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The Great Southern Trendkill is groovey, raw, in-your-face, varied and angry. It's metal done with a lot of style, filled to the brim with great riffs. Some of them are pure groove, highly reminiscent of Pantera's earlier career. Great drumming and interesting hooks make those really fun. However, most of the riffs have a certain rock vibe to them. Sometimes they sound like something Black Sabbath would have done, other times they may remind you of Kiss, combined with Pantera's characteristic raw groove. Drag the Waters and Hell's Wrath are both good examples.
Then, there are some fast, extreme metal moments - Suicide Note Pt. 2 and the title track are both joyfully furious songs. All in all, most of the tracks are very catchy, bursting with energy. It's a great album to listen to when you're pissed off. Mind you, it's not mindless - the energy isn't the only thing that's good about it.
It's the rockish riffage that grants this album its cool factor. It's not very dark. It's not about Satan, dragons, dead lovers etc. It's straightforward, self-confident anger. It's probably as "intelligent" as metal gets. I'm not referring to the language used, but to the content and style. The Great Southern Trendkill's Phil Anselmo is too cool to be singing about cheap horror cliches. The mood corresponds to that.
My biggest complaint goes to the slower, psychedelic "ballads" - Floods, 10s and Suicide Note Pt. 1. They're pretty uninspired. There's a great Sabbathy riff and a very good solo, both found on Floods, but otherwise, these songs seem to go nowhere. They're not bad per se, they're just not very interesting.
The sound on this album is amazing. Dime's guitar is very ballsy. It feels sharp as knife when he's playing higher tones and very chuggy when he's playing heavier riffs. The same goes for Anselmo - he compliments his usual tough singing style with a lot of screams and shrieks. It's very varied, catchy and fun. Combined with great riffs, it makes one hell of a record.
Ah, Pantera…I remember when I was 17. I had all that teenage anger and stuff. You know, ‘Fuck this math test, fuck being grounded, fuck popular kids.”. Yeah, that was my Pantera period. Unfortunately, I was not qualified to remain a Pantera fan, as I wasn’t muscular, fat, huge, bald, and didn’t throw punches in the pit. Sorry, I’m stereotyping. It’s just that I sort of put Pantera fans up there with Slayer fans and Manowar fans as being awful people. And while I know realistically, and as with most groups of people, it’s a few assholes that make a whole group of people potentially look bad, I still avoid any human being I may meet who is over 6 feet tall, sort of a mix between fat and muscular, and wearing a Pantera shirt with the sleeve cut off so I can see their armpits. I once heard someone refer to these people as ‘bro-metal’. And I think that’s damn perfect.
As I grew and discovered new types of music, especially metal, my interest in Pantera sort of faded. I now consider their best album to be ‘Power Metal’, and really only throw on anything that’s not ‘Cowboys From Hell’ on for nostalgia. Looking at you ‘Vulgar Display of Power’.
Well, there is another exception. ‘The Great Southern Trendkill’ follows ‘Far Beyond Driven’, what I consider to be a pretty awful album for Pantera. And metal. But this was actually my first Pantera album. But I assure you, my praise isn’t mindless nostalgia talking. This album has many things that many other Pantera albums lack. Riffs for one. Although not totally not out of the woods as far as “I’m going to chug on an open-E string for a few minutes while Phil yells” shit Pantera likes to pull, the songs here feel more well-written in that it sounds like someone took a moment to write them.
Barring a few songs, the lyrical themes here are more interesting than I’m used to from Pantera (the concept of selling out is a good bit of it, questioning the motives of others, contemplating suicide…and floods), and better than the ones of the previous few albums (being a hardass, beating the shit out of others, respect, walking on home).
Let’s start with the good. The title track gets shit going out of the gate with some intense screaming and a massive flood of noise assaulting your speakers like a Pantera fan assaults a black man. It’s a faster paced, solid song and a good way to kick off the album, which continues to not fuck around, as it slaps you in the face with ‘War Nerve’ like a Pantera fan slaps a woman, as it exclaims with complete manliness “FUCK THE WORLD, FOR ALL IT’S WORTH!”. Anselmo is even a gentleman and includes himself. Seriously though, I’d say that the lyric “Yes, my cock is getting hard” instantly puts this song up for worst lyrics on the album. And yet, the song still kicks your ass. Like a Pantera fan kicks your ass. ‘Drag the Waters’ actually starts sort of confusingly. It almost sounds like the last song didn’t end and just went into one of those shitty –core sounding breakdowns Pantera was busy pioneering. But no. It eventually becomes a song. Not the most impressive song on the album, but it works. Can I also get away with mentioning that this song has more cowbell? ‘Suicide Note’ is a two part song. The first part starts off quiet and dark, almost brooding, as Phil sings (might I add in a fantastic deep clean voice as opposed to his usual shouts, which I love) about doing cocaine and attempting suicide, much like a Pantera fan after finding out Dimebag Darrell died. Actually, aside from the ‘scars on my wrists’ part, it seems more like it’s a song about drug addiction, possibly referring to it as a slow suicide, which may make sense considering Phil’s heroin issues. Although maybe I’m over analyzing, this IS Pantera after all. Then comes part two where Phil continues being an angry badass and shouts about how even though he’s totally going to kill himself, suicide is dumb, so don’t do it...except if someone is going to kill themselves, let them, 'cause no one needs your shitty advice.
So about now you should be tired of this onslaught of aggressive music, right? Well, pretend you are, because much like a Pantera fan’s brain after looking at an algebra problem, Pantera slows things down a little. Aside from the first half of ‘Suicide Note’, the album features two slower songs. '10’s' is a dark atmospheric tune, and although the band is more restrained, Phil’s badass vocals still work very well. I’ve always thought Dime’s solos on the slower songs were more interesting than when he shreds. While maybe not his best work, this is a solid solo with a few memorable parts. Not that it won’t be blown out of the water in about 15 minutes with ‘Floods’, which I understand is sometimes called a bad song with a great guitar solo, but I love this fucking song. The acoustic parts have great atmosphere and when the electric guitar comes in for the breakdown, it’s actually a very cool contrast. Phil’s voice works well and although I sometimes think the parts where the line repeats is corny, it doesn’t bother me. And the solo. Has enough been said about it? It usually comes up in top 10 best metal guitar solos lists and anytime there’s a conversation about best solos, it’s sure to come up. Coupled with the very cool outro riff, this is some of Dime’s best work. And being honest, when I was first made aware that it was one of the so-called best solos ever, I wasn’t too sure how I felt about that. but I’m totally okay with it at this point. No, this song overall may not top ‘Cemetery Gates’, but it’s still absolutely phenomenal.
Then there’s the ‘okay’ stuff. ’13 Steps to Nowhere’ is one of those songs I never thought much of. It’s not great. It’s not shit. It’s just kind of there. Like a Pantera fan in-between songs when Phil is ranting about black people and he has nothing to mosh to. In fact, ‘Living Through Me (Hell’s Wrath)’ is the same story, except is somewhat better and with a catchy chorus, but is still just kind of there like a Pantera fan with no one to punch and yell at incoherently about respect, except is somewhat better and with a catchy chorus. ‘The Underground in America’ and ‘Sandblasted Skin’ end the albums as aggressively as it opened and may actually be the most aggressive songs on the album. They sort of fade into each other, one part being a little faster, but both being generally about fakeness and the trend following in the scene, sometimes almost horrifyingly mirroring the bro-metallers that are quite often their fans…“the smart ones stay on the outside while drunken heads and arms erupt, centered man swings a punch, spits a tooth, postures odd, a punk rock escapade, five bucks a head to be king dick in the crowd.”.
