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Vulgar Display of Power, this is the Pantera album that fully realized their new, ultra-tough style into the style that they'd continue with for the rest of their career. Tough-guy anthems, menacing riffage, and an expression of outright... well... power make this album the one to kick off the genre of groove metal. While Cowboys from Hell was a strong album that was rooted halfway in thrash and halfway in the then-nascent groove style, Vulgar Display of Power eschews the 80's thrash style completely for a much more pure groove metal sound. The sound is bigger, the tone is thicker, while the singing is less dynamic, it's also more ferocious and more fitting to the sound and aesthetic of Vulgar Display. Everything is made beefier and fuller for conveying an air of undiluted macho rage, which Pantera pull off with the utmost strength.
As far as music is concerned, we have a beast on our hands. Many of their more scathing, intense, and iconic tracks cover this album like bruises cover the cover model's face after the shoot. "Mouth for War" begins the albums with Dime's thundering riffwork and Phil's battle cries go off with all the intensity of a bomb, sending listeners flying, and making necks sore from all the back and forth movement. It's the ideal opener with how it comes out of nowhere and all the energy it dispenses, not to mention the gnarly riff that carries the song and gives it its iconic status. Other fast pieces on this such as "Fucking Hostile" and "Rise" make use of faster tempos to convey their aggressive shredding alongside rousing choruses belted out by Anselmo at full strength. Anselmo's barking, paired with Dime's menacing, snaking grooves, and pummeling chugs, along with wild bluesy solos combine to give us the unofficial soundtrack to many a bar brawl or back-alley slugout. While "Walk" is a rather monotonous song with posturing lyrics, it still fits well among the much more superior fare that surrounds it, it also lays the ground for more agile songs that use its formula such as "Regular People" to a much greater effect, laying the groove down and making it as delicious as possible to keep a listener engaged with infectious rhythm. Sledgehammer riffing, an overall atmosphere of fierceness and rage, along with Pantera's penchant for making catchy songs around their riffs and choruses give us an album that unabashedly lives up to its name.
Pantera's second album after going from glam to groove certainly showcases how far they've come from that style in only a few short years. This is a punishing affair and while it may not be at Cowboys from Hell's level of consistency, it goes for a more ferocious and intense sound that roars in the listener's face and smashes everything to bits in its fury. From the death charges of "Mouth for War" to the morose, snaking rhythms of "This Love" this album is one big, muscular beast. For all of its aggression, there's still a catch, a hook, and many great songs to be heard here. For a truly hostile and strong piece from Pantera, this will do you well.
Read the title, and I did fucking write it. I like listening to Vulgar Display of Power, and its quality grows with EVERY SINGLE LISTEN I give it. Few are bands that evolve and improve with their releases, and Pantera are included in the list. From a power/thrash band that focused on grooves rather than technical efficiency, the band have eliminated their power roots and revolved their music on more groove-laden mid-paced thrash songs.
Leave the lyrics aside, because we all know what they are- immature, NWA-ish, and poorly written- but badass, full of attitude, and deal with everyday street life- if it's racism (No Good), anger (almost the entire album), and love/hate:
"There comes a time within everyone
to close your eyes to what's real
No comprehension to fail I vacuum the wind for my sail
Can't be the rest Let others waste my time
Owning success is the bottom line. " (Mouth For War)
Face it. They are one of the strong points of the album, for fitting well inside the music and being executed by Phil ("white power!") Anselmo, which his vocalic capabilities will be discussed later in the review.
The songs in this album are nothing but classic. I mean, take Walk, Fucking Hostile, and Mouth For War for example; it's more likely that you've heard these songs first when you were introduced to Pantera. (let's ignore Cowboys From Hell and 5 Minutes Alone for now, eh?) They feature the recipe for the perfect groove metal songs- Dime Darrell's tight riffing, killing drums, pounding bass, and the vocals. Some may say that they have degraded in their capabilities and range since Cowboys From Hell or Power Metal, but it was more than expected for them to do that (and that's why power metal vocalists shouldn't smoke nor drink, fellas!). They match the album's in-your-face and heavy attitude perfectly, and don't fall from their quality in the entire duration of Vulgar Display of Power. It happened with Paul Baloff in Bonded By Blood, and no one complained about it, so why now?
Let's not forget the rest of the album. They don't fall from the quality of the more popular songs, with featuring strong and southern-tinged riffing with occasional thrash parts by the groove metal mastermind Dimebag Darrell. His riffs are surely headbangable, with having a certain flow feeling to them which is rarely seen in metal records (with the best example being Judas Priest's Screaming for Vengeance). Take the songs A New Level, Live in a Hole and Rise, which the riffs in these songs are perfectly weaved into the vocal lines and the tight drumming, with having a good dose of syncopated groove into them. There is also the more "forgettable" part of the album (tracks 7-10) which features some pretty good tunes which can be described as more groove laden than the rest of album (how can anyone come up with a badass groovy riff like the one featured in By Demons Be Driven or No Good?), and the more atmospheric songs This Love and Hollow which build up to a section where it matches the other heavy, distortion-based parts of the album.
The production sums up the whole album. Perfect. It is perfectly equalized, and has the trademark Pantera crunch to it. None of the instruments sound distant, nor taking over the other instruments or vocal lines, but accentuates and emphasizes them. Mandatory for any metal fan, and if you don't like this album, you can "Walk on home, boy."
(Note: When referring to 'Pantera's discography' in this review, it refers to their 'official' albums from 1990 onwards, for convenience.)
So, this is it. The almighty Vulgar Display of Power. For many, one of their first metal albums, if not the first. One of the most polarising heavy metal albums of all time. An album that was a complete paradigm shift in metal - the birth of 'modernity' as a fully fledged concept, one which could define whole albums and styles, rather than just being relegated to a few small parts. Either this is when the heavy was put back into the metal, or this is the death of the genre and the birth of a whole host of bullshit groove metal, tough-guy hardcore and nu 'metal' bands.
