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Writing off bands as worthless - it is a pretty bad idea. Though I still maintain my stance on Machine Head (yeah, 10 minute long groove metal songs, great fucking idea Flynn!), acts like Six Feet Under, Underoath or Dimmu Borgir have all pulled a few surprises out of their collective hats. And the late Pantera is no exception - this is what they were trying to be all along. This is their culmination, their masterpiece, and undoubtedly the greatest groove metal album of all time. What is found here is pretty much everything I love in my metal.
For one, never have I heard an album with so much attitude, so much vitriol, so much... balls. This is pure, fire spitting southern groove at its absolute saturation point of rage. Not only does the music sound angry, but you get the sense that the band themselves are fucking pissed. The vocals and lyrics don't carry this sense of aggression alone, for every element of the music conveys the murderous, acidic hatred that the band are trying to put into the music. From the very first seconds of the title track, with Seth Putnam's (R.I.P.) opening scream, you know you are in for one hellish ride.
This sense of anger was never quite there in this band's previous 2 albums. It sounded angry, but it never felt the same way - it felt contrived and marketable to the lowest common denominator. One reason for this, and indeed one of things I hate most about Vulgar Display of Power and to a lesser extent, Far Beyond Driven, is Phil Anselmo's pretty poor vocals. A certain satanic unicorn once described Phil's voice on their 1992 effort as sounding like 'a dying bullfrog'. Though his voice here is superficially similar here, it sounds far more angry and evil. He still can't do death metal vocals, but instead has morphed his voice into a very aggressive thrash/hardcore shout, with a seriously raspy shriek at times that borders on black metal. Especially when he layers his voice on tracks like 'Sandblasted Skin', he sounds like a monster.
This is a very fitting vocal performance for the sheer hatred that Anselmo is spewing forth. The lyrics on this are a marked shift from their previous fits of tough-guy idiocy (Vulgar Display of Power) and the crap self-loathing / tough guy idiocy of Far Beyond Driven. Essentially, rather than Anselmo shouting about how 'HE'S GONNA FUCK YOU UP!' he is now shouting about how everyone around him should 'FUCK OFF!'. Almost as bone-headed? Yes, it is. Way more effective? Of course it bloody is! Hell, 'War Nerve' literally begins with these words:
'Fuck the world, for all it's worth!
Every inch of planet Earth!
Fuck myself, don't leave me out!
But don't get involved, don't corner me!'
The song itself is a big middle finger to the media, who were talking shit about Phil after a controversial speech made on rap music and black power. This is another thing this album possesses: genuine drive. The band actually had things to be pissed about now, whether it be Phil's drug addiction ('Living Through Me (Hell's Wrath)' and '10's'), the speech ('War Nerve'), or the trends (the title track, 'The Underground in America' and '(Reprise) Sandblasted Skin'). It is not a marketing tool anymore, this is genuine anger in musical form!
And lets not forget about the music behind the fire-breathing frontman. The riffs are notably more 'sludgy' in nature, as well as taking more influence from thrash metal and southern metal, particularly Down. The best examples of this are intense scorchers like 'Suicide Note Pt. II' and the title track. Being Pantera, there are still grooves here, but songs that are predominantly groove metal, like 'Drag the Waters' or 'Living Through Me' are still bolstered by the aforementioned distilled anger and the production, which I shall come onto later. Dimebag's trademark soloing is as noodly and effect driven as always. Before, he served as a respite from all the boring groove, now he is one of several excellent things about the album. Vinnie's drum work is truly pummeling in nature, hammering away and adding to the overall loudness and vulgarity of the album. Even Rex Brown makes his contributions here - the album, in particular the guitars, sound goddamn meaty, and that low end can't all be the production, can it?
Another thing that helps the album along is its loudness. Now, I am normally one that favours a sense of dynamics in production, and thus shun just about any album that is loud all the time. Here though, this is a different case. Every instrument has been through a fair amount of filtering, with the loudness turned up a lot in the process. The drums and bass in particular, are exceptionally weighty in sound, and the guitar tone is very distorted and thick. The mix is pretty much spot on, with the low end not consuming everything else in reverb, and Phil's vocals given a good prominence in the mix, where he doesn't obscure the instruments or be consumed by the pummeling fury beneath him.
