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At the time of Damageplan's formation the future of Pantera was unclear, with Philip and Rex jumping ship to other side projects leaving the Abbott brothers with no certain musical future. From this uncertainty came the creation of Damageplan, which as we all know eventually lead to the mindless slaughter of Dimebag and other innocent people in December 2004.
To further explain my title, I believe this album to be weakened by the circumstances around it for many reasons. The Abbott brothers could have easily created an identical Pantera clone without Phil and Rex, but I believe they chose to change their sound to avoid being labelled as a weak Pantera clone. This proved to be no easy task for two musicians that had been perfecting their sound for decades, the result is an obvious attempt at watering-down their old style and taking a more experimental approach to their song writing. A second circumstantial reason for this album's weakness could be the Abbott brother's choice of vocalist and bassist. Dime and Vinnie had been writing and performing with Phil and Rex for years at this point, to begin afresh with new musical contributors would cause a change in sound and how the material was written.
Onto the actual material within this album, there are some very strong tracks to be found here. We have the strong tracks such as "Breathing New Life", "New Found Power" and "Crawl", the first two standouts represent about half the material on this cd. These heavier tracks are what Pantera fans listening to this album will be expecting to hear, bludgeoning grooves with injections of speed and aggressive vocals. There are some very good ideas to be found on these two tracks, take the main riff to "Breathing New Life", being a simple yet effective mid-tempo riff. The title track also has its moments (the riff at 1.38 for example) this track being another personal highlight of the album.
Another standout track "Crawl" represents the more versatile material to be found on "New Found Power", mixing heavy and clean sections effectively with some very nice clean guitar lparts Dimebag was famous for ( the melody introduced at 2.45 for example). However other tracks with this more experimental style of song writing are weaker filler tracks. For example "Blink Of An Eye" has some interesting ideas but overall lacks focus and contains a worryingly generic chorus. One track of this more experimental nature worth mentioning is the song "Pride", which like "Crawl" merges these two approaches to song-writing well with a strong and memorable performance from the vocalist Pat Lachman.
This brings me onto the vocals on this album , the vocalist Pat Lachman has had much abuse for his vocals on this release. I do not think he is the greatest singer or that he can match Phil Anselmo's vocal capabilities but he still gives a strong performance on this album. It is worth noting he had never been a lead singer before, so for a debut performance he has a fairly strong aggressive vocal style, and can also sing pretty well. However the vocals bring this album down when they begin to sound worryingly similar to nu-metal rapping (in "Reborn" for example). This aside I believe Pat Lachman to be a suitable vocalist for this album. I have read online that Pat Lachman and the Abbott brothers had argued over playing Pantera material within Damageplan, if this is true then it could be another cause of Dime and Vinnie experimenting with new musical styles. Anyway, the bassist on this album is almost completely drowned out (save the intro to "Crawl"), so it is very hard to analyse his contributions to his album, but he must be a capable player in order to follow Dimebag’s guitar-work.
The Abbott brother's performance on this album is solid, if a little tame. As I previously mentioned they were forced to change sound, a sound they had been perfecting for years. This leads to a major flaw with this album I am yet to understand, where are the blazing guitar solos Dime was famous for? there is very little lead guitar work to be found here, why Dimebag chose not to include leads I will never understand and unfortunately when they do appear, they are nothing spectacular. In regards to Vinnie, his drum work here is solid, but he is capable of more creative playing that was seen throughout his playing in Pantera.
One further criticism I have of “New Found Power” is its lyrical content. Most of these tracks seem to be bashing Philip Anslemo and the demise of Pantera. An obvious example of this is the track “Fuck You”. Now, I don’t judge albums by their lyrical content alone, but the lyrics on “New Found Power” can lower the quality of the music. For example “Fuck You” is seriously damaged by its pathetic lyrical content and the endless repetition of “fuck” in the lyrics, if the song had better lyrics it could easily be one of the finest tracks this album has too offer. If you ignore the terrible lyrics on this track you are left with a fast, aggressive and memorable track not dissimilar to Pantera’s faster and shorter tracks such as “Fucking Hostile” from “Vulgar Display Of Power”. On the subject of bashing Phil Anselmo lyrically, I do not blame Phil for a single thing related to Pantera’s break up , for it takes more than one member to split up a band.
Overall, It saddens me to pick apart an album made by some very talented musicians, but there are flaws here that cannot be overlooked. I do however believe that people are too harsh on this release. People are constantly labelling it as a worthless sell-out from the Abbott brothers even though it does contain some very strong material. In my mind this album was a one-off for the Abbott brothers. I believe Damageplan was intended to keep them busy until Pantera could re-unite and create some new material. Either way, If Damageplan was created with the intention to be a long term thing I believe they could have made much stronger and focused material if the band had not dissolved in such tragedy. With time they could have perfected their new sound, thrown in more solos, aggression and become the new Pantera. But as we all know, a schizophrenic and troubled individual stopped any chance of this happening. So here we have it, an album crippled by circumstance.
R.I.P Dimebag Darrell and all the other individuals that lost their lives in 2004.
Standouts - "Breathing New Life" , "Crawl", "New Found Power" and "Pride".