The album ends solidly, but at this point the aggression is a little stale for me. Still, these remain decent songs to headbang to. The album may not really leave behind anything more memorable than the opener and ‘Floods’, however an impressive aspect of this album is a clear lack of music I consider to be bad. While maybe not entirely mindblowing, the album stays consistent and even including Power Metal, this is the only Pantera album where I don’t need the skip button.
All of that is perfectly fine as I don’t ask Pantera for a lot. If I’m listening to Pantera, I’m either nostalgic or pissed, and not only is this nostalgic for me, but it’s a good fucking angry album. Yeah, there’s better angry music out there. Hell, this may not even be good as ‘Cowboys From Hell’, but it’s fucking good, and in my opinion is better than ‘Reign in Blood’. Yeah. I said it. Come at me, bro. So while 85 may seem a little high, as far as groove metal and '90s Pantera go, it doesn’t get a whole lot better than this.
Before I start off this review in going into what was and still is an amazing album, let me give you some insight as to the feel behind this album. I will start off by quoting the great American author Henry Miller from his 1945 novel "The Air Conditioned Nightmare." And I quote;
"The Southerner has a different rhythm, a different attitude towards life. Nothing will convince him that he is wrong, at bottom he has supreme contempt for the man in the North. He has his own set of idols - warriors, statesmen, mens of letters - whose fame and glory have never dimmed. The South remains solidly against the North, in everything. It wages a hopeless fight, very much like the fight of the Irish against England."
And by saying that it gives you an idea of the mentality, the feel, heart, and soul of Pantera which is southern culture and southern pride. And in that southern culture/pride it brings out sometimes the mis-concepts, stereotypes, stigmas of practically anyone and everyone below the Mason-Dixon line. My theory of why Pantera was so controversial in many ways was that they were proud of their southern roots and homeland and didn't go with the flow with the whole rebel flags and that stuff. And yes I have watched the videos of his so-called racist rants on stage. That's NOT racism. When you come from the south, that's just a general rule of thumb for respect. I'll go more into that later. But for not only Phil but the rest of Pantera, they were that rowdy bunch of southern boys who just got into trouble. It's a very common thing when you hear it from the mouths of mothers in the south talking about their sons and their taes of general hell-raising.. It's expected of us. It's a way of self-education to not do stupid shit because in the end....it comes back to haunt you. Aside from the ominous hints I've been dropping, the FEEL of the south is here; the Spanish moss, the alligators, the intense raging heat, the watered-down beer and burning feel of whiskey. Even the underbelly that's nothing but unemployment, anger, drugs, depression, poverty, etc. It's all there. That fiery red phoenix from the south is glowing with anger. And not a bird that burned faster, hotter and sadly shorter than Pantera. That was one freebird they couldn't chain that's for a damn fact.
Now that I've given you a picture of where the album comes from, let's go a bit further into the actual album and where the band was at the time. Fuck it, let me tell you what metal was like in 1996. It WAS dead. It couldn't have been more un-cool to say you were a metal head or a fan of heavy metal in general. I am not saying an underground didn't exist. I am not saying that Metal Maniacs was still providing us a service. I'm not saying that...I am talking about the society's mindframe in 1996. It was the total opposite of 1986. In 1986 I'm sure, I'm almost fucking positive that you would have been way cooler wearing a Slayer shirt. But in 1996....forget it. No way. No Headbanger's Ball. And I was in 8th grade in 1996 so I know what the fuck I am talking about. It was nothing but Marilyn Manson, Silverchair, and just about everything still left-over from the Grunge genre. It was piss-fucking-poor. The coolest thing? 311. Forget Metallica. Not even a blip on the metal radar. As far as mainstream bands still able to crack the Top possibly 50 Billboard mainstream boards Pantera were the saving grace for those bleak years. And for them to be from the South, it was the ultimate non-politically correct thing in 1996. Everyone was trying to clean-up, go slower, be less aggressive....aside from Slayer being the only other mainstream band left over from the 80's, Pantera was the band that kept the flame burning. But the fame burned them hard.
Now with not only their previous success, Pantera started getting flamed from within their own camp. Phil Anselmo suffered from a spine injury, got hooked onto painkillers/heorin, got into some trouble with starting fights with security guards at concerts, and on top of this everyone looked at him and started aping his vocal style. Here he fucking lets loose on the false. He doesn't take a sledgehammer to a brick wall, he drives a tank into that wall of bullshit that he was dealing with. In fact it's his performance that truly outshines the rest. Let's not forget Dimebag who comes up with some really innovative stuff here. I mean before I thought "Yeah he's good" but there are song on here that goes beyond the groove metal sound that got ripped-off to no end and he goes into some weird melodic territory that you think "I wonder what would happen if he did a full album of this?" Because for the most part "The Great Southern Trendkill" is this massive mood-swinging album. Again, more than likely due to the influence of heroin that Phil was under during the recording. Vinnie and Rex I never saw anything that stuck out as far as their performances, but when you have Phil Anselmo and Dimebag Darrell in your band you're going to be/get overshadowed. It's a no-brainer. Plus whenever you look at what the remaining members went on to do with side-projects, it's obvious the talent and longevity as far as career went to Phil considering his "downfall" was drugs, the guy is still living a manic-like lifestyle with constantly releasing music and touring with Down and all of his million side-projects from his yesteryears. Don't get me started on Vinnie's crap side-project and that one he did with Dimebag which unfortunately was Dimebag's last....but in comparison to everything, the talent went to Phil, the tragedy to Dime, the lackluster to Vinnie and the support wheel/drama-free one to Rex. Production wise, this is possibly the best out of all their albums. Even though the music and vocals were recorded separately, it's clear as shit.
