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A definite improvement - 74%

JamesIII, March 5th, 2010

Much of the metal community did not welcome Phil Anselmo's Superjoint Ritual with open arms after hearing "Use Once & Destroy." While I didn't particularly hate the album, it wasn't exactly very good as it managed to be everything that Phil's other two major projects, Down and Pantera, were not. "Use Once & Destroy" was not very memorable nor did it seem to serve much of a purpose other than display a new element to Phil Anselmo. In the end, it really sounded like a one time effort from a short lived side project.

Well, it wasn't one time effort from a short lived side project, because "A Lethal Dose of American Hatred" was their second effort. Released the very next year from the debut, I don't many metalheads who were anxiously wondering what SJR had in store for audiences. I broke down and bought the album, despite my reservations about doing so, all of which stemmed from my disappointment over "Use Once & Destroy." Well, all things considered, this is a superior album in every way imaginable.

This still isn't mind-blowingly incredible, nor is it close. Mostly, its a thrash variant of sludge metal, as ironic of a concept that may seem. The guitar tone is still very dirty, Phil still screams constantly (except he's also thrown in some lower tone spoken word sections that he's known for.) Hank Williams III, the grandson of the legendary Hank Williams is also present for bass duties. Granted, you can't hear him all too often but its interesting to note that the bloodline of country music stardom is in the same ranks as musicians from Pantera and Eyehategod.

The music here is a basic toss-up of styles, much like its predecessor. You get a sampling of hardcore, doom metal, a light touch of thrash, and some black metal tendencies (these are not overt, but they're there.) "Destruction of a Person" seems like a good example of all of these at work, with the slower passages and shrieks that Anselmo engages in. Unfortunately, that song right there is also a good example of the problems that plague some of these songs. Either they drag on for far too long or they simply repeat themselves over and over. A band like Superjoint Ritual isn't designed for that kind of songwriting, they are best suited for faster, straight for the jugular attacks of songs like "Waiting for the Turning Point" or "The Sickness."

Despite its flaws, "A Lethal Dose..." is definitely an improvement over its predecessor. The songs seem more focused, delivering short but punching numbers whereas on "Use Once & Destroy" these songs were all too forgettable. Even the longer, slower numbers warrant repeated listens on occasion, but there isn't anything here that is exceptionally good nor many tracks that stand-out as highlights. I can definitely say that SJR's collapse was probably a good thing (which was due to internal friction between members) since it allowed Phil to work on Down, whose recorded output tops this anyday.

When its all said and done, "A Lethal Dose of American Hatred" is something I can see both Superjoint Ritual fans and fans of the sludge genre getting into. If you liked the first album, you'll probably like this one too since not much has changed except the superior songwriting and sound quality. If you were none too sure about the first one, I can't really see this one changing your mind about the band in the long run. Instead, I'd suggest looking elsewhere in Phil Anselmo's recordings for your fix, perhaps Down's material, which has always been superior to this band in terms of memorable music and raw enjoyment of the listener, which is what any kind of music should shoot for.