En Minor is a project that had been rattling around in Philip H. Anselmo“s head since he was a child; they are an unexpectedly emotional and deeply serious sound that freefalls out of the genres most of the band members are associated with, including Anselmo himself, and into uncharted territory. Unconventional and, in many ways, experimental, their 2020 release, When the Cold Truth Has Worn Its Miserable Welcome Out (Housecore Records) is steeped in reverence to the Jazz tradition in New Orleans, and maybe more markedly serves as a morose interpretation of a Jazz Funeral March with hints of Vaudeville; an unironic gothic twist on Tom Waits that Anselmo has since self-described as Depression Core.
The album dances around its themes deliberately; “Blue” and “Dead Can’t Dance” are playful, while songs like “Disposable for You,” “Black Mass” and “On the Floor” borrows heavily from the NOLA sound, both in the cadence and attitude, that has inspired so much of the album. It”s hard to ignore the practiced and measured control the ensemble has over their contribution to the sound. “This is Not Your Day,” a personal favorite, really showcases that balance, each element aware of and complementary to the dialogue between all the other players sharing the stage. “Love Needs Love” and “Melancholia” are sleepy and methodic, a hazy dreamlike sound that does not sit well in the pit of your stomach.
This is the album that made up the heart of En Minor”s livestream, performed at the historic Orpheum Theater, in the heart of New Orlean”s Central Business District. The band, which features Anselmo on vocals, guitar, percussion; Stephen Taylor (Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals, Superjoint), Paul Webb (Classhole, Mountain Of Wizard) and Kevin Bond (Superjoint, Christ Inversion) on guitar; Steve Bernal (former first chair on the Temple Symphony Orchestra) on cello; Calvin Dover on keys and Joiner Dover (The Dover Brothers) on bass; and Jose Manuel “Blue” Gonzalez (Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals, Superjoint) on drums, has now joined the ever-growing list of performers to livestream a concert recorded at a secluded location during the pandemic.
The highly produced, multi-camera experience could stand alone as its own story; the stage transformed into a scene featuring rich, vibrant colors that enveloped the ensemble throughout the performance. Standing in the empty venue, somber and smartly dressed, En Minor wasted no time to launch into their set that included the entirety of When the Cold Truth. The performance was somber and felt appropriate for a year that has been chaotic and at times devastating, lonely, and frustrating. There was no anger or brutality coming from Anselmo, but rather a heavy, ominous quiet that was complemented by the cinematic fade-outs, close-ups, and pan shots. He leaned into his deep, booming voice, weaving lyrics drowned in imagery of sorrow and remorse across playfully fluid licks and beats. He was pensive, speaking very few words between songs—often only introducing them and counting his bandmates in. The band”s performance felt dramatic in a way that captured your attention and the production gave the viewers an experience that wouldn’t be possible live. This has been a sorely missed aspect of livestreams that I didn’t notice until En Minor got it right: the intentional presentation, high-quality audio, a multitude of camera angles, and thoughtful light show made up for the general deficiencies of the medium by putting together a concert that was actually designed to be viewed as a livestream, not just a livestream that wished it was a live concert. Credit to the band and director Ryan Dufrene for raising the bar on what a satisfying streaming concert experience looks like.
En Minor”s When the Cold Truth is bitter and moody, at times spitefully spirited and upbeat, but never anything short of a delicate discourse in the art of brooding. It is unapologetically dark and often hypnotic, unexpected but comfortably familiar, and the livestream was a delightful complement to the album.
This is Not Your Day
Dead Can”t Dance
Love Needs Love
The Unkind Flash
Knock Me Cold
Warm Sharp Bath Sleep
Disposable for You
On the Floor
Older We Get