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A Lethal Dose of American Hatred

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  • Many people are quick to judge this record based on Phil Anselmo’s acheivements and sounds with other bands, and they shouldn’t do that. Superjoint Ritual has its own sound, quite apart from Phil’s other musical projects– what he did in Down and Pantera should be irrelevant when discussing what he’s doing here. Unfair judgment notwithstanding, this album is still weak. Pantera’s end was inevitable, but I am sad Phil abandoned Down to focus on this muddled, chest-thumping mess. If the notorious Phil Anselmo were not at the helm of this racket, it would be mired in complete obscurity where it belongs.The music is an unfocused barrage of one simplistic, hammering riff after another. I have no problem with intense, hammering riffs– Slayer has made a living off them, and deservedly so. But this sounds uninspired and gets tough to listen to after the first couple of songs. The drumming is particularly irritating– it’s nearly the same amateurish banging every song. Great riffs and excellent percussion make up the backbone of legendary heavy music. “Lethal Dose” has neither, and the result is something much less than Phil’s public claim that this heralds the rebirth of heavy music. It could be the rebirth of aging, declining musicians making a last desperate grasp at street credibility, but in that case Metallica has beaten Superjoint Ritual to the punch with “St. Anger”.The whole thing sounds suspiciously like a Phil Anselmo midlife crisis album. Let’s be real folks: the vocals are terrible. If you didn’t know Phil was singing, you wouldn’t be listening. The tone of the vocals never changes, it just sort of plods along at a dull general roar, hammering away like every other part of the music. It’s sad. Anselmo’s vocal work was always inspired and distinctive, whatever the style. He sounds old, tired, and out of place here. All the macho huffing and puffing only serve to further weaken this frantic attempt at staying relevant.I am absolutely not one of the now-many “Phil-haters.” I will always respect and admire him as a musician. I grew up on Pantera’s music, Down is one of my favorite bands, and he has worked hard to dig up heavy music diamonds. He single-handedly provided the excellent Crowbar with a viable career, and he consistently takes “risk” bands on tour with him to provide them with the exposure they need. Morbid Angel is a legendary band in death metal circles, but they are not even close to any of the styles for which Phil is known. Yet he took them on tour with Pantera and now again with SJR, a pretty magnanimous move. Still, there is something to be said for aging gracefully. He had an opportunity to do that with Down. “Down II” was not an amazing record, but it was solid. It was the sound of several good friends in the music business getting older, but getting wiser. Now Down has been “put aside indefinitely” in favor of the anachronistic SJR and ridiculous tough-guy posturing to the press. Whatever he used to be, over the last year he’s done a fine job of sounding like an aging, drunken blowhard, and this album manifests that in musical form. After years of hard touring, harder partying, and insanely hard drinking, Phil isn’t capable of rocking like a nineteen year old anymore. The sooner he realizes that, the sooner he’ll stop making a mockery of himself with efforts like “Lethal Dose.”

    Posted on December 1, 2009