Songs? They exist. Bundles of them. In a way this is probably the most moodiest of all the Pantera albums. Very bi-polar . This album goes through the manic-like highs and depressive lows of heroin abuse and combined with Phil Anselmo's hatred for the media, trends and fantasies about the end of the world...someone check him into a psych world. "The Great Southern Trendkill" starts off with Phil screaming like a dying hyena. From there it gets only angrier and angrier. "War Nevre" is Phil's ultimatum against the media and press. For a 14/15 year old version of me....how could I not LOVE, LOVE the lyrics "Fuck the world, for all it's worth, every inch of planet Earth, fuck myself, don't leave me out." DGAF what anyone says; for 1996 where the uniform for angry young teenage males such as myself dressed in Airwalks, baggy camo cut-off shorts, wallet chains and various band t-shirts from the mainstream bands at the time. That was and in still in some way the total shit. Even whenever I listen to "War Nevre" today, I still get the feeling of that young pissed-off teen angst version of me but more in a vinatge-y feel-good emotion saying "Yep, angry young man." Of course Dimebags thrashing chugging grooves was basically like getting a huge dick in the ass due to the sheer brutality of the track and then Phil in the background screaming "HATE!" like a dying animal left a huge impression on me. Remember what I was saying earlier of accusation's of Phil's supposedly racism? It doesn't exist. As a southern male who has family in both Louisiana, Georgia and was raised in central Florida...I see nothing racist about this. I know some people might think "Well duh that's because you are seeing it from the same view as Phil or sticking up for his ass." Wrong. if anything he is pointing out the irony in the supposed racism and the actual open-mindedness of the variety of people, races, genders, and religions that comprise of the south. The general rule of thumb is that if you show respect, you will be treated with respect back. if you act like a douche bag you will be called one. And we as southerners are NO different than what you may find anywhere else int he world. Racism just doesn't happen here. It's everywhere. And I think that Phil got misquoted on that. "Drag The Waters" let's up a bit on the anger. "10's" is where we start feeling the shift of the mood. Very Alice In Chains-like where Phil starts showing a bit more doomier and I suppose 'melodic' singing? There's a huge doom feeling to this song. You can hear where the heroin influence of what Phil was playing with come in just by the nature of this song and feel of it because there's some weird echo sound effects in the background, possibly double layered vocals to give it a more darker feel. "13 Steps to Nowhere"...a weird groovy kind of song that's hard to put my finger on, and then we come to the big two part "Suicide Note" divided into 2 songs. Remember how I mention this album was bi-polar like? "Suicide Note prt. 1" is very depressive. Melancholy. Themes of regret, sorrow, sadness, basically the picture of a man trying to keep being the strong one but is battling an addiction and he is painting a picture of how low it can get if sticking the needle in your arm and the poor bastard is suffering. This is possibly Phil's most heart-felt song. The sound is a slow country-esque harpiscord where Phil sounding like he's singing from an abyss crying out for help and sympathy......then comes "Suicide Note Prt.2" where it's the polar manic opposite. Here you see the side of the addict from a different point of view which is the asshole self-destructive side, still suffering but the psychotic angry "Fuck you all, I'll do it with a smile on my face" in total time bomb mode. The lyrics sum it up perfectly in prt. 2 with Phil screaming "Why would you help anyone who doesn't want it, doesn't need it, doesn't want your shit advice, when a mind's made up to go ahead and die? What's done is done and gone, so why cry?" It's the face of addiction and abuse that rarely gets seen where the disease overcomes the person in total protective mode and the person cannot speak from their own mind but the mind that is craving more of that drug. "Living Through Me (Hell's Wrath)" is a of Phil saying to all of his copy-cats "You want to walk a day in my shoes? You won't be able to." Then comes the hallucinogenic, doom-ridden apocalyptic epic "Floods." Something about this song resembles an Old testament misanthropic flavor to it. Again this goes back to as previously mention about Southern lifestyle. We (as in the southern states) are not called the Bible Belt for nothing. Our hugest religious influence/lifestyle is the Baptist church(not everyone, I'm talking deep south ie: Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, etc....Louisiana is more Catholic-influenced) and when sings the lyrics "Wash away man, take him with the floods" and you hear the vocal effects of him sounding like he's underwater and the sound effects of thunder, lightning, and rain. That right there is old-school deep southern religion. It's not a happy one. It's not a forgiving one. It's not a particularly positive one. It's a natural one if anything. Without going to much into explaining it more, there is a symbolic meaning behind it. "Floods" also sees possibly Dimebag's all-time best performance, not only with the melody but the fucking RIFFS! The chorus where Phil chants "Floods! Floods! Floods!", his crushing Sabbath riffs come full blast. And towards the end we get a two part solo; the first which could have easily been on "CFH" or "VDOP" and the last part being a very haunting and ghostly sounding epitaph to his legacy. Imagine Eddie Van Halen playing a guitar solo mourning Dimebag's unfortunate future death in 1996 and you'll get an idea. Very spooky. The last two songs "The Underground In America" and "(Reprise) Sandblast Skin" comeback in full blast Pantera style.
Besides a couple of songs that I usually skip because they just ALMOST, almost seem like filler "13 Steps To Nowhere" and the last 2 songs, they are still good. But for the majority of this album it's the contrasting moods and song feeling between the angry, raging, and violent and the depressed, moody, melancholic and suicidal. It's quite obvious that this album had a huge impact on me as a young teenager. Even though I had been listening to Hard Rock/Metal for a few years prior (AiC, White Zombie, Helmet, Megadeth, Metallica, Sabbath, Cooper, BOC, and I'm not ashamed to admit this Marilyn Manson, etc.) for 1996, this was an angry fucking album. It was what was needed in the mid 90's especially for kids like me who were born in the early 80's (80-83) and loved Hard Rock/Heavy metal in the early 90's and grew up with the music but for the majority of the 90's it wasn't kind to us. For us this was in a lot of ways or beacon of light for someone carrying that torch ninto the mainstream and telling everyone "No. We're here to fight the good fight. We'll win some and loose some, but we're not going down or quietly into the night." I mean yes there was black metal ( didn't get into that until shortly after listening to this album), there was the corporate rise and success of death metal, and there were new bands forming and there was a sense of things changing. And for all that change to happen there needed to be an album which presented Metal in it's ugly face. Pantera did that where everyone else was listening to fucking Sublime and 3111. Pantera was that high school football team that when you attended their events and heard of their glories, and victories you cheered for them. And much like that old football team they did stuff that probably won't ever happen again, but for a small time, Pantera made damn sure that their voices were heard in full raging anger and all. Yall come back now ya hear.
Ah, Pantera, a source for controversy, mainly from the media's accusations of Anselmo being a racist. Now I don't see how any of Pantera's lyrics could be interpreted as racist. If anything, most them have to do with being a macho tough guy, drug addiction, and other whiny, pretentious dribble. Let's face it, most of the lyrics on VDoP and FBD sucked ass, as did the overall structure of said albums. But this album is different, the band gets real, lyrically and musically. They ditch the billy badass lyricism and groove wankery for properly structured heavy metal and lyrics that talk about the real world. Another thing, this album probably has the clearest and heaviest production of any Pantera album.
Now onto the music itself. Overall, the album has only two songs that feel like filler, 10's and Living Through Me (Hell's Wrath). On its own, 10's is a decent track, a bleak, bluesy atmosphere and a really good solo, but in the context of the album it stops everything and just blurs by leaving the listener confused as to what he just heard. Hell's wrath is the perfect example of what filler is, a few decent riffs dragged out longer than they should be. I think the album would been greatly improved if 10's was removed and Hell's Wrath was cut short.
Now for the good stuff. My hands down favorite tracks are the noisy and immensely brutal title track and Suicide Note Pt. 2. Loaded with the speed of Power Metal and Cowboys and with the fury of the faster tracks from Vulgar and FBD, they just bombard the listener with blast beats and crunchy grooves. Phil and Seth assault the microphone with shrieks, yells, and what feel like proto-metalcore growls. One thing that does stick out about Phil's voice on this album is that it seems to be layered, but not so layered that it turns to mud. I'd say the layering adds a nice touch, and makes his voice sound better than the two previous releases.
Floods is a dark and sinister ballad about the apocalypse. It drones out for several minutes over a simple, yet effective chord progression. The solo is fucking fantastic. Phil's vocals are all over the place, with tons of layers and effects. Suicide Note Pt. 1 is an equally bleak acoustic ballad about mental illness and drug addiction.
War Nerve, Drag the Waters, and The Underground in America are all standard groove metal tracks, but have enough variety and intensity to keep the listener interested. They show how Pantera evolved musically from the two previous records. Compare these songs to the really popular tracks from VDoP and FBD (Walk, 5 Minutes Alone, and I'm Broken) and note how they aren't stale and boring as fuck. War Nerve and Drag the Waters still center themselves around basic chromatic and pentatonic riffs, but they just have that 'X' factor that makes them much come off as more savage alternatives to the majority of what's present on Vulgar and FBD.
For those that utterly despised VDoP and FBD, tread lightly with this album. If you're like me and are indifferent to those albums, dive in head first, you're in for a rare groove metal treat. Some could attribute the change to Phil's time in Down, but seeing as how he recorded the vocals in Louisiana while Rex, Dime, and Vinnie recorded in Texas, it just doesn't work out geographically.
