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So this is where Pantera really shed the hair metal crap. At this point hair metal was dying quickly so I'm sure they wanted to move on and not be forgotten. So they decided to go in a heavier direction, and Phil is really what they needed to become heavier.
By 1988 thrash had become a completely oversaturated genre. So many bands were putting out worthless thrash albums. Well Pantera really missed the glory days of thrash and that turned out to be a good thing. This album sounds like alot of thrash bands did in the early 80's, well in the way that it's trying to be thrash but isn't quite there. Instead of playing a really heavy NWOBHM like the early thrash bands did Pantera played a really heavy version of mainstreem 80's metal.
There are moments where you can see that they really wanted to thrash. The title track is one of the best examples of this. The thrashy moments really are quite good and wouldn't sound out of place on say metal massacre 4 or 5. However there are lots of times when thrash is no where to be found. It mostly sounds like a heavier version of Grim Reaper, which isn't bad.
So Pantera tried to be thrash on this album, but they were just a little too late. That actually turned out to be a good thing. Had they played a fully realized thrash style they probably would have been signed to Combat or Metal Blade and put out a forgetable album. Fortunately Pantera didn't do that, instead they put out a nearly thrash album that is pretty fuckin cool. They would reach their thrash peak, and overall peak for that matter with Cowboys From Hell. Luckily for metal in general Pantera didn't really develope their style until the thrash scene was pretty much dead, so they had to evolve and ended up saving metal during the dark days of the 90's.
Well this album is good, very good. It's not Cowboys, but it's close. If you like Pantera you will like this. If you like thrash there are moments that you will appreiciate. Overall I like it alot.