For an exceptionally angry and 'shouty' album, it does show a sense of variety. There are fucking sledgehammers like 'Suicide Note Pt II' or the title track, which grab the listeners by the neck, and then proceed to cave their skulls in with their barrage of screams and riffs. Slower, heavier numbers like 'The Underground in America', 'War Nerve' and '13 Steps to Nowhere' are equally sinister and destructive, while beating the listeners to bloody pulps. There is more typical groove thoroughfare, but even 'Drag the Waters' and 'Living Through Me' with their somewhat meandering structures and repetitious grooves are forgiven due to the overarching atmosphere and aggression.
And then there are the ballads. They go for a subtle, atmospheric approach, immersing the listener in the tortured words of Phil and the oddly calm and in some cases, beautiful acoustics of 'Floods' or 'Suicide Note Pt. I'. They are all the more poignant due the odd contrast they share with the rest of the album, and serve as rather shocking numbers to first time listeners, having just come off of this album's usual furious groove (the transition from ballad to typical track here is almost as shocking).
There are also little sonic and atmospheric touches that pepper this album, normally in the form of synthesisers. Take for instance, that eerie as hell middle section of 'Living Through Me', or the manic guitar effects that lace 'Suicide Note Pt. II'. On a related note, the psychedelic synthesisers on the first part of 'Suicide Note' are highly atmospheric and beautiful. Even the micro-bends that litter '10's', that are normally indicative of nu 'metal', sound like a tortured, demented soul in guitar form, and fit the drug related lyrics perfectly. The storm sound effect combined with the pummeling grooves of 'Floods' before the end solo, or that obnoxiously loud high pitched synth screech at the end of 'The Underground in America' is fucking sinister, and well, angry. The demonic shrieking pulled off by Phil is highly indicative of black metal, only accentuated by the layered screams he does. They further add to the vitriol of the songs.
Even the title of the album is fucking cool! 'The Great Southern Trendkill'. It warns us all of the potential death a listener could suffer trying to make it through this sonic catharsis! They finally nailed the badass factor with the cover art - never mind the tryhard drill-through-head/anus or man-being-punched bullshit of old. Nothing is cooler than a snake.
...I am rambling a bit here, aren't I? In that case, I shall sum this up: Seriously, this is one of the greatest metal albums of all time. Never have I heard the artist's message so well conveyed through factors outside the lyrics, i.e: atmosphere. When the instruments themselves sound possessed and tortured, you know you have one quality album right here. This is so heavy, so cathartic, so aggressive... it is the culmination of groove metal and Pantera, artistically. This isn't really one for the faint of heart (Pantera at their worst never were) or those who prefer the old school (Cowboys From Hell is right up that road). However, for those that don't mind a little bit of modernity in all the right ways, or as Phil puts it, 'blending the '80s and '90's with hate', then I highly recommend this. Seriously, it had and impact only albums like Reign In Blood or De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas has had on me. Not to compare this to those - but it is that profound, musically, lyrically and atmospherically. Turn it up loud and say it proud - 'THE TREND IS DEAD'!
The Great Southern Trendkill is easily Pantera's best album. Its predecessors had both their weak and strong points to them, but this giant amongst them all is Pantera's most solid record to date. The mix of groove and some thrash metal with acoustic parts is just so fantastic. It's not just one thing that makes this album so good. Every aspect of the album has something good to contribute here. Despite a few bumps here and there, The Great Southern Trendkill will always be my favorite Pantera album.
Because there are so many positive attributes that this record possesses, it was hard to pick one. However, I think what I love most about this album is that there isn't one song that is completely filler. Every single song is original and unique and could stand on its own. Therefore, there was a wonderful mixture of different arrangements, ranging from the mostly acoustic "Floods" to the ballistic and spastic "Suicide Note Pt. II."
