Phil Anselmo’s history is littered with hard, unforgiving music. That said, the ex Pantera leader’s latest project, Superjoint Ritual, finds him fronting a retro act that includes country scion Hank Williams III on bass.
But don’t expect twang and heartache; this is nostalgia with fangs — and without confines.
“It’s like Neanderthal rock,” Anselmo gruffly offered in a recent phone interview. “Very primitive.
“We’re putting out music that gives a very stern nod to the days when heavy metal and hard-core music f••king shook hands,” the singer adds. He sounds, by the way, drunk off his ass.
The band’s debut release, Use Once and Destroy (Sanctuary, 2002), received widely positive reviews for its back-to-basics approach and straight-from-the-garage feel; many old-school-metal fans claimed it was just the thing modern metal needed.
The album cover included as many controversial symbols as could be assembled, all crowded together; Anselmo illustrated his politics with a pot leaf, a pentagram and a Confederate flag.
“The Confederacy is the last remnant of the white man’s culture,” he asserts.
The New Orleans-born singer has denied being a racist since his Pantera days, when an infamous comment during a Montreal concert — that rap music advocates the killing of white people — landed him years of trouble, though he did later apologize for saying it.
Still a little shaky on Anselmo’s ongoing stand against political correctness? Superjoint Ritual’s just-released A Lethal Dose of American Hatred (Sanctuary) vividly erases all doubt.
“It seems like there is always something happening in my life that makes awesome, angry subject matter,” declares Anselmo, who directs warnings at would-be terrorists in songs such as the album’s first single, “Dress Like a Target.”
Angry music, Anselmo insists, is where he’s “most comfortable.
“It’s a relentless thing,” he elaborates. “If I wasn’t … killing myself with music to a certain point, then I’d probably be doing it some other way. Doing it wrong.”
Anselmo, once declared legally dead for almost six minutes during his Pantera days, following a heroin overdose, has built up quite a reputation as a hard liver with a, well, hard liver.
“I’m definitely wiser [now],” he insists. “And I’m definitely older. I respect my body a lot more; I’m healthy, because I have to be. I feel that the more health that you exude, the longer your musical life will be, as well. I got to get up there and bleed for people. And I do.”
Anselmo likes that he’s doesn’t feel “pigeonholed” by his new role as leader of Superjoint Ritual, a band burdened with considerably less baggage than Pantera carries. But he also concedes that a lot of the group’s appeal comes from his own hard-core history.
“In all reality, the name of the band is new to the kids,” he says. “A lot of those kids were Pantera fans. However, 10 minutes into the show they belong to us — to Superjoint Ritual. Hopefully, they’ll leave feeling like they got their asses kicked.”
The addition of Hank III to the lineup has certainly been one of Superjoint’s main selling points — Williams’ name appears nearly as often in press write-ups as does Anselmo’s.
Anselmo has often characterized Hank III as torn between his country pedigree and a stronger urge to play aggressive, punk-infused metal. Williams has spent the last few years with his own band alternating sets of Black Flag-styled punk-metal with stretches of pure, old-school country.
So how, then, will Asheville’s classic-country connoisseurs — the same crowd that turned out en masse to see Hank III’s own band in its Orange Peel debut earlier this year — react to the decidedly untidy metal of Superjoint?
“I don’t think the Orange Peel knows what they’re getting themselves into,” offers a laughing Stacey Peek, owner of local punk- and metal-friendly record store Green Eggs & Jam. “[Superjoint Ritual] crowds have a reputation for tearing up the venues they play in.
“It’s going to be crazy,” Peek declares.
Superjoint Ritual plays the Orange Peel (101 Biltmore Ave.) on Saturday, July 12. Showtime is 10 p.m.; tickets cost $17.50. For more information, call 225-5851.