Iommi, Anthrax's Volume 8: The Threat Is Real, and A.C.'s 40 More Reasons to Hate Us, among others. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi