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Superjoint Ritual

By: Sean Claes

With heavy metal legends Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, and Slayer playing this year’s Ozzfest, it is arguably the most impressive line-up in its nine-year history. Joining these legends on the main stage is four-time Ozzfest performer and legendary frontman Philip Anselmo.

People who grew up on a steady diet of heavy metal know Anselmo as the former lead singer of both Pantera and the supergroup Down. His current project, and main focus these days, is Superjoint Ritual (SJR).

SJR - made up of Anselmo, Jimmy Bower (Eyehategod), Kevin Bond (Crowbar), Hank Williams III (Hank III, Assjack), and Joe Fazzio (Hank III, Demonseeds) - was born during the time Anselmo was fronting Pantera. In his spare time, between tours and recording, he’d get together with a tight knit group of friends and jam. “There was this certain chemistry I had with this particular group of friends. We just knew what type of music we wanted to do right off the bat, and that’s where it started around 1993,” Anselmo said.

This is the fourth time Anselmo is playing Ozzfest and the third band he’s fronted at the festival. He played the main stage twice while fronting Pantera and was the headliner of the second stage with Down. “When you’re the main support to Black Sabbath and Ozzy (1997, 2000 with Pantera), the spot you play is excellent. All the seats are filled in, the side-stage is done with and people are ready to check out the bands completely on the main stage,” he said. “With Down (2002) we were headlining the second stage and that was a very good spot, people were jam-packed to the barricades and watching. Thousands of people were watching.”

This year, SJR is opening the main stage, a spot that Anselmo is both pleased and dispirited about. “It’s really not our goal to play these big festivals. We’re happy in smaller situation and more intimate situations. But, given the fact the Osbourne's have offered me this spot year after year… it’s an honor. Of course I’ll play, thanks for asking me,” he said. “It’s also a great opportunity for Superjoint for people who haven’t heard us to hear us. If they like us, cool. If they don’t like it, good, go listen to Limp Bizkit or something.”

By opening the main stage, that places them on stage at around 5:20 in the afternoon. “To be on the main stage and playing early in the day I realize the crowd will be pretty spread-out. Whatever. I could whine all day about it, but I’m not going to. It’s an opportunity,” he said. “A lot of people will hear the band regardless. I’ll make sure that fucking people will listen up. ”

So, what are Ozzfest fans in for with a band like SJR? If you’re expecting SJR to sound like any of his previous projects, sit back, relax and be prepared to be shocked. SJR plays a brand of metal that is a mixture between hardcore and heavy metal, known as crossover. “When DRI (Dirty Rotten Imbeciles) put out the Crossover (released in 1987) album there was already a term being used throughout the underground,” Anselmo said. “If you were a crossover band you were basically a band that played hardcore music with heavy metal sounds. Hardcore bands had more of a raw sound. Heavy metal bands had more of a polished, but crunchy and more bottom end on the guitar.”

To date, SJR has committed their dark and heavy crossover sound to two albums. Their 2002 debut, Use Once and Throw Away, was released 9 years after forming because of hurdles between previous commitments and time to properly dedicate to work out a record deal. Luckily, fans didn’t have to wait very long for their sophomore effort, 2003’s thematic A Lethal Dose of American Hatred. “We knew that the music on these records would only appeal to the hardcore fucking people… the hardcore fans. I realize a lot of the fans that had grown up with Pantera had grown up. You know, at one time they were 17 and 18 years old, now they’re in their late 20s and life, for a lot of people, gets all grown up. They get married, have a baby, and, you know, forget about heavy metal. When they think about it it’s like, ‘Oh what a crazy time in my life,’” he said “Unfortunately, that’s not how I feel. That’s not what happened to me and that’s not what happens to the “lifer” type of musician that I am. This is what I was born to do.”

Much of what Anselmo wrote on A Lethal Dose of American Hatred, touched on his personal feelings. He uses words to paint emotions as an artist’s canvas usually paints a picture of the soul.

The title of the album, along with songs like “Personal Insult,” reflected the feelings that many felt about September 11, 2001. “Basically my attitude with that album title and some of the songs within the record… It just seemed that at the time people were pulling in different directions and a lot of it was anti-American,” he said. ‘Why are we going over there to do this and that, there’s no nuclear this and that in Iraq, why are we really going over there and doing that in Afghanistan. Are they really harboring terrorists, and why do we have to do this, why do we have to do that’ you know? Because we have to, goddamnit. We’re the most powerful country in the fucking world and I think people would be absolutely clueless and scratching their heads if we had not done anything about it.”

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