I would like to highlight those last two takes on this album and its impact, in order to rebuke them. No, this isn't exceedingly heavy. Yes, it is pretty damn meaty, but dig into the underground and you will find countless death, black, doom, sludge and stoner bands who are all far heavier and/or more aggressive than this. It is a pretty heavy album for something that went platinum, and it did keep metal in the mainstream, but really. This thing didn't save metal. It was alive and well, just not in the limelight. The '90s did kinda suck for thrash, speed, heavy and power metal bands for the most part, but more extreme forms took the metal scene by storm anyway.
And onto that second opinion. No, this isn't the birth of nu 'metal', though the link to hardcore is a bit easier to see. Apart from a few dodgy moments on 'No Good (Attack the Radical)', this isn't nu 'metal'. Granted, Korn probably did take inspiration from this (which they wouldn't have if it wasn't in the mainstream), but this is for the most part, pure groove metal. The vocals are a tad too aggressive, there are riffs, the guitars aren't a muddy 7-string mess, there is almost no rapping or squealing out of tune pinch harmonic bullshit. Whiny cleans are also kept to a minimum, as are the angsty lyrics. This is metal, just a very hardcore influenced variety of it. Remember people, the only ones to blame for a trend are the pioneers. They are the ones who misconstrue past ideas and accomplishments for their own horrible creations.
I mention all of this to make a point: From the end of this paragraph, I shall not mention this album's impact on the wider rock and metal world, for it really has no relevance in how I judge this. This album was a pioneer of groove metal, a subsection of metal that, while I am not entirely fond of, is still infinitely more fruitful in its gems than things like metalcore or what ever the fuck Soundtrack to Your Escape was meant to be. Both that and The End of Heartache are albums which I have trashed for their influence as much as their musical merit. And while this is pretty toxic musically (as in, it is easily fucked up through trying to copy it), this isn't nu 'metal' incarnate. This isn't the viral corruption, it is just something so inoffensive, easy to stomach and prominent in the mainstream that it was parodied to no end.
And with that obligation out of the way, let us begin.
Vulgar Display of Power is quite an odd album, with respect to Pantera's discography. Though all of their albums contain good points, what separates the good from the bad is how consistent the album is. Both Far Beyond Driven and Reinventing the Steel suffer from having huge peaks surrounded by desolate valleys in terms of quality, leading to albums with songs like 'Hellbound' or 'Slaughtered' also having tracks like 'Good Friends and A Bottle Of Pills' and 'Goddamn Electric'. It makes for a very frustrating listen, especially with the latter, which feels like it was recorded in 2 different sessions. However, this album is incredibly consistent. Barring one little hitch ('No Good'), this doesn't throw any laughably bad or vomit inducing ideas at the listener. Though there are clear highlights, every track possesses some sort of merit, and are all enjoyable to a degree.
Another oddity is the production: It is actually very good. Pantera's 1994 and 2000 albums had shockingly bad production, with the former actually giving me a headache after a while. The drums were a clicky mess, the guitars were so off and over-distorted that you wonder how much money went into the production, and the vocals were too loud. That isn't the case here, quite the opposite. Though the album does eschew a discernible bass guitar tone, the low end from it is certainly there, and the result of this is a very heavy and thick guitar tone. It still has nothing on the underground stuff of the decade, but it is mightily crushing. The same goes for the drums, they have a full and dynamic sound, lacking the dull thud or click of other Pantera albums. Even the bass drums have some fucking BASS to them! The mixing is good too, with everything being well balanced, even the vocals.
You see, the issue with this album lies in its strengths, or rather, its strengths are indicative of its main weakness. This album is polished, refined and consistent. However, let's look at that another way: this album is inoffensive, safe and bland. That isn't to say it is pure background music, far from it. I can happily headbang to tracks like 'Mouth For War', 'Rise' or 'By Demons Be Driven'. It is just that I don't get quite such a visceral response from it as say, The Great Southern Trendkill. Hell, even Far Beyond Driven annoys the hell out of me and gives me a headache with its unerring grit and anger. Every Pantera album (barring Reinventing the Steel) pushes something to the extreme. It may be the vocals, the lyrics, the tempo, SOMETHING. This does none of that. It doesn't surprise me, I can't really relate to it on an emotional level, it isn't awesome, and it doesn't even annoy me like groove metal should.
One of the most contentious points about this albums are Dimebag's riffs. Now, I will admit that they are inferior to the groovy thrash riffs of Cowboys From Hell, and on the whole grooves are not as good as fully formed riffs. That said, some of these songs are proper thrashers with proper thrash riffs - 'Mouth For War', 'Fucking Hostile' and especially 'Rise' are all amazing high-tempo scorchers, having a focus and drive that Pantera generally lack. Other highlights would include 'Regular People (Conceit)' and 'Live In A Hole', which are songs of a more mid-tempo variety, and while not quite as focused on the whole, are still an entertaining listen.
Sadly, this album begins to fall apart on the other tracks, this album's share of mid-tempo groovers. 'A New Level' has such a boring chugging introduction, one that is repeated throughout the chorus, with even the more interesting fast section not making up for it. The same can be said of 'By Demons Be Driven', which despite its pummeling goodness, is mired by an irritating out of tune guitar squeal. And then there is probably one of the most infamous metal riffs of all time, up there with 'Iron Man', 'Smoke In the Water' and 'Master of Puppets'. 'Walk' has that same dumbass stop-start hardcore riff repeated for at least 3/5 of its runtime, and it gets kind of grating after a while.
The rhythm section largely follow suit in terms of quality and consistency. Rex Brown's bass isn't quite as distinguishable here, as in, it is providing low end rather than being exposed in the mix. As a result, I can't comment on what he does really, all he does is follow the guitars, but then he is helping to give a pronounced, well-mixed low end that contributes to the album's deep sound. Vinnie generally keeps time on this album, following the riffs rather than breaking free from the rhythm and throwing in a few fills. He does go on the double bass at times ('Rise' and 'Mouth For War') but other than that, it is a functional, competent but boring performance from behind the kit.
Pantera's trump card, their ace of spades, was Dimebag's soloing. Later on in his career, they would become less melodic, more effects-driven and more twisted on the whole, but for now they are still of an '80s persuasion. They help to drag even the most banal of Pantera's tracks up from the slums of endless groove, providing an interesting counterpoint to the body of the song. Pretty much all of his soloing on this album is awesome, a bluesy, noodling and trebly style that is just unmistakably 'Dimebag'.
