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I am probably one of the few users on this webstite that actually likes this album. Let me be the first to say that this album kicks ass. However, I will admit that this is one of those albums that it takes a few listens to get a good feel for, but once you get past that, it's amazing!
First of all, the guitar riffs are as tasty and groovy as fuck. Phil's guitar abilities don't disapoint. Also, if there were ever any doubts that Phil is one of the greatest metal vocalists ever, this confirms it. His flexible voice swings back and forth from screaming, singing, coarse singing, and a hardcore punk shout. He even takes a black metal style approach during a part of the song "Never to Sit or Stand Again" to fit a black metal esque riff.
The music combines elements of classic hardcore, groove metal, thrash, and even a little bit of black metal, as mentioned above, to make a completely crushing album.
Most listeners want to compare SJR to Pantera or Down, which is why they seem to be ill perceived. It's not because SJR is inferior to either, but because SJR is much rawer. Pantera/Down listeners expect a cleaner production and sound. When they get an album with a hardcore, and almost live vibe (with count ins on almost every song to add to the effect), they label it as shit. On the other hand, fans of more underground and raw music dislike the band because of the publicity the band got (due to Phil Anselmo's association).
This album is pure energy. It's chaotic, heavy, and great. The only reason I gave it a 98 instead of 100 is because of a few repetitive riffs that get very annoying. First, the nearly two minute intro to "Symbol of Nevermore" is enough to drill out your eyes, which is too bad, because there is a kick-ass song afterword. The continual high pitched choards and intentional off-timing guitars make it impossible to listen to. Second and last is the ending of the last track "Absorbed." The outro is a cool and extremely distorted guitar riff. But cool turns into annoying after the riff repeats for a few minutes.
Give this album a chance, it is a great piece of work. You will be sure to bang your head to it after a few listens.