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In the grand scheme of Pantera's albums with Anselmo, I'm torn between deciding which one is the weakest, Vulgar Display of Power, or this one. This one has cleaner production and heavier riffs, but lacks the depth and clean sections that managed to keep Vulgar loosely tied to Cowboys From Hell. But album comparisons aside, the tracks here come down to three standards: good, mediocre, and downright fucking awful.
The good: "Strength Beyond Strength", "Becoming", "Slaughtered", "Use My Third Arm", "Throes of Rejection", and the cover of "Planet Caravan". "Strength Beyond Strength" is a nice, brutal opener with a good deal of thrashiness to please even the most hardened Pantera critic. "Becoming" is all groove, but because of the cool addition of pitch pedal and relatively short song length it doesn't become another banal groove-fest like "Walk" or "5 minutes alone". "Slaughtered" is essentially modern metalcore minus the limp-wristed groove and gothenburg inspired hooks and melodies. "Use My Third Arm" is the most varied track, alternating between thrashy grooves, tremolo riffs, blast beats, and a fairly decent breakdown. I've always had a soft spot for "Throes of Rejection", probably because it's one of those few groove songs that is just balls-to-the-wall pure anger and hatred. Being a sucker for covers that stay true to the spirit of the original track, I can't complain about the Sabbath cover.
The mediocre: the radio hits "5 minutes alone" and "I'm Broken" and the ballad "Shedding Skin". All these tracks follow the same general principle of grooving over some decent riffs for about five to six minutes while Anselmo barks out a hybrid of Hetfield and Cobain.
The downright fucking awful tracks that ruin this album: "Good Friends and a Bottle of Pills (my vote for Pantera's worst song)", "Hard Lines, Sunken Cheeks", and "25 years". These tracks exemplify everything that was ever wrong with Pantera's music, and groove metal in general. "Good Friends..." tries to channel Mr. Bungle and Faith No More with the rage of eyehategod, but falls so short of any of those marks and sounds more like a pre-cursor to awful "mathcore" garbage like iwrestledabearonce. "Hard Lines, Sunken Cheeks" and "25 years" both take the cake for awfully long and uninteresting limp-wristed groove that tries to emulate eclectic doom metal like Type O Negative's debut, but comes out as a heavily watered down version of the black album.
I fail to see why people think this is Pantera's finest hour, being half full of solid thrash/groove tracks and the rest being either the 90's equivalent of pop metal or absolutely awful attempts at experimenting with other genres. If "Good Friends...", "25 years", and "Hard Lines..." were all cut out, this would probably score a 65 or a 70 in my book. But either way, if you want Pantera in true form, go with Power Metal, Cowboys From Hell, and their sludge/groove masterpiece, The Great Southern Trendkill.