The other most contentious point about this album is Phil Anselmo's vocals. Let's just put it this way: when I heard his work on Cowboys From Hell, I was quite surprised, as someone that had heard this album first. His range is practically gone, any attempt at high notes either has to be entirely sombre and quiet, or is ditched completely, in the name of sounding tough and aggressive. To his credit, his voice isn't the same monotonous quasi-death grunt that it would become on Far Beyond Driven, having at least some melody and expression to them. He can still sing, with the clean passages of 'This Love' and 'Hollow' being good examples of that. For the most part though, his voice is a tonal shout throughout, sometimes degenerating into mumbling (again, 'This Love') or some horrid attempt at rapping ('No Good (Attack the Radical)'). That last example really sounds as corny, ridiculous and forced as you would think, by the way.
When all these elements come together, the results are mixed. On the one hand, pretty much every song is memorable in terms of construction, owing to every song utilising a small set of monolithic riffs and being very chorus-driven. On the other hand, there are no real progressive or atmospheric songs à la 'Cemetery Gates', 'Floods' or 'Medicine Man'. Due to the pummeling, solely heavy nature of the groove, the transition from soft to heavy on 'This Love' and 'Hollow' is completely jarring and comes across as forced, wrecking any attempt at atmosphere. These songs also don't go anywhere, often repeating themselves far too often, with 'Walk' being a poster child for this. Barring that solo and the heavy ending, there are a whole 2 riffs on that 5 minute song.
Another, more serious issue with the song construction is a serious lack of focus. Faster tracks, or tracks with faster sections (the aforementioned 3 thrashers, 'Regular People (Conceit)' and I guess 'A New Level') manage to stay on target, not meandering or stagnating throughout their runtimes. However, most of the other tracks here, especially the overlong 'This Love' kind of lose the plot in a sense. They repeat the same few ideas, but it comes across as redundant and unnecessary as the song wears on. This can make the album a bit of a slog at times.
This doesn't sound too good, does it? Repetitive, clunky, one-dimensional, bad vocals, somewhat inconsistent, this does sound like something I would give a zero, right? Fortunately however, this album does have one redeeming factor, one saving grace that turns an annoying headache inducing bore like Far Beyond Driven or worse, Burn My Eyes into a rather enjoyable album:
This album is fucking dumb.
For real, this thing is so unbelievably stupid and knuckle-dragging that I can just about get behind its tough-guy posturing, its obviously false aggression. These riffs are so unbelievably primitive and repetitive that they just become something to mindlessly headbang to. The atmosphere here isn't quite the irritating, tired-sounding 'I'M SO TUFF, but so tortured at the same time' of Far Beyond Driven, rather every song here is a rally cry for all the world's boneheads and knuckledraggers. It is one of the dumbest forms of motivational lyricism imaginable, and just makes me want to break something whilst banging my head and shouting 'RE... SPECT! WALK! ARE YOU TALKING TO ME?!'. It is that sort of basic, chest-beating manly man kind of vibe that makes this work. Had this lacked its consistency though, and ended up throwing out overlong attempts at doom/groove metal ('25 Years') and bullshit ('Good Friends and blahblahblah') this would be a failure. It walks a fine line between consistency and predictability, between stupidity and retardation, and between refinement and safeness.
I know it all seems a bit apologist, but really. This is actually a very enjoyable album. The good parts sound just as good once this perspective is applied, and even the worst bits can be excused as 'dumbass noise by a dumbass guitarist/vocalist'. It is genuinely fun to blast out of the speakers, to stomp about and air guitar to the soloing. Nothing here is truly horrid or grating, just boring if you aren't in the mood. It plays to its strengths well, with its most intelligent lyrics ('Rise') still being fucking dumb, having song titles like 'Fucking Hostile' and not trying to go for something overly progressive or intelligent in terms of song structure. Only during the soft parts does it break this image, because 'I AIN'T GOT NO TIME FOR SISSY ACOUSTICS! I WANT TO GROOVE, BITCH!', but even then the dumb fuck later half of 'Hollow' or the chorus to 'This Love' return to the groovy idiocy this album is good at reveling in. Dammit, it sucks but it works!
Or, maybe I am just a simpleton. Either way, I recommend this to all of the people that need a bit more stupid in their collections. A polished, refined and consistent ode to an IQ of less than 65.
Let me tell you about the things I hate. I hate stinky tofu, I hate being interrupted while reading the last 5 pages of a book, I hate days that are cold and rainy, I hate music that has no aim to it, and I hate haemorrhoids (though I merely dislike American spelling). I hated Pantera's 'Far Beyond Driven' so much that it currently has my second lowest review score on the Metal Archives. But I don't hate this album. 'Vulgar Display of Power' is not a cold turd left outside your window all night, nor is it even a loose fart in an elevator as Pantera's final two albums were. In fact, a lot of it is pretty good.
Get this: my sister bought me this album for Christmas one year, I think when I was 15. I listened to it on Christmas day, probably still wearing my pyjamas, and I thought it was great, though in that skeptical way where you're not sure exactly whose opinion you used to make a judgement. There was something that didn't sit easily with me, which - on reflection - was likely the recording quality, since at that time most of the music I listened to was modern (post-2000 anyway) and had a much fuller production, without such clear definition of individual instruments. Indeed, 'Vulgar Display of Power' does have a slightly dry production, coming from a distant, echoey room on the quieter songs ('This Love' and 'Hollow' both have the same, almost 80s ballad-like quality) and grinding and chugging rather dirtily during the heavier parts. Maybe it's lazy to say so, but I'm reminded of the production on 'The Black Album', which doesn't make the album flow out of the speakers very smoothly (it's slightly too rhythmical), even if it sounds heavy as hell for the uninitiated.
