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Sharpen Your Teeth on Anti-Sensationalism - 83%

Superchard, September 10th, 2019

With the only remaining original members of Superjoint Ritual merely being Jimmy Bower and Phil Anselmo, and Kevin Bond making a return from A Lethal Dose of American Hatred, Anselmo brings two new members to the lineup from his own solo band, Stephen Taylor on bass and Jose Gonzales replacing the incredible Joe Fazzio. In my opinion, the lineup inconsistencies from Use Once and Destroy up until now aren't necessarily enough to warrant dropping the "ritual" from "Superjoint Ritual", and I wouldn't say that Caught Up in the Gears veers off on another musical course so vastly different from what the first two records set in place for the band to go by another name either. It is certainly different from the previous two albums, as one would expect after taking a 13 year hiatus. A lot has happened in those years, and at no point in that hiatus did Bower or Anselmo remain stagnant, primarily focusing on writing, recording, and touring with Down. I remember when Anselmo announced that Superjoint Ritual would be placed on the back burner while he returned to Down. At the time, I couldn't have been more excited to hear Anselmo return to making more conventional music, but over time, Anselmo's more extreme acts (barring the one's that no one knows or cares about such as Viking Crown) have grown to be my favorites as they've proven to be less predictable listens overall.

I mean, Pantera for example is pretty cut and dry, I love it, but I know exactly what to expect with only The Great Southern Trendkill really having a few surprises up its sleeve, and it took Down about four album in to actually showcase another side of themselves, albeit with dramatic lineup changes taking place. Superjoint Ritual has managed to put out a different record upon each incarnation of the band, once again probably in large part due to lineup changes, but even going from their first to their second albums, which were only a year apart from each other, one can identify a shift from a hardcore punk sound, as if it were a modern metal take on Black Flag to something much harder to define by comparing it with other previous works. Superjoint Ritual's third album is not as ambiguous as A Lethal Dose of American Hatred was, actually, I would say this is their least extreme album as of yet. That's not to say that the band has gone soft on us, but I do believe that newcomers to the band will find this easier to approach than previous works, despite Anselmo's aging vocals seemingly lacking the capacity to pull off what he was doing back in 2002/2003, but the album certainly doesn't capture a lack of attempting to do so!

One has to give the guy props, there aren't many men his age that can continue these harsher vocals. When he's not gargling out his hardcore gutter punk vocals, his shouts are noticeably raspy, but perfectly listenable and enjoyable. At first I have to admit that it took some time to get used to, as I've been spoiled by Superjoint Ritual's first two albums all this time, so I would recommend approaching this album without comparing it to the others too much. After all, we're talking about a Superjoint Ritual album that actually has guitar solos on it, quite well comprised might I add. I suspect this is the work of Kevin Bond; and not Jimmy Bower, who has a similar approach on Phil Anselmo's 2013 debut solo album, Walk Through Exits Only. The guitar solos fit the music well, are dexterously proficient, and pretty sharp, but the fact that there are guitar solos on the album to begin with would allude to it being a bit more of a conventional release than what Superjoint Ritual have done in the past, which is why I consider this to be their least extreme album.

With a mix of hardcore punk and Louisiana's very own sludge metal sound, Superjoint return with a similar fury and vitriol this time not aimed towards the middle east or Jihad, but towards the media and the younger American generations obsessed with virtue signaling their social justice principals whilst waving their gender studies degrees high in the air as if it were the next American flag. The album comes shortly after Anselmo's infamous incident in January earlier the same year in 2016 at a Dimebash meant to commemorate his fallen comrade Dimebag Darrell, in which he shouted "white power" at the end of a show into a crowd that he claimed was calling him a racist throughout the whole show. I watched the drama unfold firsthand as Anselmo quickly deliver a brief apology, one which he shouldn't have issued if his story about it being an inside joke about white wine were true. Robb Flynn of Machine Head/Vio-lence had been playing on stage with him and soon would distance himself from Phil by making a video calling him out for drunkenly shouting "white power" and waving off with a Nazi salute. I personally don't care one way or another how Anselmo aligns himself, in fact, I find Robb Flynn's virtue signaling to be the most repulsive thing to happen from this series of events, with Anselmo's apology taking second place. I don't think Anselmo should've apologized for something he's been shouting as far back as 2001 with Pantera when they were performing in South Korea. For God's sake, the man has a freedom of speech and a right to think for himself.

As far as I'm aware of, that's what this album seems to be premised on, and Robb Flynn takes center stage as the epitome of social justice warrior pandering losers born in a time before this social justice warrior culture even took off. Robb Flynn is as easy to see through as they come. Don't believe me? Just go listen to how he was always trying to follow the trends. Phil Anselmo even mentioned it in an interview. "Robb Flynn watches me, always trying to steal from my style." That statement especially rings true as Machine Head were taking off for their first couple of albums, a time before nu-metal kicked off and he quickly ran towards Slipknot and Linkin Park's direction for albums such as The Burning Red and Supercharger. Then metalcore was all the rage, and out pops Through the Ashes of Empires, are we noticing a trend yet? Flynn is the biggest loser I can even manage to conceive of. I'm 99% sure he's had botox done to even make himself look younger so he can keep up with the youngsters. I guess to tie this back into Superjoint's album, you're not going to get that level of putrid disingenuous character with this album. Anselmo knows exactly what he is, what kind of music he wants to make, and for the love of God, should be himself NO APOLOGIES, a lesson I hope he's learned since the release of this album.

Caught Up in the Gears of Application from a musical standpoint is certainly just as unapologetic as their last albums, albeit this time with lyrics that aren't as in your face as "fight us, the American people are the most pissed off motherfuckers in the world", "Jihad is a joke", or "the U.S. is the great Satan". Superjoint's third album seems to be a tad more backdoor than say, "Fuck Your Enemy", but the restless aggression is alive nonetheless, with the only song where it doesn't totally come across being "Ruin You", a track that is actually kind of uplifting, and definitely the easiest Superjoint song for a "normie" to get into, right along with blues rock anthem "Ozena" from their debut album. "Asshole" is another tune that is strikingly memorable, if not the most memorable track on the album. Going back and forth between punk and sludge in a fashion true to themselves, "Asshole" will probably coincide with tracks such as "Fuck Your Enemy" and "Waiting for the Turning Point" as some of their most catchy material despite being a little bit on the laid back and restrained side.

Phil Anselmo contributes guitar parts for the album according to the credits, essentially giving the album three guitarists that in my experience from listening to each of them individually, all have pretty different approaches. The riffs on Caught Up in the Gears of Application in particular are some of Superjoint's most obtuse in their discography, made to make the stomach churn and evoke ear worms in certain parts, such as on "Rigging the Fight" when the nauseating and slow chords come in the chorus. This is not exactly new territory for Superjoint Ritual, but I do believe that Caught Up in the Gears of Application makes more use of this filthy sound than does A Lethal Dose of American Hatred. Once again, I can say that Superjoint have their own unique sound that I would like to hear even more of. There's parts in "Receiving No Answer to the Knock" that sounds like it came directly out of Down's discography, a little bit of "Bury Me in Smoke" with this creeping, chugging riff and a little bit of the bluesy melodic vocal style that was practiced heavily throughout Down III: Over the Under. Their latest album also manages to be their most diverse album yet, and is hopefully a promising glimpse for even greater releases to come.

Superchard gets super hard for:
Ruin You
Receiving No Answer to the Knock
Asshole
Caught Up in the Gears of Application