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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