Thursday, June 25, 2015

Superjoint Ritual - The Introvert

0:21 mark.

As Pantera, one of the biggest metal bands of the 90's started having some internal issues following a cancelled European tour at the end of 2001, Phillip H. Anselmo returned to several of his numerous side projects, Down and a band that he had formed in 1993 with Joe Fazzio, Jimmy Bower and Kevin Bond, Superjoint Ritual. Billed as a hardcore band, which was supposed to take the listener back to the days of early Agnostic Front and Slayer, Use Once and Destroy was released in 2002, although the bulk of the material is culled from the bands 1995 and 1997 demos.

From minute one, SJR developed a reputation for their live shows, but not the kind you might expect from an Anselmo fronted vehicle. The vocalist became notorious for stopping the show because the crowd was not "going off" sufficiently. Either the pit wasn't wild enough or there weren't enough stage divers or crowd surfers or all of the above. Anselmo would stop mid song and proclaim that if that was all you got, they were going to pack it in. In addition to pausing mid song to incite further moshing, he would also call out anyone in the back who happened to have their arms crossed or wasn't into it, calling their heterosexuality into question. It is unknown if Phil's threats were tongue in cheek or serious, but to my knowledge the band never actually left mid set.

SJR toured several times between 2002-2004 including a headlining run with Morbid Angel, Danzig's Blackest of the Black tour and a main stage appearance on Ozzfest, opening for Slayer, Judas Priest and Black Sabbath. After releasing their second record A Lethal Dose of American Hatred, Phil's stage antics seemed more and more drug addled which was even more apparent during interviews. In 2004 during a show at New York's famous CBGB's club, he seemed to altogether forget whole verses in some songs. This was later explained by Phil as a side effect of the large amount of pain medication he was taking prior to having an operation on his spine in 2005.

Regardless of the drugs or antagonistic banter, the music speaks for itself. Hard as nails riffs that slam back and fourth between fast thrash riffs and blast beats to neck-breakingly slow sludge riffs and hardcore stomps that leave a trail of crushed skulls in their path. And no matter what can be said about their live set, the recorded material is an aural assault delivered like a continuous curb stomp from a skinhead parade. Phil's attempt at time warping his audience to the depths of a abandoned squat on New York's lower east side circa 1982 was a bit of a miss however, due to their fan base consisting of mostly Pantera faithful. Perhaps a tour with bands who weren't just a who's who of former Pantera tourmates (Morbid Angel, Dez Fafara etc.) might have sparked interest from a more diverse group of people.

The band recently reconvened sans Hank Williams III (scheduling conflicts) and Joe Fazio, and are forging ahead under the moniker Superjoint, presumably for legal reasons. Given Phil's mostly sober state these days (at least no heroin or painkillers), their upcoming tour dates should snap a bunch of necks and chants of SUPERJOINT SUPERJOINT SUPERJOINT will be heard echoing from clubs all over the northeast. 

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