The songwriting abilities of Pantera had also reached their peak during the making of The Great Southern Trendkill. There was so much material being produced here that some songs, the "Suicide Note" songs, had to be broken into two desperate pieces of music. "Floods" showed off the sensitive side of Pantera in a similar way that "Cemetery Gates" did in 1990. The title track of this record also brought a lot to the table. It's one half pure chaos, and the other half is some southern influenced shredding. Southern influenced? Chaos? I think that The Great Southern Trendkill sums up the band's sound, image, and some of their philosophy very well.
Pantera has always been shedding its skin and evolving into a different kind of beast on each album. One thing that you will notice here is how wacky the guitar riffing is here. Dimebag Darrell's sound when you listen to the "The Great Southern Trendkill" is not natural from what I can hear. The sound of his six-string beast sounds like it has been used, abused and altered beyond belief. I will be talking about this later in my review, but this can be off-putting to some. However, you can see right away that this worked to his advantage on a few tracks like the one mentioned above, and "Suicide Note Pt. 2."
The biggest problem concerning this album is the production. Just about everything gets a ten out of ten from me on The Great Southern Trendkill, but the production was the loogie in the punch bowl that ruined the party. The most obvious flaw is the lack of bass sound. Rex Brown is almost inaudible throughout the entire album. Dimebag once again takes center stage with the melodic sound as Brown's sound is choked out. My listening experience was altered as I tried to search for traces of his bass tones within the wave of guitars drums and Anselmo's screams. Just about all of the instruments here sound very artificial. It seems as if they have been put through filter after filter to point where you can't even hear the original sound anymore. Even Paul's kit sounds altered beyond belief. The snare hits and kick tones sounded exactly alike. Although I don't think it happened, it sounded as if every last beat Paul played was recorded by itself and looped.
Despite this disappointment The Great Southern Trendkill was an instant classic. It was extremely heavy, caustic, and wonderfully atrocious. Phil Anselmo as a singer and screamer had reached his peak here, as well as the rest of his legendary band. With only one more album to come, I still think of this as the last true Pantera record that still draws the attention of seasoned listeners and those new to metal alike.
So it turns out Pantera wouldn't release any albums I like front to back (maybe their glam stuff but I'm really not interested to track that stuff down) and sadly their legacy in my eyes comes down to a very mixed bag career of solid tracks and songs that aren't worth the amount of space they occupy on the internet. The other half of their legacy comes down to their heavy influences on nu-metal, metalcore and groove metal, which as genres are as hit and miss as Pantera themselves.
I think this would have been a better way to end their career then Reinventing the Steel or that Piss single that came out recently. First off the guitar work is better. It actually has substance and the band was still cohesive enough to pump out some solid songs.
The guitar work is closest to Far Beyond Driven but slower. Dimebag has a lot of slower riffs (Drag the Waters and 10's) mixed in amongst the faster riffs (The Great Southern Trendkill and Suicide Note Pt. 2). His sound is deeper and heavier then ever before (or after) which of course leads to a sound that is more naturally heavy and less forced. His soloing sounds very emotive on 10's (which fits the track well) but on the other hand in The Great Southern Trendkill its breakneck shredding. His riffing actually has melody now which actually works beautifully with the rhythmic groove style and shows growth in his style, this is the first album his guitar work has kept me interested and entertained from front to back. He even gets an acoustic section on Suicide Note that is probably the best bit of compositional work he's ever done. He shows a lot of versatility on this album and I would consider it to be the highlight of his career.
Phil manages to make his vocals the best they've been since CFH (which was his highlight). He's very emotive (10's and Suicide Note Pt. 1), lays off the tough guy act quite a bit but still manages to sound masculine, but now he sounds naturally masculine which is a 100% improvement. His range hasn't returned but he makes his way just fine without it. His lyrical content has expanded and the amount of substance in the music has skyrocketed.