"The great southern trendkill" is my second favourite Pantera album just behind "Cowboys from hell". Pantera get a lot of heat here on the metal archives, mainly because apparently they killed thrash and buried their thrash roots. What? Pantera never were thrash and never tried to be. And as for killing thrash, I'm quite a hardened thrash fan but the fact of the matter is, by 1992 the average faceless thrash albums were more frequent than the good ones by a ratio of 8:1. Oh and people seem to mock Pantera for being groove metal. Well not shit it's Pantera. They say "Walk" is too repetitive and simple. No shit it's Pantera. Were you expecting "Darkness Descends" or something? They say Phil Anselmo shouts in an obscene angry fashion. No shit it's Pantera. Was you expecting Frank Mullen? And I cannot stand reading reviews by little welks who were in nappies, or not even an embryonic state during Pantera's 90's era who think they know it all, just because they've discovered Darkthrone. I don't think Pantera single-handledly carried the torch for metal during the 90's, as the underground was simmering with bands which were the antithesis of grunge and nu-metal. However I have to take my hat off to them for playing their self-made groove, in the face of adversary in much of America's strange musical climate at the time, perhaps along with Slayer. Those bands held face is all I'm saying, I'm not saying they were innovating nor were they the most extreme thing out there.
So what is it about this album, which I like so much about it? First thing is first the angst in Anselmo's vocals suddenly seems very real. I'm not saying his perfomance on the previous two albums was fake, but let's just say "Far beyond driven" or "Vulgar display of power" had moments of restrained vox, maybe because the melody had to be led by the vocals due to the relentless groove (Meant in the nicest possible way). But here Anselmo shrieks like a banshee, growls, and gives his usual serving of pissed off shouting. I will be the first to admit, Anselmo as a vocalist is not the best out there, I mean one listen to any song from the Pantera back cataolugue, and you can guess how the rest of the vocals will sound through out. But damn I respect him for being original, which seems to be overlooked these days with Anselmo hybrid clones singing everywhere in metal nowadays. And this album sounds like a pressure cooker ready to explode. Something happened between "Far beyond driven" and "The great southern trendkill" which put a ton of unrestrained hate on the already "pissed off" Pantera sound. Phil's heroin abuse is one obvious guess, but secondly Pantera had stints with the press due to the media using the "big metal band" as a scapegoat in an attempt to crucify an entire genre. On top of all that every band realized Pantera's sound was a cash cow, and mutilated the original draft beyond all recognition into the hip-hop fuelled nu-metal. No wonder this band was pissed off! And let's not forget tensions within the camp as a whole, as Phil could not even record within the same proximity as the other guys. When I turned on this album for the first time, it was the moment I had been waiting for. For the first time since I first heard the opening chords to "Mouth for war" a couple of years prior, Pantera had finally achieved a genuine aggressive sound without depending on "tough guy" lyrics. Agnostic Front was no longer top order of the day for Anselmo it seems, as he channels his hate in a more dissident manner, even slightly reminiscent of black metal vocalists...slightly.
Every song on here is relentless even for groove metal, showing it could enhance the metal genre as a whole, something Gojira and Mastodon have really tapped into, taking it into the next century. "War nerve" is simple enough, but after a couple of minutes this becomes a real nerve-shredder, the brooding anger rises and rises, until the point when the song erupts into it's conlcusion while Anslemo sees us out with a "fuck you aaaaallllll!" guranteed to get increased palpitations even from those withered by winter, in the darkest realms of metal. "10's" and "13 steps to nowhere" both start out mildly before Dimebag's muddy southern rock riffing kicks in, both progressing into something interesting and induce almost primitive emotion. For those of you who cannot listen to metal outside the realms of Dream Theater or Tool, then maybe you should stop reading from here on. And then there is "Floods" the somewhat ballad which forgets it's a ballad..."Cemetery gates" never was topped by this band I assure you that, but this is quite an interesting song, and everybody who listens to metal has probably heard Dimebag unleash the solo. Perhaps the solo of his career? Whether you like Pantera or not, this song makes the ever popular grunge of the time seem juvenile and dead-end in it's "alterantive" and "deep" waves. No disrespect but perhaps it's a good thing Kurt Cobain wasn't around to see this, because his beloved alteranative take on metal was quickly going nowhere fast. "Suicide note pt 1", is the next quasi-ballad in line concluded with an injection of angst with "Suicide note pt 2". The latter has some interesting vocals by the way. "Sandblasted skin" starts out with a speedy riff, and frantic drumming from Vinnie Paul is worthy of a note. Rex's bass playing is top-notch, but one complaint is that his presence becomes unusually high during solos, which happens on every album anyway. If on the off chance you are really new to Pantera, don't listen to the haters. You will hear people say every song Pantera wrote was a rip-off of Exhorder, even though Pantera have a far vaster discography. Such conspiracy theories are materialised by fifteen year olds, who picked up "Slaughter in the vatican" yesterday, and suddenly felt pure and wise. But on the other hand don't let people tell you Pantera singe-handedly rescued metal in a nightmarish post-80's world. Pantera made some good regular American metal. And as such one should go in with expectations, no higher than that.
Probably best Pantera’s album ever. Certainly, for many people it might be blasphemy, stressing the great value of his predecessors.
And this was, perhaps, the reason that makes this record so underrated.
The band was in its worst period: too many internal disputes, Anselmo with his alcohol and drug problems mitigated the stability of the band, with the Abbott brothers suffer. Think about the fact that the beloved Phil Anselmo recorded his vocals in another studio than the rest of the band. The situation, therefore, was very difficult. And indeed, this record transmits all the anger and the suffering that the band felt at the time: just listen to the first 10 seconds of the initial, phenomenal, The Great Southern Trendkill.
Anselmo transmits his fury with tortured screams, angry and devastated growls (helped, to accentuate the violence, by the evil Seth Putnam of Anal Cunt). Darrell tortures his Dean with deep, obsessive riffs, long bendings and, as usual, with the recognizable southern blues sound so dear to the 5 Texans. The brother Vince, on drums, is unleashed, with difficult and heavy rhythms, sometimes fast (with a dominating double bass), sometimes filled with Groove sounds. Rex, always equal, enriches the whole with his dark and heavy bass riffs.
The album mixes the classic groove metal, trademark of the Texas band, with death, thrash, doom influences and a hot and sweaty sound, clear of southern matrix. The sludge matrix of the band is very evident in this album.
Each song has a different sound, while the lyrics deal mainly topics like drugs, suffering, and suicide.
TGST is fast and furious, with an instrumental outro, where Darrell and his Dean seem to communicate. War Nerve is pure groove, Drag the Waters is a sort of angry version of "Walk" (this is the single chosen from the group, although personally it is perhaps the "worst" of the disk, if you have to find one). With 10's we hear even grunge influences, from Alice In Chains, with a suffered and poisonous tone. 13 Steps To Nowhere reprises the iconic sound of Vulgar Display Of Power, full of groove and blues riffs. Suicide Note, Pt. 1 is a hot country acoustic song (here you can hear the southern influences of the group). The second part change radically, with a fast and telluric thrash, with an unusual riff and a beautiful chorus, with a wild Anselmo and Vinnie Paul into a state of grace. Living Through Me is a modern and calculated thrash, with a chorus that relies on daring guitar riffs by Darrell. In the central part we hear noises and suffered voices of a never so exciting Phil Anselmo, and everything ends with a violent restart, that flows into the main riff.
Floods deserve another speech, without emphasizing that alone worth buying the album. 7 minutes of great music: classic acoustic start, with Anselmo that interprets at his best the suffered atmosphere of the song, singing and whispering (putting the chills). The riffs are, as always, very inspired. At the third minute the song comes on, with an electric riff, obsessive in his gait. Then begins the masterpiece: acoustic interlude, followed by (perhaps) the best solo of Dimebag Darrell’s career. Everything changes abruptly, with the entry of the usual riff that repeats itself in an obsessive way, before the final discharge, with riffs, beats and thundershowers sounds. The finish is an amazing outro, worthy end of the best song of the band's career, in my opinion.
Underground in America takes the obsessive groove of War Nerve and 13 Steps To Nowhere, driven by the riff that will be the main of the following song, the final Sandblasted Skin (Reprise). The band decides to close with a bang, with a fast and aggressive song.
