Longtime metal fans may remember Superjoint Ritual as the nadir of Philip Aneslmo’s career, if they remember it at all. The band’s general concept — mid-’80s hardcore filtered through the depravity of the New Orleans metal scene — was an interesting one, and the resulting album, 2002’s Use Once and Destroy, was a satisfying blast of spite. However, the band’s second album was half-assed at best, and they were held back by internal squabbles and now-legendary drug habits. Shortly after Dimebag Darrell’s murder in 2004, Anselmo retreated from the public eye, and Superjoint Ritual‘s brief existence came to an end.
12 years later, Anselmo and guitarist Jimmy Bower (also of Down) have decided to resurrect the project, with half of the original lineup and half of the band name. The newly-truncated Superjoint also includes Kevin Bond, a touring guitarist from the band’s first era, while drummer Joe Fazzio and bassist Hank Williams III (yes, the son of Bocephus) are noticeably absent, replaced by members of Anselmo’s solo band. As if to make up for the band name being one word shorter, the new album bears the cumbersome title of Caught up in the Gears of Application.
The record lurches into existence with “Today And Tomorrow,” as Anselmo does his trademark spoken-word mumbling over a bed of guitar feedback. As the song finally kicks in, Anselmo delivers the refrain: “Today’s ‘fuck off’/is tomorrow’s ‘fuck you.'” It’s not exactly Shakespeare, but from this vocalist and this band, I expect nothing less. The hyper-fast hardcore of “Burning The Blanket” is more in line with the Superjoint of yesteryear, with drummer Joey Gonzalez apparently quoting fills from Use Once-era tracks.
It’s impossible not to view Gears in the context of Anselmo’s recent “white wine” incident, and as we all know, nothing gets ol’ Phil riled up quite like public scrutiny. “Clickbait” is a 21st-century update to Anselmo’s tired “fuck the media” routine, but redeems itself at the halfway point by delivering the most ridiculously ignorant riff on the entire album. The title track seems to be related thematically, and Anselmo delivers it with maximum belligerence as the claustrophobic song structure slams into dead ends at every turn.
The other tracks are a bit of a mixed bag. “Mutts Bite Too” is a fun burst of late-model Black Flag weirdness, and ends with Bond delivering one of the few guitar solos in the band’s canon. “Circling the Drain” is almost painful to endure, teasing a cathartic burst of crossover thrash but never delivering. And tracks like “Ruin You” and “Asshole” find Anselmo at his most meathead, hoarsely shouting some of the dumbest shit you’ve heard in your life (sample lyric: “Shit the bed!/shit the bed!/shit the bed!/SHIT THE BEEEEDDDDDDDDDD!!!!!”). “Sociopathic Herd Delusion” brings the tempo down into Poison Idea punk & roll territory, but the aimless “Receiving No Answer To The Knock” ends the album on an underwhelming note.
I’m not sure what the rationale behind reviving Superjoint was, or who was pining for their return after all these years. Marred by uneven songwriting and an amateurish mixing job, Gears will likely leave fans of the first two records unsatisfied. But for whatever it’s worth, this finds Superjoint delivering their quota of rapid-fire hardcore and throat-demolishing vocals, which is exactly what they’re supposed to do.