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The second chapter in Pantera’s glam origins is, thankfully, much better than the first. Exchanging much of their obvious Kiss influenced stylings with some old-school speed metal a la Judas Priest, Projects in the Jungle is the first step up towards the truly great Pantera material. It’s not perfect, but it beats the living hell out of the atrocious Metal Magic.
Now this is still undoubtedly glam metal, but it’s much more focused, refined, better produced glam metal. Actually, I’d much rather listen to this album, with its inherent cheesiness, than the likes of Winger, Cinderella, Whitesnake, etc. The improvements over Metal Magic are significant. First off, the production on this is fantastic. Everything is crisp and clear and so delightfully 80’s sounding (think Scorpions), and the gay synth effects are never brought right up front when they roll around. The album just sounds really damn good. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, all the band members have really pulled their shit together. Terry Glaze, the third-rate Vince Neil wannabe, absolutely rules on this album. The lyrics are dumb, but his vocals are perfect (for this style of music anyway). Diamond Darrell really starts to strut his stuff on this one, delivering catchy, coherent riffing and some mighty fine lead work worthy of his reputation. Add to this the consistently effective bass work of Rex Brown and the ever potent drumming of Vinnie Paul and the instrumentation on this album is complete.
Even the song structures are better, venturing more often out of the mid-paced rockers into speed metal territory. Check out “Out for Blood,” “Killers,” and the sweet title track for examples, though the rest are pretty good as well. The only sore spot on this is the track “Blue Light Turnin’ Red,” Darrell’s attempt at his own “Eruption.” He does some scale runs, some tapping, and plays with a harmonizing effect. Unfortunately, he’s no EVH, so the track comes off as presumptuous and ineffective. But even so, this is one of the nicer albums that glam metal has offered the world and it’s a shame that Pantera were too ashamed to consider it a part of their official discography, as it's a hell of a lot better than the garbage they'd start putting out in the late 90's.
Recommended, at least for a listen.