A perfect album: varied, inspired, angry. The band came to perfection, which will not be achieved in the future, accomplice to the murder of the genius Dimebag Darrell Abbott (RIP). We may remember them by turning on the CD players and enjoying this essential disc for any metal fan, in my opinion.
P.S. Why not 100, you could ask? Well, Drag The Waters and Underground In America don't deserve a so higher mark (even if the other songs deserve 110!). But, we know, nothing is perfect...
Though I originally got into heavy metal thanks to a collection of my father's cassette tapes of bands like Dark Angel and MegaDeth, one of the bands I truly enjoyed early on was Pantera. As time has moved on, I began to break apart this band's music, focusing on the albums as a whole as well as the songwriting approach taken. Call it maturity or realization, but my almost fan boy adoration of Pantera has slowly subsided over the years, being replaced with a sometimes mild, sometimes excited reaction to hearing this band's music. The two albums that get the most out of me these days are "Cowboys from Hell" and "The Great Southern Trendkill."
While "Cowboys from Hell" was an excellent blend of various metal genres including more traditional styles and minimalist thrash with lots of prowess from Dimebag Darrel, "Trendkill" takes a different route. What is present on this album seems to be a darker yet even more hostile version of Pantera. The music seems specifically designed to charge forth like a battering ram through Phil Anselmo's enemies both real and imagined. The album also showcases a more creative machine that was Pantera at this point in time, including being the band's most varied album post-1991. While "Vulgar Display of Power" and "Far Beyond Driven" could get a good thing going at times, they would also become stalled in middle of the road metal. Both those albums were, most of the time, like placing a brick on the accelerator of a car that was suspended on a lift: sounds good, but you're never going to go anywhere.
"The Great Southern Trendkill" survives the pedestrian metal attempts on its two preceeding albums by making some changes. For one, the music is much more focused instead of directionless hostility. Someone already beat me to the explanation for this, which includes Anselmo's ever increasing volatile nature, accusations of rascism, increased substance abuse, internal problems within the band, so on and so forth. Phil Anselmo probably makes the biggest change in the band, putting forth some seemingly current lyrics that are relevant to this day about trends and the subversion of hipster disciples who jump on each new trend like a street walker does her clients. The 1990's were a rampant time of trends, one of the most horrid in which was the mainstream's fascination with halfwit alternative rock bands of the day.
Anselmo's other major contribution to this album is his change is vocal style. While "Vulgar Display" had that militant bark and "Far Beyond Driven" had that quasi-death grunts shouted from halfway across a parking lot feel, "Trendkill" finds Anselmo charging forward with shrieks more akin to his work in Superjoint Ritual. I would argue, however, that his work here is far less nerve racking thanks entirely to the better ideas and musicianship on this record, which keeps Anselmo grounded. The record is also layered in its vocal affects, which gives songs like "13 Steps to Nowhere" and "Sandblasted Skin" a demonic feel. This comes again from the internal issues of the time, as Anselmo was not even in the same state as Rex, Dime, and Vinnie during the recording sessions.
The unusual creativity exuded on this album come in the forms of songs like "Floods," "10's," and "Suicide Note Pt. 1." "Floods" is an excellent example, and while a bit too long, possesses an interesting contrast between somber darkness and later in the song when things begin to pick up. "Suicide Note Pt. 1" is an unusually serene number that comes off as a dark country song (I mean country music, not this Kenny Chesney nonsense) that stacks up as one of Pantera's very best. "10's" is the least of these, which has a nice atmospheric tinge to it, but for its entire duration refuses to kick things up a bit when such a change would be most welcome.
The remaining songs either fall into Pantera's usual (though improved) Southern groove or faster versions of such. "Suicide Note Pt. 2" is an excellent example of the faster songs, and works very well for the band. With a song like that, it begs to know why Pantera couldn't throw in more songs like these in their time which would have undoubtedly improved "Vulgar Display" and "Far Beyond Driven." The title track also throws in some faster sections, albeit temporarily and showcases Anselmo's new found lyrical approach against the mainstream media. "War Nerve" is more mid-tempo work, but is a much better than song than anything found on the previous two releases. "Drag the Waters" is another example of this, throwing in some cowbell to alleviate your fever.
Unlike the more celebrated releases by this band, I could not find a single dud here, except maybe "10's." They all possess merit of some kind, and with perhaps the exception of "Living through Me" manage to avoid becoming mindlessly repetitive or suffer from aimless meandering. Its definitely an improvement over preceeding works for this band (not to mention the one that would come after it) and is quite possibly the best album they put out. Songs like "Sandblasted Skin" and "War Nerve" help one to forget all about the stagnated groove fests of "Far Beyond Driven," which for some unknown reason is a more cherished album than this one. In fact, this is the one Pantera album that never gets much respect, even though the live versions of these songs that appeared on "Official Live: 101 Proof" were killer and the highlights of that album.
Like some have already said before me, this is a Pantera album for Pantera fans and non-fans alike. I can certainly see those who couldn't care less about this band getting into this, considering I know some who have. Its especially far removed from their other material in terms of aggressive and focused attack, yet still planted enough to win the adoration of Pantera fans. I for one continue to enjoy this album more than any other this band has put out, and recognize it as their best second only to "Cowboys From Hell" in terms of musicianship. It would have been interesting to see Pantera continue down this road, which obviously did not happen given the step down that "Reinventing the Steel" was. I also like this album for its statements, particularly against the "hip" crowd and their trends plus against the stereotypical outlook on the Southeast U.S. This is all just icing on the cake for a Southerner like me, but for those who couldn't care less, I can definitely recommend this to non-Pantera fans. Its removed from what most media outlets celebrate about this band, to the point that many Pantera fans seem to skip over it entirely.
Well, I can say one thing for sure about this record: I'll never forget the day I've listened to it for the first time. It was 1997, I remember myself walking into a 1 hour photo and, for some obscure reason, there were some Cd's for sale in that shop, including the one I'm reviewing. Seeing that there was a snake on the cover and looked pretty badass I decided to buy it, then I went home and listened to it. Well, my response after just 10 seconds into the first song could be translated in English as "Holy Fucking Jesus what the fuck?" That was more than 12 years ago, I was very young and just got into metal music, I wasn't prepared for such an outpour of rage in music form; at the time I thought heaviness in metal music came more from the speed at which notes where unleashed upon you or from the complexity of the songs rather than from the volume and intensity of them. Ten years later I understood what this album showed me back then, something that at that time unconsciously prompted me to instantly make a copy of it on cassette for my friends to experience what I labeled "The Heaviest Album Ever". Did I really say that? Yes, but it was years and years ago. Do I still mean it? Yep...
The fact with this album is that its heaviness doesn't come from how fast the songs are, or how heavy the distortion of the guitar is (well, maybe just a little bit), it's not something that was thought over and then conveyed in the studio. No, the heaviness of this music comes from the souls of the very people who wrote it and played it. The execution has little or nothing to do with it. And, for the record, I, as I bet almost everybody else out there, have in all these years listened to stuff that was played faster, louder and with heavier production (and even with more layers of guitars), but nothing comes even close to the brutality of this album, the lethal dose of hate that T.G.S.T.K. is.
