Review Summary: An important, but commonly overlooked release that warrants a closer look...
Jimmy Bower describes Superjoint Ritual as "witnessing a bad car accident". I find this statement to be pretty apt, since this album is the perfect auditory accompaniment to a 3 day bourbon bender, interspersed with constant weed sessions, fist-fights and junk food. The sludgy and at-times, out of tune guitars fuse with break-neck rhythm changes that flawlessly combines off-time jarring shots with half-time grooves and old school thrash beats. Anselmo leers overtop of the chaos like Captain Ahab on the nod, alternating his static-scratch screams with fractured lower-register howling.
The music itself is essentially a combination of early Melvins, Slayer, Agnostic Front, and Black Flag. Lots of stops and starts, guitar feedback, and half-time. This is far from unique in todays metal market, and begs the question, "what DOES make this album worth listening to?" The answer is chemistry. The album begins with Oblivious Maximus an instrumental jam that builds ominously and then changes direction several times, like a drunk driver who starts out cruising to pick up some drive-thru and ends up running everyone else off the road. The next 5 tracks all clock in under 4 minutes and the album hits its stride. Every track drips with venomous attitude and hard hitting time changes before the jam experiment 4 Songs surfaces to remind you that you are being given a tour of the asylum by the inmates. The conquest of aggression continues until the band takes time out to observe the (Black) Sabbath on the 11th track, Ozena. With 18 tracks, this album could have been released separately as a demo and an Lp, and the continuity suffers throughout. The album also contains 2 demo tracks which appear on the following album, A Lethal Dose of American Hatred as the songs Waiting For The Turning Point and Stealing A Page Or Two From Armed & Radical Pagans.
This is a challenging collection of work, as the songs were written throughout the mid-nineties by Anselmo, Joe Fazzio and Jimmy Bower during down time in EHG, Pantera and Down's respective touring schedules. The booklet contains Phil's hand-scrawled lyrics as well as dates and in some cases, liner notes, which fills in some of the story for curious fans. All things considered, its kind of amazing that this band ever formed or got the chance to tour, let alone record an album. It has to be noted that Superjoint Ritual would probably have gotten very little exposure if not for interest from fans of Phil's other projects, although this album can remain a little inaccessible to fans of Pantera or Down. If you fall into this category, it would behove you remember that this band is an entirely separate project (think of Mike Patton creating Fantomas after Faith No More), and check your reservations at the door.
There is some interesting songwriting to be found here, some of which works quite well, while other parts drag or clash, but that is the self-professed philosophy of the band. This band has no smoke and mirrors, what you see is precisely what you get. A bunch of songs written by friends who like to get drunk and stoned together, who happen to be very talented musicians. There isn't any re-inventing the wheel here, but there is the unique energy that Anselmo brings to the table distilled to a near lethal dose. Complaining that these songs are discombobulated, is missing the point, just sit back and let it rip, 'cause rip you it will.