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"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.