Now, I don't know what happened in the two-year time that occurred between this and its predecessor, Far Beyond Driven, but, believe me, it turned Pantera's music from the poser "let's-kick-them-asses" redneck crap that boosted them into the pantheon of sell-out MTV metal-whores (along with Korn, White Zombie and all the other bitches) into a genuine, mountain-sized, 40 minutes long, ugly growl of hate towards everybody and everything. I mean, let's pretend to forget the fact that the sounds of all instruments on "Trendkill" are much thicker, deeper and heavier than they've ever been on a Pantera album; let’s also forget that, on here, carefully orchestrated harmonies, vocal melodies and jaw-dropping guitar solos left place to demonic, keyboard-driven dissonances, unrelenting death-growls and eardrum-raping noises; let's pretend to forget all this, but don't we still remember that Phil Anselmo guy, the same guy that only two years and one album prior to this was singing about his dad getting drunk and kicking his ass, about his friends turning their backs on him and then, again, kicking his ass... he was essentially singing about him getting his ass kicked. Well, this same guy is now back with a vengeance and an infected throat filled with spite and hate towards the whole fucking world and with an overwhelming desire to destroy it. He really takes on everything, from the media, to the justice system, to the low-lives and the common people. Religion, industries, families... he doesn't leave anybody out. Not even himself.
And if the lyrics are pure manifests of anger then the music is the most appropriate I could think of. Dimebag Darrel was a talented guitar player, one of the most inventive in the 90's scene and one of the most original and with a distinctive sound. Yet, starting from Far Beyond Driven he dared to challenge himself and his own talent by filtering his fluid, very technical style with some more atypical, whistling, ear-raping... what do you call that? Noise. Now, why would anyone in metal music (a genre that is already more than too often referred to as "noisy" from common people, even when they are talking about Metallica and the Irons) adopt such a style, when everything before was going just so well, if not because he's had enough and doesn't give a shit anymore? The riffs are simplistic, very heavy and groove oriented, leaving more and more open space for inhuman screams and demonic guitar-noises to breathe (see "Living Through Me", "Drag The Waters", "Sandblasted Skin", for example). But even in a chaotic ordeal like the one he’s putting you through, be sure, if there's a ballad, chances are good ol' Dimebag will grace your ears with some amazingly beautiful and heartfelt guitar solos. His best on T.G.S.T.K. must be the solo he played on the track "Floods", a quirky semi-ballad with and holocaustic undertone. Another great one is on the other semi-ballad, "10's", while a special mention goes to the bluesy southern boogie that wraps up the title track, notable. Cherry on top of his performance is the only real ballad present on this album, "Suicide Note Pt.1”; this one is a highly depressing tune, with lyrics referring to somebody's life destroyed by drug addiction, somebody who's loathing into madness and decides (obviously) to take his own life. And, I swear, never ever has music been so in theme with such negative lyrics. Even before you read the booklet or before the singer starts singing the guitar sets already a funereal tone all over you, and you already know that this ain't gonna end in a good way... a little masterpiece.
The bass sound is really great, unlike other Pantera albums where you could only hear the bass in the solo section due to the fact that the band don't have a second guitar. In this album, fortunately, Rex' bass lines are allowed their place in the spotlight along with all the other instruments; and I say fortunately because he does such a great job it would have been a shame to mix it out of the final product like had happened in the previous records. Not that what he does is technically unbelievable or amazing in any "aesthetic" means, but firstly because the guy chose one hell of a sound for this record and then the much more simplistic approach to song-writing from Darrell allowed Rex to stick his head out of the swamp of riffs and lay his own ideas here and there during each song, adding to the overall quality and general eclecticism of the “Trendkill”. Highlights in his performance here are the guitar-bass duet in the chorus of "Living Through Me", the bass lines that accompany "Floods"' guitar solo and, in general, the fast thrashers of this album, like "Suicide Note Pt.2", the title track and "War Nerve".
Vinnie Paul does a fucking amazing job on the drums. As usual. I am very proud of this guy, for the way he handles the groove so fucking tightly, for all the amazing double bass flavour that he adds here and there and for his tasteful, genuinely southern approach to tribal rhythms (listen to the song "13 Steps To Nowhere" to understand what I mean). We must note that, in this album, the guy unleashes some of the fastest beats he's ever played, especially on "Suicide Note Pt.2", which are really very close to blast-beats.
So, in the end, I think it's safe to say that this album is a good recommendation to give to someone who wants to experience a little pain while listening to the music he loves. Especially the unrelenting screaming of Anselmo (helped by Anal Cunt's Seth Putnam) can result, for the first couple of listens, in a very painful experience. I swear, these guys never stop yelling, especially during the first three songs. But it's also one hell of a schooling in a matter that is very important, probably vital to heavy metal music: I'm talking about HATE, and ANGER, and DISDAIN. Because that's what metal music comes from and what it represents, and if a band can't express that then it means they’re merely entertainers, they're fake. And so is the listener if he can't take it. A wiser fella than me once said: "If you can't stand the heat, then stay out of the kitchen!". Well... I’ll say if you think you can’t stand 40 minutes of the most hate-fueled heavy metal you’ve ever heard, then don’t listen to this.
So, after 12 years I could finally share my thoughts about this album with whoever will take the time to read this. I've done my best to retain the feelings I had upon my first listen of this album, and even though much time has passed I can say in all honesty that the story hasn't changed much: this album still manages to brutalize me every time I play it. And I'll forever thank Pantera for it.
Amongst the metalhead community, Pantera is usually considered one of those bands for inexperienced n00bs who are just getting into the metal genre. Anyone who claims that "Far Beyond Driven" is one of the greatest metal albums is lowered to about the same level as those who think koRn "used" to be a good band and those who claim that Slayer never sold out. However, it is "acceptable" to consider "Cowboys From Hell" a good album (which it was) and a slightly smaller but still influential circle deem that finding that "The Great Southern Trendkill" was an unfairly overlooked and underrated album is an acceptable point of view. Personally, I don't really give a damn about following the opinions of the metal community (I think Avenged Sevenfold is metal, so what?), but I bought into the hype surrounding this album. I quickly snatched up a brand new copy of "The Great Southern Trendkill" in the clearance bin at a local record store (for only $5). I was quite proud of my find because at the time of the purchase, this album was out of print and not as easy to find (it has since been re-released and is readily available).
It turns out that perhaps this album was hyped a bit too much, for even though there is nowhere near as much awful "groove" type stuff, this isn't that "far" removed from the previous album. The main change is in vocalist Phil Anselmo's vocal approach. He adapts a tone more similar to what he used with Down's first album, as opposed to the fierce but also tedious yelling of "Far Beyond Driven." There's also a slight decrease in the macho tough-guy posturing, but those expecting a return, lyric-wise and vocal-wise, to the "Cowboys" days will be disappointed.
The album actually starts off in great fashion with the title track, featuring yells from Anal Cunt's Seth Putnam. Dimebag has a couple of good riffs and has a decent solo at the end where he actually shreds, although he drags and plods a bit by repeating himself for the second half of the solo. This is probably the last heavy Pantera song that can be considered "very good" (I would hesitate to call it "great"). Also, we have an amazing, oft-overlooked acoustic song in "Suicide Note Pt. 1." The atmosphere of this song is just so intense; it's a shame that Pantera did not try something like this again, choosing instead to pursue mindless heaviness. What's even worse is that part two of this song is just awful. It borders on noise and is one of the worst songs on the album, completely destroying the atmosphere and feeling of part one.
Dimebag continues his descent into obscurity throughout "The Great Southern Trendkill." With the exception of the title track, Dimebag's solos are pretty much effects and screeches, which are more boring than anything else. The riffs are mostly stale and one has to wonder whether the lackluster guitar work, both on rhythm and lead, is a result of misguided actual effort or just laziness. Dimebag has shown that he has the talent, but his often mediocre work keeps otherwise decent songs like "10's" and "Drag the Waters" from taking off.
I guess for fans of metal that seek only loud music to bang one's head to, this might be a worthwhile purchase, but even then there are better albums out there that achieve similar and/or even better results. For the standard non-Pantera-fanboy metalhead, this will probably be at the same level as the albums that bookend "The Great Southern Trendkill." The best bet is to download the title track and the first "Suicide Note" part on Itunes or some similar program. For those who are a bit more curious, feel free to search bargain bins everywhere, but your money is best spent elsewhere.