The rhythm section is tight. The drummer knows when to use speed and when to lay off a bit. Still simplistic but far more forgivable. The bass player can actually clearly be heard for the most part and the rumors were right, this man is the perfect match for Dimebag, there parts intertwine almost seamlessly.
For all its ups though there are also downs. Suicide Note Pt. 2 is the weakest song here, despite lyrics about suicide this track still seems like an excuse to be mindlessly heavy and vulgar and its just rather weak, insipid, substanceless and (minus the first time when it will floor you with speed, anger and aggression) is extremely boring. In fact the two softest most balladic songs here Suicide Note Pt. 1 (which is now my favorite Pantera song) and 10's, a band who's reputation is those tough guys who never lay off and go soft and their best tracks are ballads, I swear there is an irony in that.
Standout Tracks: Suicide Note Pt. 1, 10's, Drag the Waters and The Great Southern Trendkill
If you're going to talk about the 90's, it's worth mentioning the sorry state of metal at the time. Now I know that groups like Alice in Chains and Soundgarden played some of the heaviest mainstream rock at the time, but the fact of the matter is that history remembers them as grunge bands, and grunge fans were known not to pay lip service. The heyday of thrash was gone, and we didn't even have nu-metal to at least put people in the right direction. So as you can imagine, the good ol' boys in Pantera had quite a responsibility with the torch they were carrying. If metal bands were to maintain any sort of credibility with the masses, Pantera was the best they had. However, like with Slayer, "intelligent" was probably not how the average listener described their music; a lot of it had a down-and-dirty "don't fuck with us" attitude, which in this case was arguably as famous as the music itself.
But like with all artists, Pantera was destined to put out something more complex, and this is what fans got in 1996. The Great Southern Trendkill, the way I listen to it, is a unique release in that it really sounds like the band has been fucked with. In its monster title track and opener, the first words out of Philip Anselmo's mouth are, "It's wearing on my mind, I'm speaking all my doubts aloud." From that point on, you know that the album is his personal lashing-out against the music/social scene of the time, as well as himself. The title song attacks popular but unoriginal artists that passed off the Southern/blues style as their own, while "The Underground in America" is a rant against privileged youth who sold their souls to punk rock degeneracy.
It only gets darker from there. "War Nerve," "13 Steps to Nowhere," "Living Through Me," all straight-up, dirty, drug-fueled misanthropy against people most of us probably know. "I broke your fucking mold, then threw away the cast," said by everyone to nearly anyone else. Meanwhile, the "Suicide Note" songs probably scrape the bottom of Anselmo's desperate mind. Part 1 solemnly reflects upon the self-destructive path he followed, while Part 2 is him preparing for the "obvious" solution. Cathartic stuff.
And then what to say about "Floods?" Honestly, I'm trying to start another paragraph for the song, but it really does leave a good part of me speechless. It's what I can only call an apocalypse ballad. Pantera is a Southern band, so there's no hiding the religious aspect of their identity. They took their hatred and put it on a spiritual level. Theirs is a vengeful God, and for a mankind "playing with grenades," with "deaf ears sleeping," what else but a flood of Biblical proportions could be over the horizon?
Obviously, Pantera was a groove metal band, but I think even the music is full of surprises. Fans of their usual style won't be disappointed, because "War Nerve" and the single "Drag the Waters" are rock-solid and all about the riffs. Interestingly, the album actually begins and ends with a more death/thrash style, which shows strongly on the blisteringly-fast "Suicide Note Part 2." It wouldn't be a Pantera record without some slower material, but on "Trendkill," I think they perfected this style. The progression on "Floods" and "10's" is just exquisite, and they include some of Dimebag Darrell's finest and most melodic solos.
So overall, this is easily one of the most diverse metal records I've heard. It's groove, sludge, thrash, death, and Southern metal all rolled into one, yet Pantera made it all their own. It didn't have as many singles as earlier releases, but the fact it had any is a credit to the band, because they were breaking new ground here. In the end, The Great Southern Trendkill (ironically a 90's release) stands as one of my all-time favorite albums, metal or otherwise.
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.
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.