To be perfectly honest, I was one of the uninitiated. The following year, my sister bought me Marilyn Manson's 'The Golden Age of Grotesque', which I took an instant shine to and probably play more regularly than this album. I came at Pantera from a nu metal standpoint: my music collection was entirely heavy, but leaned towards Korn and Mudvayne and Slipknot, with just a few Iron Maiden, Machine Head, and Chimaira albums to instruct me on the purer traditions. Now, I've seen it written a few times that an album like this one was a stepping stone in the evolution towards nu metal and, while I agree that it may have signposted the genre, most of the songs left me cold in that regard, ferocious groove riffs aside. The thing is, groove metal is not really a strain of metal in its own right, more like a mishmash of several genres played with a markedly different emphasis on style - the same thing that has been argued about Darkthrone's 'A Blaze in the Northern Sky', which is essentially a death metal album played in a black metal style (and some of that grooves with the best of them). Pantera come partly from the direction of classic heavy metal, as one can hear from the leads; they come partly from thrash metal, with its greater intensity, distorted vocals, and chugging power, which these guys put the brakes on; on this album, they also come from a hardcore background (one might even say they foreshadow metalcore) with many of the flatter, lower riffs, such as on the introduction of 'A New Level', the sloganeering vocals of which also come steeped in hardcore's essence.
As such, this album doesn't end up either very pure or very progressive, because the classic elements are modernised to attempt stylistic development, though not developed to the extent that they actually highlight the commencement of a new style. This album is thus disliked by both purists and modernists, because it straddles the divide: it was captured leaving the realms of traditional heavy metal, but not yet breaking the new ground that bands such as Korn, Disturbed, and Killswitch Engage would expand in the following decade. Hence, I was unsure about it back then, when I found it a little heavy and complex, and I'm unsure about it now, when I find it slightly plain and unimaginative.
The actual music hits more often than it misses, with no really awful songs. 'Walk' is hugely overrated and really quite tedious, while 'This Love' and 'Hollow' are mostly too heartfelt or hamfisted, depending on which section of the song one listens to, while 'Regular People (Conceit)' only has one good riff and a solo, which isn't enough for five and a half minutes. Everything else is worthwhile, with a few nice riffs per song and always inventive soloing, whether in melodic or frenetic style. Some of the songs, like 'Rise' and 'Fucking Hostile', slip over the boundary into thrash territory, contrasting with 'No Good (Attack the Radical)' and 'Mouth for War', both of which are deeply satisfying groove odysseys that don't give up on being heavy. I'm not fully decided about my favourite song (even after eight and a half years), though it might well be one of the two just mentioned.
Like most of Pantera's albums, there is a good deal of frustration to put up with for 80% of listeners. All the musicians are skillful, Dimebag Darrell being the standout of the bunch, but they don't always play the way one believes they can. Why, for example, did such an outstanding guitarist come up with an iconic riff like the one on 'Walk' (annoying as that song is, the riff is distinctive and provoking), then do nothing to progress that idea throughout the song; why did he feel it was acceptable to include two clean parts on the album, both of which resemble one another so closely; why don't any of his solos have the backing of a second guitar to allow him to shred with wind beneath his wings? Some of the oversights are absurd, including Phil Anselmo's vocals. I don't think he sounds truly dreadful on this album, but he doesn't even come close to his performance on 'Cowboys from Hell', nor does he do a lot to change up his style for different songs. It's meathead singing replacing metalhead singing, simple as that. The rhythm players don't cock up a great deal, though it is this rhythm section that results in the album's overall grooviness and frequent lack of fluidity, which is my major gripe with the style - it just doesn't feel free or dangerous, as the best albums should.
'Vulgar Display of Power' is therefore a significant marker in metal's history, yet not a release that rewards regular returns from a listener such as myself. It provided a bridge for metal genres that later dispensed with some of the more conventional trappings of the Sabbath/Priest/Maiden template and proves that groove is not a genre, merely an effect of style. Sadly, the only people that it can truly satisfy are those without much knowledge of what stands on either side of it, since only those listeners can experience it for what it is and love it for what is actually there, rather than what is missing.
This is Pantera's follow up to their debut Cowboys From Hell and third undeniably legitimate metal release and unfortunately instead of showing growth or progress it seems to travel backwards taking the Cowboys From Hell sound and watering it down.
The lyrics are still dominated by being a macho man but now they swing at street life. Maybe you like the basic lyrical idea (I say basic as not every track focuses on these topics but it seems to be the focus and drive of the album) however for many this seems eerily similar to what many rappers were doing at the same time. As far as how the lyrics are delivered Phil likes to really try to emphasize his masculinity in how he performs. It just doesn't come off as that way to me though. He sounds like he's forcing it, trying to hard to be over the top macho and while doing it he ruins the actual quality put into his singing. I think the guy probably is all that he's trying to show but he doesn't know how to let it flow naturally. In the end his vocals fail to leave anything impressive or to be desired.
The guitar work subpar. Dimebag once again uses the same groove riff through the entire course of a song only stopping to throw in his solos. This method was largely very boring before but still managed to pump out some quality songs. Here though much of it is slowed down and even his greatest riffing suffers from it, the repetition becomes more intolerable with midpaced tempos (funny since that means it gets repeated less), the speed takes away a lot of the power. Dimebag's guitar tone is too trebley and lacks in heaviness and power meaning that these slow riffs generally become hard too listen to for the whole song. His solos sound like Van Halen meets Slayer, very screechy squealy but with a ton of added effects and unfortunataly here the guitar compositions sound improvised, not in a virtuoso kind of way but like an amateur guitar player trying to show some chops. Skilled playing on the solos but very poorly composed and written.
Under this lies a bass that followed the guitar in slow groove riffs. He doesn't show much skill or much spark in the composition department but he must be respected for his ability to be a team player. While Pantera's music lacks many elements chohesion is not one of them, the chemistry between the members is solid and even strangely professional. The drummer also mostly keeps it slow to match his buddies and he doesn't get very much time to shine, he mostly keeps a consistent beat and holds time but every once in awhile he gets to throw in some double pedal and pound down that set as hard as he can.
There aren't any tracks I really enjoyed so I won't be posting any standout tracks.
Ah Pantera, the band that (kinda) saved thrash and kept it relevant during the 90's. They were also the vehicle for Dimebag Darrel, a truly great guitarist (even if also truly overrated). There are as many fans of Pantera as there are people who can't stand them, even from within the metal community. Vulgar Display is often considered their masterwork, but in my opinion it just doesn't meet my standards for a classic.
