Superjoint Ritual, led by vocalist Phil Anselmo, has maintained a steady track of credibility on the grounds of post-Pantera endeavors. A natural progression in every right, the newly-shortened Superjoint crafts blunt metal riffs on a continually rounded foundation of punk. Constant within the quintet’s dynamic is a striving toward equally expanding vivacity and edge, and that’s exactly what is done well. Indeed, their latest album, Caught Up in the Gears of Application, is no exception. While an extended lapse of over a decade may weather down impact for some, Superjoint oversees an ultimately seamless return to form.
“Today and Tomorrow” seems to center on the increasing cynicism associated with modern-day communication, and the song’s back bone aptly complements that sentiment. It kicks off the album in a bent haze of densely layered distortion, before launching into a series of initially machine gun-driven rhythms. Between that and the bash-it-out half that follows, Anselmo’s tonality shifts from shouts to what borders on enharmonic screaming. Each verse phase contains a quicker transition than the other, their initial halves subtly increasing in dissonance. As the song unravels, its context puts that cynicism in summation. Regardless of one’s effort to reach out, the other will inexplicably have an agenda and reject them, so as to insinuate the next day proving equally futile. Next up, “Burning the Blanket” raises the album’s momentum toward one of thrash. Right from the title, the pertinence to millennial-based societal struggles is made clear. That is, having to do with removing a security item to fall back on and revealing a cold reality. A prime component of the song’s lyrical focus is of Social Justice Warriors (SJWs), specifically, the notion that their anger is out of cowardice, obliviousness, and is otherwise fabricated. “Ruin You” delves into the impulsivity associated with freedom of choice. Though a seemingly abrupt and shorter number of the bunch, it stays thematically intact stating the person in control could be responsible for their own potential downfall. After such an extreme display, the title track begins on a false start—a burp, of all things—only to top the previous track’s heaviness by quite a bit. What follows is an intense, albeit indirect, attack on today’s social movements, reinforcing a viewpoint of discontent as well as disenchantment. The breakdown around 1:17 showcases exceptional Sabbath-esque riffing, allowing Anselmo’s vocals the space to elevate amid the instrumentation. Wrapping the initial group of tracks is another straight-ahead thrasher, “Sociopathic Herd Delusion,” emphasizing just what those very movements allegedly comprise—hypocrites. In being so, they appear collective while turning against each other in the process. Once again, another epic break down provides simple, yet effective insight, giving the track a precise jolt of momentum upon return.
From the latter half of the album, “Circling the Dream” dives deeper into this hypocritical mindset, which signifies treading around a desired goal rather than achieving it head on. At first, the song appears to be played in a fast tempo, but is quickly followed by a progression functioning as both a fill and a primary rhythm. Sprawling bends separate these two distinct characteristics, while also providing the track a general sense of pace. In each lyrical event, a call of intended action is responded to by what actually happens—a predicament, regardless of one’s stance. “Clickbait,” the second of the album’s longer tracks, takes a jab at an internet-fueled generation. Specifically, it targets those who seem sheltered within the confines of their computers, retreating to their purported ‘safe spaces’ should conflict ensue—all over the spread of false news. This song encapsulates a solid part of these users’ behaviors, from their adverse reactions to the paranoia of forthcoming censorship. The penultimate of the faster tracks, “Asshole,” proceeds to reinforce on the perception involving a largely underproductive and otherwise ignorant nation. Much like side two’s opener, the song’s secondary focus in on a hidden agenda of hate under the guise of unity. Further, “Mutts Bite Too” and “Rig the Fight” seem to denote the truths of two separate viewpoints, albeit on opposite sides of the spectrum. Whereas the first suggests a notion of equal strength regardless of race, the other criticizes the extent to which words cause triggering, highlighting undertones of sarcasm and lack of justification. Finally, “Receiving No Answer to the Knock” puts the album’s contexts in summation, among them, the inflation of ego, segregation, and the inevitability of death.
Overall, Caught in the Gears of Application is a rightfully executed follow-up. Aside from signature riff tones being preserved through the years, Anselmo’s current social commentary is spot on, with the more individualized touch of a bleak Generation X perspective. Superjoint does not disappoint on this album, and makes what is nothing short of a welcome return to the world of modern metal music.