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A Step Up for SJR. - 77%

woeoftyrants, May 7th, 2007

After the debut of SJR with Use Once and Destroy, most people did not respond positively; the vast majority of people despised the band's low-down and dirty blend of hardcore punk, sludge metal, and thrash. Ironically, the band didn't seem to care and continued to do whatever they wanted. The band's second album sees a few minor changes in the band's sound while maintaining the drug-fueled, merciless, tough-guy mentality that made them so infamous.

If one were to compare and contrast the two albums by this band, this one is undoubtedly more complex and forgoes most of the punk influence seen on Use Once and Destroy. Simply put, it's more metal. There are a few exceptions, such as the blitzkrieg of "Waiting for the Turning Point" and "Death Threat." A Lethal Dose of American Hatred seems more driven by anger and rage than the booze-and-drugs mentality of the debut. The breakdowns and sludge moments are only more massive and menacing, and the faster moments now resonate of old thrash bands rather than punk. What is seen on this album is not so much an evolution as a distillation; everything here is purely concentrated and clean-cut, but the band have also become slightly looser in their delivery. (Which is a good thing in this scenario.) There is more unbridled fury here, no bullshit or the stretching out of ideas.

Another aspect that has changed in the band's sound is the composition process. The approaches taken aren't so far from the debut, but this time around are more perverse and twisted. Many of the songs are still short bursts of violence, but what is contained therein is the point of focus; all of the guitar riffs have taken on a venomous, dark edge that exceeds the attitude of the first album, and the drum parts now switch pace more often in the context of the music. This makes for both a more dynamic and digestible listening session. Also, the band throw in some curve balls with slug-paced numbers like "The Destruction of a Person" and "The Knife Rises," while simultaneously pushing into heavier territory with "The Horror" and "Death Threat." Some natural but weird progressions are seen on "Stealing a Page or Two From Armed & Radical Pagans" and the anthem-like "Personal Insult." Overall, it's clear to see that things progressed, and for the better. This is where the real SJR attitude comes to life: the kind that will batter you to a pulp, leaving you for dead, and spitting in your face.

Phil's voice may not be as explicitly harsh as the debut, as he uses more of a mild rambling shout here. This suits the faster, more aggressive nature of the music, though; the relentless delivery on songs like "Sickness" and "Dress Like a Target" never falters, and the lyrics have gotten increasingly erratic, paranoid, and delusional since the debut. "The Destruction of a Person" graphically details Phil's heroin addiction, and "Permenantly" is a bitter realization towards human behavior. Other ones seem more society-based without being political, but maintain the dangerous edge that Phil has always possessed with his lyrics.

Following suit with the music, the production has also changed. This album takes a more gritty, raw sound and emphasizes the battering delivery behind the performances. Joe's drums sound more punchy and earthy, while being as precise as the drum production of the first album. The guitar tone holds more distortion and treble to it, and the dirty low end is rounded out with Hank's overdriven bass tone. In the context of the music it works perfectly, though the ones who prefer the cleaner sound of the first album will be turned off by the stripped-down aesthetics.

With several noticable improvements in the overall sound and approach to writing songs, A Lethal Dose of American Hatred lives up to its name. Like the first album, however, it wears out its welcome rather quickly with a bit too much repetition and lack of variety.

Favorite tracks: "Waiting for the Turning Point", "The Destruction of a Person", "The Knife Rises."