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For those well tuned in to the history of metal, particularly its final days at the top in 1992, one will take note of several things. First, the recording industry signs a bunch of similar sounding bands such as Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, The Smashing Pumpkins, and a whole shit load of others for the express purpose of capitalizing on the new marketability of purposeless angst that followed the rise of Nirvana’s Nevermind to No. 1 on the charts. Second, a whole collection of metal bands who enjoyed success in the 80s decide to try to appease those who hate them by trying to sound similar, one of the first being Pantera.
Although this single, which my brother got off a friend who received it and had since grown out of it, is the best of what Pantera would offer at this time it reeks of mediocrity next to what they were capable of. The primary problem is Phil Anselmo’s vocals, which are annoying as all fucking hell and grate on the ears like a broken chainsaw. “Rise”, though musically being the best song off the entire Vulgar Display of Power album, is a shining example of how not to try to sound aggressive, and if it weren’t for the amazing music going on behind him this would not qualify as metal.
“Mouth for War” offends in a similar manner in the vocal category, although again we have a damn fine collection of riffs that do much to cover the vocal frog farts, despite them being way too high in the mix. The breakdown section during the solo that precedes the faster section at the end is a solid homage to Black Sabbath, while the following fast section is a minimalist version of classic speed metal.
The live material is where this album really loses points as Phil Anselmo has proven unable to maintain the flash and flair in his voice during the recording sessions for “Cowboys from Hell”. His vocals are not nearly as offensive as they would be on later tours following the releases of Driven and Trendkill, but they are definitely not worthy of what they are trying to sing along to. The truth is nothing Phil Anselmo has sung to since the year this was conceived can be qualified as inspired or outstanding.
As for who would want this album, mostly its old deluded fools who saw this as a continuation of the fight against the mediocrity of the Nirvana wave. Pantera wasn’t kicking Kurt Cobain’s ass with this music, they were kicking their own asses and the results of the current metalcore scene are connected with the subsequent self-mutilation. Speaking for myself, it’s not a legacy I’d be proud of, but considering the large collection of people who still defend Vulgar Display of Power and Far Beyond Driven, pride can easily be substituted with a large audience at your shows, regardless of the IQ level of those in attendance.