After the success of Cowboys From Hell, the pressure was on Pantera do deliver a follow-up that could match CFH. Many bands choose to not change the formula after their breakthrough album, but few bands have changed as little as Pantera does on this album. Not that that's a bad thing really, Pantera knew what they were good at and so they stuck to it, it just doesn't improve the sound so it feels like almost the same album in terms of sound. If you've never heard Pantera's music, it's basically thrash metal with a groove to it. Imagine if Metallica took advice from Stevie Wonder and threw in some detuned power chords. The result is better than it may sound, but it's also inconsistent.
On one hand, when the formula works, the songs are awesome. Songs like "This Love" and "Walk" are absolute metal classics, and there are many other classics here as well. Dimebag's solos are awesome as usual, Vinnie Paul's drumming is great, and the vocals from Phil Anselmo are wonderful. Rex Brown's bass work isn't as good, they in it's own right is of good quality. This is a skilled band, and when they hit the mark, their proficiency really helps carry those songs to places they wouldn't have otherwise.
But also, many songs here are more than a little boring, such as most of the second half of the record. Like Cowboys From Hell, the best songs are put at the beginning of the album, in the hopes that their momentum will carry the album. It worked on Cowboys From Hell because the weaker songs were not all that weak, but here the weak songs truly aren't that good. The last 20ish minutes of this album is completely forgettable. Not to say they are BAD just they are not even close to the heights of the first half.
If you like the bands other work, or are a fan of bands like Exhorder (but if you've heard of them it's almost a given that you've listen to Pantera) you'll find yourself happy here. Classic thrash fans may enjoy the difference from regular thrash, and won't feel put somewhere completely foreign to them. However, this album is not the best example of this sound. In my opinion, Cowboys From Hell is the better album. Still, this is a good album, and totally worthy of being picked up.
It takes me by surprise that this album is as heavily criticised as it is, because I initially always thought this was held in as high a regard in the metal community as Cowboys From Hell was. Personally, for me, this is the album where Pantera struck gold. The album where all of their attitude came fully into place. The album where Pantera fully became Pantera. I am obviously not knocking Cowboys From Hell: that was the starting point of the band's major success for a good reason, but Vulgar Display of Power pushed their brand of groove metal further. The band had gone from a simple, young, copycat glam metal band to an innovative dynamic band with a "take no shit" attitude that - let's be honest - worked for them. It was also the first full Pantera album I had listened to, and it would eventually turn me onto listening to all their other stuff.
This album is chock full of heavy anthemic tunes with powerful riffs courtesy of Dimebag Darrell. It's much darker in tone compared to Cowboys From Hell and all of the less-known albums before it, but still perfectly showcases the band's growing musical prowess. There are songs that just make you want to mosh and beg you to chant along to them whilst you do, like the mid-tempo opener "Mouth for War", the slower march-like "Walk" and the much faster "Fucking Hostile". On the other end of the spectrum, we have songs like "This Love" and "Hollow" that mix haunting melody with the heaviness of the aforementioned songs. The melodies are pretty much perfect for a band like Pantera, as they're enough to send chills down your spine. "This Love" contains a fantastic breakdown, similar to the one heard in "Domination" but with more frantic screaming from Phil Anselmo to top it off.
Speaking of Phil Anselmo, his vocal style is different here to what it was on the previous albums Power Metal and Cowboys From Hell. His vocals are suitably more aggressive for the most part, using more growls with the screams as opposed to primarily singing with a lot of screams thrown in. It works very much in the album's favour due do its musical style and attitude. However, he sings in a much softer tone for much of "Hollow", allowing himself to show off to the fans that he can portray multiple emotions in his voice. The album's lyrical themes include shooting down vicious rumours ("Walk" following accusations that fame had gone to the band members' heads), learning to channel the hate inside of you ("Mouth for War") and anger and resentment following a relationship ("This Love"). This was a band who wished to clear the air with people, and shoot those down who dared to stand in their way.
As a whole, Vulgar Display of Power fares much better sonically than Cowboys From Hell did. The production is slicker, eradicating much of the echoing of the band's instruments and giving the guitars more of a crunch. This also gives the rhythm section of Rex Brown and Vinnie Paul time to shine on several parts of the album. The ballads give us an insight into the emotional textures of the band that were not so much explored previously. The band wanted to make their heaviest album and they achieved that by writing darker riffs and darker lyrics, creating a much more intense atmosphere for the listener. The themes of the album were also more inspired than Cowboys From Hell by the members' personal experiences that pissed them off. They channeled their anger into an album that holds a special place in metal, and their influence is definitely heard in a lot of newer metal bands. Many of the songs from this release would go on to become big metal hits and/or fan favourites.
Despite my previous thoughts about this album's reputation, it is now definitely clear to me that Vulgar Display of Power is somehow underrated despite its influence, though it certainly shouldn't be. This album should be enjoyed for what it is: a monstrous hour of both the heavy and the mellow varieties of metal which can serve to get you through a tough day when all you want to do is break something. Even if you're not in that state of mind, it's still a fantastic album with raw, honest emotion.
Take one look at the ratings and reviews on this album, and it becomes clear that Pantera is a point of division among many a metalhead. To their fans, they were one of the greatest bands of their time and helped get heavy metal out of the rut that the grunge explosion had forced it into. To their detractors, Pantera was little more than mindless butt rock, and responsible for the nu metal disease at the end of the nineties. Much of this controversy ultimately comes down to one album, "Vulgar Display of Power".
Right off the bat, I'll get "that song" out of the way. "Walk" is perhaps Pantera's most famous song, and ironically, one of their worst. The three note riff repeats itself ad naseam, while Phil Anselmo barks out the juvenile lyrics. "Respect! Walk! Are you talking to me!" are the words that should be coming out of a c-list gangsta rapper, not the man who displayed a Halford-like vocal range with their previous effort "Cowboys from Hell." As for the repetition of the main riff, it's not that I have an issue with musical repetition, being a fan of AC/DC, the Ramones and Burzum (all three of whom are infamous for musical repetition, though for different reasons). But while the aforementioned bands could write songs that moved, "Walk" goes no where. It simply drones on at an annoying midpace.
