Sound — 7
Phil Anselmo's infamous persona may be a topic of hot debate among the metal community, and what he does when he's not performing as a musician is usually put under intense scrutiny, but his work as a musician has been undeniably good. Pantera has, of course, been a benchmark band for post-thrash metal, and his work with Down has pretty much defined the sludge/groove metal sound of the last couple of decades. Superjoint Ritual has also been a rather short-lived project featuring Jimmy Bower and Kevin Bond on guitar, and even had the likes of Hank Williams III performing bass on tour, though the band would split in 2004. A reunion was announced in 2014, along with a legally-mandated name change to just "Superjoint." Joining them would be Stephen Taylor on bass and Jose Gonzalez on drums.
It's clear from the first notes of the record that a lot of Phil's influence seems to have come from his recent solo album, "Walk Through Exits Only." Vocally, Phil sounds very similar to how he did on his solo record, spitting out the kind of vitriolic lyrics he's become known for, sounding like a man who has just gargled a mouthful of broken glass. The band often backs him with ferocious riffs and dissonant chords. Rhythmically, the band often eschews the standard "4/4, four measures" structure by extending riffs through odd numbers of measures and beats. But this isn't a Dream Theater record, any deviation from a typical rhythm or tempo structure is more in the vein of old-school hardcore punk, almost sloppy in its execution, but in a raw and emotional way. There are a few vestiges of the band's former "southern metal" sound on this record, sounding almost the most pissed-off and least melodic Phil has been in years.
The band's noisy sound is present on all of the tracks, straight from the opening of "Today and Tomorrow" straight to the closing notes of "Receiving No Answer to the Knock." Hardcore punk makes appearances throughout the album, like on the track "Burning the Blanket," and there are noisy guitar solos on tracks like "Mutts Bite Too," and while the record does occasionally slow down for slower-burning groove metal riffs and even some sludge influences on tracks like "Circling the Drain," you'll be hard-pressed to find a clean guitar or melodic vocal part on the entire record. The playing is excellent, with all members firing on all cylinders, locking in even through weirdly shifting tempos and time signatures.
The production is very loud, but also still retaining a bare-bones mentality of just two guitars, bass, drums and vocals. Nothing more, nothing less. At times, the album sounds like it could have been tracked live off the floor in somebody's garage, and its raw production really connects the music to the listener. The only real unfortunate thing about the album's production is that it's a touch too loud for my own liking, and may be a bit fatiguing to listen to all the way through. Mercifully, the album is only about 38 minutes long, so this may not present a problem for other sets of ears.
The songwriting, while good, does lack a bit of variety as well, which made it a little harder at times to figure out where I was in the album, in contrast to "A Lethal Dose of American Hatred," which, for some reason, felt a little easier to get into to me.
Lyrics — 7
Amid chants of "TRUST NO ONE!" and song titles like "Clickbait," it seems fitting that Phil Anselmo describes the lyrical themes of this album to be about how people use technology and the good and bad traits that come with it. And the internet has done a lot of good and bad to the metal community, letting us hear music we would never normally hear without it, but coming at the price of music piracy and the aforementioned clickbait article titles. Songs like "Asshole" and "Ruin You" sound acerbic and corrosive, and generally just angry as hell.
That applies as well to Phil's vocal style, which has only hardened more and more with each passing year. I have no idea how he manages to just sound more and more pissed off and harsh with time, but age has done very, very little to diminish his searing vocal style. There is a bit of variety to his vocals like nearly-melodic passages, spoken bits, clearer parts, and some higher screams here and there. Nothing is pitch-corrected or edited or time-corrected, at least as far as my ears can tell. Just 38 minutes of some very, very angry vocals.
Overall Impression — 7
Superjoint's comeback album is a big, loud, unapologetic slab of hardcore punk mixed with Southern rock groove and extreme metal antics. It's not a work of genius, and almost seems to come off as an anti-intellectual form of music, but it's an emotionally exhausting workout that's guaranteed to open up a mosh pit in almost any situation in which it's played. There are few, if any, real stand-out tracks on the record, but that's fine for this record as it's probably best taken as one cohesive work, as noncoherent as the musical style can seem sometimes.
If you've been a fan of Superjoint Ritual or anything Phil Anselmo has done since Pantera, this is probably going to be right up your alley. If you want some old-school hardcore punk with a bit more of an extreme metal edge, this is your new Album Of The Year. As for myself, I think it's a capable record, flawed only in areas I consider a matter of personal preference, coming off to me as sort of a musical equivalent to a big, dumb, loud Michael Bay movie where everything is exploding in every scene. But while that sounds like an admonishment, to be perfectly honest, sometimes you gotta take a break from philosophy and just dig into something brutal, simple and raw. Definitely recommended for anyone who's just looking for something that's guaranteed to make you mosh.