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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.