Pantera's The Great Southern Trendkill is a very interesting record. Its similar to their earlier records but unlike Cowboys From Hell, Vulgar and Far Beyond Driven it has only one bad track. Its an evolution of Pantera's earlier sound and its the only album they nail perfectly. It's got fast and aggressive, slow and grinding and even the experimental tracks sound great.
The album starts off with the title track and its a great way to start the album. It changes from grinding verses to thrashy parts that'll make you bang your head instantly. The solo is great too. Next up, its War Nerve and its a change of tempo. Its still one of the better tracks though. Drag the Waters follows, and its the only single of the album. Its good, but it drags on a minute too long.
10's is next and its the only track I don't like. It sounds somewhat like the fillers off of Far Beyond Driven but thankfully the next track, 13 Steps, makes up for it. After it, the Suicide Note part 1 and 2 come up. The former is a ballad and the latter is Pantera's most aggressive song ever. It starts off really fast and later it slows down to a sludgy ending. Great stuff. Hells' Wrath is the next and its one of my favourites, with good riffs and choruses, although the pause in the middle is a bit too long. Floods is next and its the second ballad, but this one's more aggressive and has Dimebag's best solo which really suits the track. The album ends with the pair - The Underground in America and Sandblasted skin, both of which have good riffs and the latter is my favourite off the album. Fast drumming, death growls and killer riffs. Great way to end the album.
I've saved the best for the last. Phil Anselmo's vocals here are his greatest ever. Here he has perfected his growling vocals, and even does a few black metal screeches on the faster tracks and never sounds annoying, unlike on VDoP and FBD. In my opinion, if it weren't for his vocals this would have been an above average album. His work makes the songs have more variety and stop the album from sounding monotone. In addition to that, the lyrics on this album are much better than those on earlier albums.
In conclusion, this is Pantera's best album and one of the best groove metal albums, and I recommend it to any metal fans.
The essence of all metal is anger and if you don't have the fire inside you, then you might as well play a different type of music. I've heard albums that were a lot louder and heavier than this, but as for angrier, I can't say that I have.
Here was a band that was on the verge of firing their singer who cost them their popularity on the radio and MTV because of a controversial speech he made on two separate occasions during the tour for Far Beyond Driven and was struggling with heroin addiction. In addition to the loss of commercial popularity and internal tensions, groove metal (along with death metal and funk metal) was losing popularity to the growing black metal and nu metal movements that (in most circumstances) emphasized atmosphere over actual talent and were threatening to destroy the creative bands formed in the early 90s by oversaturating the market with music that even a five-year-old could play. (Unfornately they succeeded but at least black metal evolved and nu metal died when its audience graduated high school and learned what real metal was.)
Pantera knew how much was on the line after almost single handedly saving metal in the early 90s along with Faith No More, Cannibal Corpse, White Zombie, and Rage Against the Machine. This precarious situation only pushed them to create their greatest album despite recording in two different studios in two different states.
Lyrically, Pantera grew up. Gone was the macho posturing of CfH and VDoP, as well as the self-pitying of FbD. Instead came an album full of pure focused anger. The self-pitying gave way to self-hate and that angry attitude became an opened Pandora's box of rage at the media that turned Phil into a tabloid has-been. Hell, the last two tracks seem to be tearing up the metal cliche's of the time by ripping on music videos that feature lesbians making out at wild drunken parties while vapid commercial metal plays in the background which seems to be destroying the band's own image in the name of art.
Even the ballads were aggressive, dealing with subjects like suicide, the self-loathing caused by drug addiction, and praying for the end of the world via a deluge. This was just pure fucking anger that could showed how a band can be both diverse and genuinely pissed off throughout.
Musically, it was also a high point, featuring both acoustic songs and the band's fastest tempos from their groove period. Not to mention the fact that there are some truly great solos on here.
Basically, if you want to both see a band at their creative peak as well as actually getting more hateful as their career went on, then this is the album for you and it remains the single greatest groove metal album off all time. It's just a shame that this was followed up by they lyrically banal Reinventing the Steel.
R.I.P. Dimebag Darrel
This is my absolute favorite album from Pantera. GSTK contains Phil with every more inspired death metal vocals, and Dimebag becoming increasingly experimental with the whammy bar and wah pedal. This album differs from their previous albums in that it is a concentrated album. It's such a concentrated effort that it is almost a concept album, and that concept is HATE(and drugs).
This album is unique in my opinion because it contains two pairs of two part songs, and only one possible filler.
From the first 9 second death scream from Anselmo on the title track, to the ending riff of Dime's on Sandblasted Skin, the album seems almost completely original. The album deals with a range of topics from fake street kids to drugs and the media.
Common songs on this album that are called "filler" are 10's, 13 steps to nowhere, and Living Through Me (Hell's Wrath). However the only one of these i see as possible filler is 13 Steps to Nowhere. 10's is a riveting ballad of drug addiction that contains the best solo on the entire album in my opinion, and Living Through Me (Hell's Wrath) has a very catchy groove riff that has one of the best vocal performances on the entire album. 13 Steps in my opinion isn't a filler song though it is just merely misplaced on the album. I feel it would make the album flow better if it was placed after War Nerve, it is couched between the slower songs 10's and Suicide Note Part 1 on the original, making it's upbeat tempo seem awkward. In fact the song I feel doesn't belong most is actually the single, Drag the Waters. It's just too catchy and groovy in between the slow driving War Nerve, and 10's.
GSTK is an album mainly fueled by rage as seen in tracks 1,2,3,5,7,8,10, and 11. Therfore apart from the slower ballads, which are powerful in their own right, the album doesn't lose it's intensity. It seems mixed well, each instrument has it's limelight on the album, but it seems that the vocals and guitar get a tad more emphasis than drums and bass.
This album was a definitive mark on the music scene during the mainstreams shift from alternative grunge to rapcore, and is just a brutal assault on all your senses. It is my favorite Pantera album due to it's overt brutality and experimentation. My only complaint though is that the songs could have been arranged better on the album to not give such an awkward feel sometimes.
I had just about given up on these guys after the past two albums, but something happened between this album and the last one that while they were on tour, because they actually found something that they had completely lacked on previous efforts. Both VDoP and FbD were loaded with attitude and intricate guitar solos, but the overall songs were about as unfocused as you could get. In addition to that, Phil Anselmo was not pulling off the death metal vocal voice at all and sounded more like a more masculine version of Kurt Cobain, but here he has done something equally rough yet much more metal appropriate with his voice.
Particularly on the faster tracks, Anselmo has pumped a good deal of black metal style shrieks, which work a lot better than the quasi-Hetfield/Metal Core sound that he had exhibited on the last 2 albums. It’s not as individualistic or as varied as the brilliant vocal display he had exhibited on Cowboys from Hell, but it sounds a hell of a lot more metal. He still displays the flaws from previous efforts, but they have been cut back quite a bit and localized to a few specific tracks.
The lyrics also have a bit more focus, seeming mostly to be directed towards the band’s sense of Southern Pride. Unlike the crowd of politically correct whores of the mainstream, I’m not frightened by this, mostly because I haven’t swallowed their propaganda about my country’s history. Directly after recording their last album, Pantera had caught some shit because of a rant that Anselmo made on the topic of rap music and black pride. Phil Anselmo doesn’t strike me as a bigot based on the company he keeps, particularly guitarist Kevin Bond of Superjoint Ritual who is half-black ( a race more often ridiculed by pure black Americans), and a life-long friend named Kirk Windstein is jewish.
