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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...