"Walk", though only one song, is an extreme example of the two main flaws with "Vulgar Display of Power": repetitive riffs and incoherently juvenile lyrics. Lyrics like "shit on, pissed on, stepped on, fucked with, pointed at by lesser man" show not much thought going on in the writing sessions beyond deliberately trying to come off as a "tough" band, while the monotony going on in the riffing of songs such as "Live in a Hole" and "A New Level" grows old quickly, a fact not helped by the mid-tempo of most of the songs making the repetition all the more obvious. There are certainly the standout tracks on this album, among them "Mouth For War", the brutal thrash assault of "Fucking Hostile", "Rise" and "Hollow", where the musical talents of Pantera's four members come together and remind you why they attracted the large crowds they did. "This Love" has a decent opening, though the song's transition from soft to aggressive feels more unfocused than progressive, and pales in comparison to "Hollow".
The saving grace of this album, as with any Pantera album, is Dimebag Darrell. He has an ability to write impressive, somewhat bluesy lead solos that contrast with the simple, rather dull riffs, and you get the sense that he played every note with a sense of passion few guitarists are capable of pouring into their playing. Phil Anselmo is passable as a vocalist, though I preferred his vocal performance in "Cowboys from Hell" to his hardcore shouts, and in "Hollow" and "This Love" he shows himself capable of clean singing still. I'm sure Rex and Vinnie were good at their instruments, but the truth is, they don't stand out much compared to Dime and Phil, and they are mostly just there to provide the rhythm. There are plenty of Pantera detractors out there who have compared this album to Exhorder's "The Law", and while there are certainly unmistakable musical similarities, both albums were released within the same year, so I doubt Pantera had much to rip off of them as some have claimed.
At times it may sound as if I hate this album, This is not the case, though I cannot stand "Walk". There are certainly good songs to be found in here, and Dimebag is at the height of his talents in the lead guitar department, but there was much more Pantera was capable of putting out at the time, had the temptation not been to try and out heavy every band while clinging to a "tough-guy" image. Me, I like enough songs on the album, just not enough to listen in one sitting without skipping here and there.
m/ m/ m/ out of m/ m/ m/ m/
Everything that ruined metal is documented in this one album. This album paints a picture of AC/DC shirt wearing pickup truck drivers heading to the meth house after swigging too much malt liquor while watching a marathon of Maury and Dog the Bounty Hunter. It's this single piece of drunken bafoonery that sapped all the creativity out of metal by showing people that they too can make money by playing groove based rock with faux-aggressive vocals and throwing pot leaf designs on t-shirts. It is the prototype for Korn.
Lyrically, everything that's wrong about metal now is found here. Phil Anselmo in all his heroin addled wisdom thought that, instead of coming up with something interesting to talk about, the mundane themes about the "tough street life" would resonate more with the hip-hop culture of mainstream America and, unfortunately, he was right. This was one of the key elements that were needed to allow angry suburban youth and meth head trailer park dwellers to relate with the stupidity of Pantera. All of these things are best exemplified in the after school special-isms of Walk and the cheap emotional appeals of This Love and Hollow. The f-bomb abuse suggests not a lot of time was spent on them, and feels more like something the Wu-Tang Clan would have come up with. The change to a more "urban" appearance in promo pics suggest about as much. These lyrics would make bands in the future reduce themselves to writing about mundane topics (the hood, street life) and shouting a bunch of disdainful words that mean nothing. It's just vague anger to "get people through a bad day", like the hip-hop or radio rock songs of the day.
This is barely metal aside from some guitar playing techniques. Pantera is really just groove based rock in how the focus is placed on sparse 2 note rhythm riffs being played for a "swaggering" hip-hop derived feel that will allow suburban kids to "get down with it". It is an urbanized version of banging on rocks in a wasteland. By removing all the intellectual aspects out of metal and dumbing it all down to a series of chugga chugga noises and hillbilly solos, Pantera remove any melody that could be found in Prong's groove riffs, further lowering the role of the guitar into being a percussive instrument to allow for Anselmo's bird squawking noises ("vocals") to take the forefront. Contrary to Anselmo's "I Hate Alternative Music" shirt he would often sport at this time, the grunge-isms in the verse of lead single "This Love" suggest an attempt to also appeal to the whine rock scene of the day since it was the most marketable guitar oriented music they could dress up as metal at that time.
When the home videos are more memorable for the jokes than the music, you know this band wasn't good. Unfortunately, jokes and some pot leaf design t-shirts were all it took to sell this "cool" album about "real street topics" to the impressionable morons of the day. The birthplace for Limp Bizkit rests in this album.
Many people say Pantera "sold out" with this album. Sure, it's not as fun and technical as Cowboys From Hell, but calling them sellouts for putting out Vulgar Display of Power is a little far-fetched. Do we really think Pantera was trying to sell out by making face-melters like Mouth For War and Fucking Hostile? Rewind to 1991, when this album was being recorded. Metal was seemingly on its way out, crippled by the monster that was grunge. Pantera needed to try to do something different if they wanted any sort of reputation.
Bands should never be limited creatively by a record company, by a fan base or anyone else. Even the thought of a guitar virtuoso like Dimebag and a dedicated frontman like Phil letting a record company dictate exactly how the album sounded is laughable. Pantera came up with a new formula beginning with this album and rolled it out for the rest of their career. And it worked. This formula essentially revived metal, created a huge fan base for the band and kept the music true to its heavy roots.
This album is not supposed to be super-technical, progressive, complicated, or what have you. Look past that and you'll see that this album is, as another poster put it, "good for what it is". This is early groove metal from an American band, not some overly-technical European prog-death. If you can enjoy it for what it is, you'll see that this was a well-done, groundbreaking effort that contributed to helping metal stay afloat in the '90s.
The album is brutal, simply put. To me, it's just as brutal today as it was the first time I ever heard it, years and years ago. Dimebag's guitar tone on this album cuts into your consciousness and slams you against the wall. The riffing isn't anything prodigal, but it's solid, heavy, and unforgiving. Cleaner guitar parts appear here and there, most notably throughout "This Love" with a daunting, creepy, and well-used passage.
The lead guitar work is excellent as expected. Vinnie Paul's drums won't quite blow you away, but they provide a solid foundation for the aggression. Due to Dimebag's guitar tone, you can barely hear bassist Rex Brown through the album. Phil's relentless demeanor may not resonate well with some pickier metal fans, but he supports the balance of aggression quite well. Throw in a few clean vocals here and there and Phil belts out a solid performance.
