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This is the album that represents the realization of one part of the Pantera evolution, as this album is a mix of the glam elements of their (hidden and forbidden) past and their "heavee as fuk" future.
To me, this is the best of their "major label" releases. I have little knowledge of their past other than a few tracks off "Power Metal" (which I enjoyed). I'll admit, what makes this album took a very long time for me to catch onto. When I first heard this record in 1990, I wrote it off as a watered down version of what I was already listening to and, while knowing of their glam past, wondered more about what direction they would go in from there.
It was, in fact, the direction they took forward that makes this album the stand out of their (known to all) catalogue.
Those of us who remember the 80's remember that glam was best summed up by the Poison singing "don't need nothin' but a good time." While there are some sonic elements that are reminiscent of their glam days (some drum fills here and there, the ending to "Shattered" and the 2nd main riff in "The Art Of Shredding" struck me instantly) perhaps the overriding "glam" aspect of this record is the fact that the boys set out to make a "fun" record. This album doesn't beat you between the eyes and, unlike later efforts, doesn't try to. This isn't groundbreaking stuff here by any means, just a fun record and an enjoyable listen.
Yes, there are some good, good tunes on here and there are some lesser lights as well. Personally, when I listen to this album, I skip "Medicine Man" and "Message In Blood" entirely while listening to "Primal Concrete Sledge" and "The Sleep" every single time for one simple reason. If you eliminate the two tracks I skip when I listen to this record, you have an album that flows as well as any record ever made by a metal band...to the point where some lesser songs end up sounding better as part of the whole than they do on their own.
Pantera really had an opportunity to carve itself a different kind of niche with its "power groove" sound, however chose to trade in much of this album's technicality and "good time" vibe in an attempt to be the "most baddest of the bad asses" on the block. While I won't reflect on that here, what I will offer in conclusion is that this album breaks no new ground and probably never really intended to, however this is just a fun and enjoyable album to listen to every so often and, yes, it is a shame they forgot about the "fun" part of their sound moving forward