For those of you who have never heard of Superjoint Ritual, it is one of Phil Aneslmo’s (ex Pantera vocalist) side projects. This album, A Lethal Dose of American Hatred, was released in 2003 and is their second full-length album. There are a few things one should know about SJR. They are not exactly like Pantera. Although Pantera was brutal sounding, Superjoint Ritual seems to have brutality on their main focus list. Their music is very aggressive and full of adrenalin, but in a different way than Pantera. SJR’s musical hostility is more unrelenting and thrashy, similarly to bands like Slayer. They also have this haunting feel that makes the music less straight forward but more appealing. In addition, there are visible punk influences in some of their songs. In fact, they name Black Flag as one of their main influences. The main difference between SJR and Pantera is the guitar work. More specifically, SJR does not have Diamond (later known as Dimebag) Darrel as a guitarist. His signature tone, fast and remarkable solos, and heavy riffage were one of the main elements of Pantera’s sound; he was mainly what made Pantera Pantera. SJR’s guitar work being quite different from Dimebag’s made them a band coincidentally fronted by Anselmo and not Pantera with different musicians.
All in all Superjoint Ritual make heavy, convincingly angry music and DO NOT sound like Pantera.
Phil Anselmo: Vocals, guitars
Jimmy Bower: 4 string sonex
Joe Fazzio: Drums
III: Bass (Don’t ask about the name. I’m just writing what it says in the CD booklet).
Kevin Bond: Stunt Guitar
A Lethal Dose of American Hatred is a forty-six minute and thirteen second heavy metal assault on your ears. There is not one soft track and although some songs have slower doom like intros, most songs just start with Phil going “one, two, three, four” or “one, two, onetwothreefour” and then go straight into some heavy thrashing. In addition, the album has thirteen tracks and as I mentioned above clocks in at a bit more than forty-five minutes. In other words, there aren’t too many long songs. This is most likely due to the fact that there are no guitar solos, which I personally found quite surprising.
Despite the dearth of guitar solos, the guitar work complements every other brutal aspect of the album perfectly. The riffs really add power to the anger that this band tries to convey. They are down tuned and very heavy. Yet, the riffs aren’t always fast and palm muted a la Slayer. Of course there are many riffs like that but a lot of them are slower but still just as heavy. They give the impression that you are slowly entering the mind of an extremely pissed off dude and that you will see what he sees and feel what he feels. Moreover, occasionally there are some brief guitar harmonies over some riffs from Phil who plays guitar on a few tracks. I must add though that there are a few strange guitar parts here and there that sound a bit incongruous to the general feel of the album. The intro to the song Symbol of Nevermore is a good example.
The rhythm section seems to be not too bad. Although the bass is rarely heard, when it is audible it seems to be doing fine, delivering some pretty good bass lines that aren’t mere root rides. The drumming in my opinion is nothing too special but it does its job well enough (I am not a drummer and do not know too much about drumming so if you disagree please post) delivering many double pedal beats and some decent fills here and there. It seems to be just standard thrash drumming.
Except on a few songs, I feel that Phil Anselmo’s “singing” is different than it was in the Pantera days. It seems to be smoother but less raw, as if he perfected his scream but sacrificed some of his violence in doing so. Despite all this, his voice sounds exactly like it did with Pantera on the last few tracks. Moreover, his lyrics on this album deal with drugs, America, and the media. Doesn’t seem like much changed from his lyrics in the Pantera days right" Well, for the most part that’s true. Yet, there seems to be a few more lines on the controversial topic of religion, some of which are quite provocative. For example, “A holy war you will get, you can bet, Jihad is a joke” or “My God beats the *** out of your God”. Furthermore, I don’t think Phil is an absolutely great lyricist but his lyrics fit the hostile feeling of the album.
Every song on the album is straight up heavy and thrashy. There are no soft songs. Also, although there are frequent tempo changes, every song seems to get to the same tempo at one point or another. This on top of the thrashy feel of the album may cause some listeners to eschew this as just another repetitive metal album from the twenty first century but in my opinion it is much more. I mainly like older metal and can’t seem to get into many newer metal bands. Yet, there are a few exceptions and this is definitely one of them although I think it still isn’t quite as good as older thrash. For some reason, I was really able to listen to this album the whole way through without ever saying, “I’m bored” or skipping a track. Obviously, the album has its flaws such as the fact that some choruses are repeated too many times or the fact that a small number of songs seem to drag on a bit too long but all in all that is just minor. I think that overall this is a solid album. The only aspect I really don’t like is the lack of guitar or any instrument solos. Also I think there needed to be some more or longer instrumental sections; it was too vocal oriented. In conclusion, this is a surprisingly good album (much better than I expected it to be) with many high points and not too many low points. I would recommend it to any one who likes the metal that is coming out nowadays or anyone who likes thrashy aggressive music. Also, although they don’t sound like Pantera too much, I would probably recommend Superjoint Ritual to any Pantera fan.
Recommended songs: Sickness, Dress like a Target, Personal Insult, Never to Sit or Stand Again, Stealing a Page or Two from Armed and Radical Pagans, The Knife Rises.
Final rating: 3.5/5.