The strong and weak points of the album are debatable. I could tell 100 people Walk and Fucking Hostile are a couple of the weaker tracks on the album - probably 55 would agree, 45 disagree. Regardless, I'm particularly moved by the opening aggression of Mouth For War, the high and low riffing of Live In A Hole, the southern-fried yet disturbing guitar work of By Demons Be Driven, and the tension and anxiety of This Love. While some songs are stronger than others, I don't believe there's one truly weak song on this album. Yes, Fucking Hostile could be the soundtrack of meatheads far and wide and A New Level is pretty generic and uninspired, but how can you call the relentless riffing and pounding pulse of these songs "weak"?
Those whose metal tastes don't go far beyond flawless musicianship won't enjoy this album. This is where this album falls short of what the masterpiece that is Cowboys From Hell was. This is probably what pissed off so many fans of "pure" metal and led them to label Pantera "sellouts". But this album isn't all about the musicianship. It's about the disturbed ambiance it creates through face-melting riffs, impressive guitar solos, and pure aggression in the vocals and lyrics.
And what this album and band did for metal as a whole, keeping the genre legitimate and respectable at a volatile time, is one of the most antiquated aspects of this album. Maybe Vulgar Display of Power did influence some shitty core bands who turn out crap nowadays, but that's not their fault, so enjoy this album for what it is. I'd advise you not to compare it to Cowboys From Hell because it does get dwarfed by that giant of an album. However, Vulgar Display is still rock-solid and is one of the more important metal albums of the early '90s.
Oh, Pantera. This album...I thought it was quite something when I was younger. But I've gone on to more mature tastes since then, and this album isn't the Holy Grail I once thought it was. However, it is far from devoid of enjoyment. Vulgar Display of Power is NOT an album to be scrutinized. A lot of people don't enjoy Vulgar Display, but perhaps they take it a bit too seriously. Anyway, let's observe this puzzling little phenomenon of a CD.
Vulgar Display starts out with a pretty great riff by Dimebag Darrell, one of my favorite metal guitarists of all time. Mouth For War is a good opener, and probably one of the LESS stupid tunes on Vulgar. However, something starts to go amiss on A New Level-for example, we hear the line "...shit on, pissed on, fucked with"...and you begin to wonder HOW seriously Pantera themselves took this CD. After the first chorus of Walk, you abandon all hope of seriousness. Finally, you take off your thinking cap and start to enjoy the album as it was meant to be-asinine fun.
The riffs throughout Vulgar are rock-solid. Dimebag always delivers the finest as always, even on the with the "Duh-nuh-nuh-nuh....duh-nuh-nuh-nuh....duh-nuh-nuh-nuhWEEOWEEOW" on Walk. It's silly and simple, but you'll probably remember it when the CD is over. Strangely, the album's outtake Piss had some of the more memorable guitar work. You could probably just buy Piss and listen to it 12 times and get a gist of Vulgar Display of Power. But I digress. Dimebag pulls the time-honored bait and switch riffs on us on several tracks-start with one riff, stick with it for 20some seconds, then change it just in time for the lyrics to kick in.
Oh god, the LYRICS. The whole album is permeated with a "WE'LL PUNCH YOU IN YER FUCKIN' FACE" spirit, and the effectiveness varies from "not feeling it" to "hilariously failed". In fact, the ONE TRACK that doesn't try to do this (This Love) is the most hilarious, because of how out of place it feels, and how fast it changes from the crooning, Layne Staley-esque self parody to the downright funniest chorus on the album-I won't spoil it, but it's classic in all the wrong ways. Plenty of cheese throughout the lyrics.
There are some ultimately notable tracks-This Love, obviously, and No Good (Attack the Radical). Now, what makes me bring up No Good is that it has one of the strangest, most out-of-place moments in what is already an awkward enough disc-Phil Anselmo's attempt at rapping. This is BARELY any better than James Hetfield on Some Kind of Monster, but I enjoy it much more because of the pure corniness of Phil's delivery. There is another one that I want to mention-Rise. Anselmo's vocals on this track are so bad you wonder at times if he's speaking or just singing WAY off key. A lot of people seem to like Hollow, but to me it's too much like This Love to really grab and hold me.
Unless you are a morbidly obese 12 year old who feels like his parents don't "understand" him, you will feel no "emotional" connection to this album. The heaviness is there, but at times it's forced, like on the chorus to This Love. The riffing is the strongest point here, but really the deciding factor of the album is this: Did you like Primal Concrete Sledge on Cowboys From Hell? Enough to listen to it again 9 times with some awkward, poorly chosen "ballads" and *snort* a RAP song? If the answer to both of those questions is "yes", Vulgar Display is for you. If not, then just walk away, and wash your hands after touching it.
Well this is an album with a rather unfortunate reception on this site. I was actually shocked to see the average score for this album being under 50% when I first checked out Pantera's page. What's actually so terrible about this album? Yes, it may not be a masterpiece, but it's still rather enjoyable. Why don't we look at it with a more fresh look? By saying that, let's not look on this album as a "magnum opus for influencing mallcore", but rather just an album by a metal band.
When compared to previous records from Pantera, the first thing that has notably changed is the production. I personally have mixed feelings for the production here. For a heavy record, it's rather clear, but some things might have been done better, in particular, the guitar tone. It might be greatly influenced by the way Dimebag tuned it down, but when producing the album they seemed to have fucked it up even more. To describe it in a short way, it feels like every riff just sounds like every other riff on the album, because the guitar sound is so heavy in contrast to the drums and the bass that it's just too messy, and hearing the palm muted riffs with this kind of tone is one of the most undelightful things you may experience. Phil Anselmo's vocals seem to have been worked out in a similar way. The production wasn't really that good on CFH either, but at least on that album the drums were way louder and the bass was clearly audible. Here, it looks like the album was produced in favor of the band's two most significant figures to stand out from the other members.