In response to the flak that they caught, Pantera decided to give the guilt-drenched left wing the finger and released an album of unapologetic Southern Pride. This alone gives them points in my book as many bands had seen fit to pander to left-wing propaganda in recent years and basically suck the cock of socialism with their music. (*cough* MegaDeth). This is highly consequential as it is the primary drive of the lyrics, which are a breath of fresh air from the directionless-yet-fashionable non-conformity that the last 2 albums represented. To put it candidly, Pantera had finally got themselves a set of enemies worthy of the blind rage that they exhibited on this album, the mainstream media and the political left.
Musically, the good far outweighs the bad, as Pantera has ratcheted up the tempo and the aggressiveness of their sound to something that transcended the boring groove sound that dominated their past 2 releases. Such high octane cookers as “Sandblasted Skin”, the title track, and “Suicide Note Part 2” are loaded with evil as hell vocals, crushing guitar riff, and a pounding rhythm section that will probably blowout your speaker if you push the volume past 6. “War Nerve” , “13 Steps to Nowhere” and “The Underground in America” are a bit slower, but still equally as aggressive. Dimebag Darrel’s soloing is getting even more effects driven, and there might be an argument that some of these solos influenced some of the lead guitarists of the current Black Metal scene.
What we can call the ballads of this album are, in fact, quite interesting songs. “Suicide Note Part 1” is an all acoustic ballad with a synthesizer track that sticks out like a sore thumb. Anselmo’s vocals are low and dark as hell, painting the picture of a man ready to end his own life. “Floods” is a bit overlong, but shows another rather gloomy vocal performance on the part of Anselmo, at times utilizing some odd effects in order to make his voice sound like he’s underwater. The acoustic lines are quite gloomy sounding as well, although the true highlight of this song is Darrel’s agitated guitar solo, which is my pick for the best one on this album.
The groove tracks on here are a bit mixed, but still a monster improvement from the last album. “Drag the Waters” sees a more polished vocal performance, although it’s still a bit long for a groove track. The cowbell in the drum line is a nice touch, underscoring the Southern spirit of the album. “10’s” is my pick for the weakest track on here, it has too many of those annoying as hell micro-bends that have that Korn sound to it. “Living through me” has too much groove as well, in addition to some structural meandering. This time it’s a bit more forgiveable, as using the skip button 2 times is a hell of a step up from using it 6 or 7 times.
In conclusion, this album is a step up from previous efforts with this new sound that Pantera would continue to exhibit until their ultimate demise. Among the releases that they had in the 1990s (excluding “Cowboys from Hell”, which was seen as an 80s album by nearly everyone) this one is the best. It doesn’t shack up to the musical greatness that they had on their first 2 albums with Anselmo, but it is worth the money. This album comes recommended to fans of Black Metal, Death Metal, and all other aggressive styles with mostly toneless screams. The rage on here is focused, it’s well directed, and it hits its intended adversary, the cult of guilt and unquestioning conformity.
The 1996 LP, The Great Southern Trendkill, is an often overlooked classic from Pantera which is a stark contrast from Cowboys From Hell, Vulgar Display Of Power and Far Beyond Driven. Phil Anselmo’s vocals are no longer as authoritative and dominant as the previous three releases, but the bile and resentment he spews forth is as palpable as ever. Dimebag hasn’t missed a step, and you’ll know that it hasn’t as soon as the first track finishes. Rex and Vinnie are solid in their respective roles as usual, and the quartet works wonderfully in harmony. This album features extensive overdubbing, but I don’t feel that it takes away from the quality at all. One example of this is Phil’s screams, which again do not detract from the album.
The album begins very strongly with the opening title track, which is as intense as Hell. From Phil’s screams to the drums and guitars which pummel the listener upside the head, the song soon segues into fairly groovy, but still vicious section which is fantastic. It sounds like a snake weaving along the floor, which makes the album cover look apropos. Next up is War Nerve which is totally brutal (in the best sense of the word) and features angry and hostile vocals. Lovely. Drag The Waters is more of the same, but it’s quite catchy all the same. So far, so good.
The next two tracks are 10’s and 13 Steps To Nowhere, which honestly aren’t all that special at all. I skip these if I’m listening to individual tracks, but I won’t if I pop in the CD. 10’s is one of the more mellow songs here, but is still pretty powerful. The vocals get repetitive and the riffs are ordinary, but overall it isn’t a terrible song. 13 Steps To Nowhere is like the first three tracks, but not as good because it drags along sluggishly in places. It’s hard to put it any other way, really.
Next up we have Suicide Note Pt. I and Pt. II as separate tracks. The former is played with an acoustic and features no drumming (if I recall correctly) and is as least Pantera as Pantera could be. The latter needs little introduction as all of the extreme attributes mentioned earlier – resent, bile, intensity, viciousness etc. – all come out in this one song and pierces your heart with its hatred. Both of these are great, and although they contrast greatly from one another, they somehow work together.
Living Through Me (Hell’s Wrath) is forgettable, and what’s worse is the lengthy boring part near the middle. The riffs are uninspired and nothing really clicks here. I never feel remorseful for skipping this one, which is what I never do for the next song: Floods. Floods is a somber ballad and is calm early on, and is beautiful. Once the song picks up it gets really good, especially with Dime’s highly memorable solo which lasts about a minute. This solo is too beautiful to describe. Other parts of this song have powerful riffs with “die, die” vocals which command control. This is easily the best song on here.
Lastly we have The Underground In America and (Reprise) Sandblasted Skin. The former segues into the latter so well that it might as well have been the one song, and both share identical riffs in parts. They grab the listener’s attention and picks up the tempo from before Floods, and it’s a fitting way to end the album.
Overall, any classic songs on this are pretty much few and far between, however most of it is well-above solid and hard-hitting. Although some tracks are merely okay, they’re perfect to listen to while listening to the album the whole way through. For me personally listening to the whole thing is a joy, and it makes me wonder why this is so overlooked and/or underrated. For a fan of metal in general you should definitely check this out. For a fan of Pantera, this is definitely essential shit right here.
While most people i know argue which Pantera album is better, "Cowboys" or "Vulgar", i see The Great Southern as the best piece of music these guys ever record. The album is different from their earlier stuff by becoming more brutal, more known to the power of rock and roll and by giving more metal that's rooted with southern music. This album shows from where Dimebag and Vinnie really came from.
The album starts with a scream of Phil that continues to one of the most brutal song Pantera ever released, named as the title. After that come the heavy riffs songs "War Nerve" and "Drag the Water". "Let the war nerve break" says Phil at the second song and that's exactly what's happening in the chorus of "13 steps to nowhere" (who have some vary hard lyrics like "A backwards swastika/The black skin riddled in lead/A Nazi Gangster Jew/It beats a dog that's dead") and "Suicide Note pt.2" who combines with the acoustic pt.1 to a songs which talks about the 2 sides of suicide - suicide as the escape from life by drugs in part 1, and suicide the cowardly act in different way to die in part 2. These 2 tracks to me personally are the most 2 powerful songs Pantera ever record, delivering such a strong subject in 2 ways that are so different from each other.
After it comes the fast opening of "Living through Me (Hell's Wrath)", and after him the amazing rock and roll song "Floods" the shows one of Dimebag best solos. The album closes with the more slow heavy song "The Underground in America" and after him the speed metal song "Sandblasted Skin (Reprise)".
The present of the South America sound can be sensed in all of those songs, if it's Dimebag guitar, Phil voice or any other thing in it.
This album didn't have the respect he should have got. Through "Drag the Waters" is the only song in this album who released as a video, and the only one who was put in Pantera "Greatest Hits" record. This albums contains some of Pantera best work, with no pose, not trying to be trendy and just do what they do best - some KICK ASS METAL.
"The trend is over and gone forever" - Long Live The South.