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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.