So, what about the musicianship? Well, there isn't much to talk about the improvements from the previous record. In fact, there is none. Phil has dropped his Halford-inlfluenced vocals he used in the previous records and now just seems to imitate Kyle Thomas. While he is in my honest opinion rather better at what he's doing here than Thomas, I miss his falsetto-vocals from Cowboys a lot. Dimebag's lead work is still impressive, but the riffs have just been toned down dramatically. Yes, there is some groove in them, but there is something frustrating about hearing chugga-chugga riffs in the verse of almost every song, and every non-chugga riff sounds almost the same. Vinnie Paul can't help but to do his best what he can by fitting into the toned down songwriting on this album. Rex Brown still swims below Dime's leads as always, and doesn't have any standout bass lines to offer. It's a shame that Pantera have gone towards this kind of musical direction with VDOP, because while the music is enjoyable for the bigger part, you'd expect something more from them after releasing Power Metal and Cowboys from Hell. Judging by those albums you can be sure that they are competitive musicians, but here, they seemed to have jumped on the bandwagon of commercializing their sound, something that lots of bands who were great in the 80's did in the 90's.
Despite the annoying production and weakened musicianship, the music on the album is actually mostly enjoyable and with an open mind you'll most likely be pleased with the album most of the time when putting it on a full spin. Though weak compared to what he was capable of, Anselmo's vocals have some sort of personality on this album, and it goes well with the album's groove-driven sound. Though on most songs the vocals are screamed/shouted, we can enjoy some of Anselmo's more clean singing on the album's two power ballads, "This Love" and "Hollow". I personally loved the vocals on the latter a lot, in my point of view, they gave an already nice ballad even more depth. There's A LOT of groove here, mainly thanks to Dimebag's riffs and Anselmo's accompanying moody shouts, and the lead work is top notch as always. Even though Dimebag likes to abuse them chugga riffs on this album a bit too much at times, there are several memorable riffs that you could recognize at any given point, like the legendary "Walk" riff, the main riff of "Mouth for War", the haunting main riff of "This Love" and some others. Despite being simplified in comparison to Dime's previous efforts, the riffs are still incredibly melodic and are definitely played with a soul. Vinnie Paul fits into the songs with his drumming nicely, as always, though like the rest of the band, he also sacrificed some of his talent for the musical direction the band took. In the 80's albums he used to play a lot faster and did many nice fills, now, almost all of that magic has been lost. A shame, considering that in the old times Vinnie was basically as talented on his instrument as his brother was on the guitar. A strong point on this album is the diversity of songs, we start out with a fairly mid tempo-ed track which changes it's attitude to a more thrashy one towards the end, followed by a similar song with tempo changes, then to a slower, heavily riff-driven hit song "Walk", followed by a more hardcore-punkish quickie "Fucking Hostile", then a lengthy power ballad, then again a more thrashy song and so on. Finally, the album closes with yet another power ballad, a rather more sad-toned one, and smartly does so, because those kind of songs always leave at least a decent impression after listening to the album on a full run. And yet, even that song changes it's attitude to a more aggressive one towards the end.
As far as the lyrical content goes, admittedly, there is a bit too much tough-guy bragging going on most of the songs, but there are some exceptions. "Hollow", similarly to "Cemetery Gates" from the previous album, deals with the death of a close friend or relative, "This Love" is about keeping a relationship with great struggle and "Fucking Hostile", just as it is musically, it is lyrically also similar to a hardcore song, expressing raw anger against society, in particular, the police. Lines like these:
The truth in right and wrong
The boundaries of the law
You seem to miss the point
Arresting for a joint?
You seem to wonder why
Hundreds of people die
You're writing tickets man
My mom got jumped -- they ran!
show that Pantera still have some lyrical depth left in them, despite what most people would think.
So, in the end, what do we have? Vulgar Display of Power, in short, is a good groove metal album with a stinky production. It may not blow you away, but it will leave a special place in your heart in one way or another. I am pretty sure that this album holds a special place in the hearts of all metalheads, whether that's a good thing or not. If you like groove, variety and nice lead work, this is an album you should listen to before you die.
Highlights: Mouth for War, A New Level, Hollow
It's hard to speak of this record without first addressing the intense judgement it (and the band) receives for...let's see...creating a completely fresh, yet classic thrash album at a time when just about every 80s thrash band was done for and out of ideas and moving on to funk/alternative? Let's get one thing straight here - thrash got old all by itself way before Pantera got popular. If you need to blame a band for killing it, blame Metallica. Do I really need to explain what "Black Album" did to the entire genre of thrash and heavy metal in general?
This album is groovy, one dimensional, has tons of attitude, and is exactly every word which appears on the cover: a vulgar display of power. Phil sounds like he can kick some ass because he actually could kick some serious ass. If you do some research, there is a famous story about Phil kicking an entire band's ass in a public bar because some dudes were messing with his friend. I seen Phil on this tour, and he was stronger than all. You felt it anywhere in the room, no matter how big. Phil was one of us, and he made sure we knew it. I witnessed it on many occasions. Phil was as real a front man as you could find at this point. And the old school thrashers who were stuck in 1985 couldn't stand to watch a new generation rise and see their own era eclipsed. Hey, the world keeps turning. If the younger folks get inspired and create something new and exciting, don't hate it just because it's new. Hate it because it sucks. And I'm sorry to say this album is far from suck.
Let's talk about groove..."Mouth for War" is a completely heavy duty Sabbath/thrash marriage made in hell. This is before nu metal and it's during the Primus funk/thrash era. Who cares right? Well anyway, "Mouth for War" is a flat out Tony Iommi god riff on steroids. Yeah, it's fucking repetitive. So is "Iron Man." What the fuck do you want, a fucking prog metal album? Monster riff + man eating tone + repetition = the foundation of metal's best/heaviest songs. And here is another one of the best. The album never stops for a second. This is a completely realized vision, and damn, it's a beautiful thing. This album is so obviously inspired and so obviously just fell right out of these guys because they had some actual "metal magic" going on at the time that is a rare, rare thing these days and even back then. It's so consistent it's like every song is a chapter of the same book, which might as well be called "I'm gonna tear your head off and shit down yer neck." Yeah, it's fucking repetitive. About as repetitive as a severe beat down of the biggest asshole in the world. Every hit is like a triumph. Every scream is spit in the face of everyone who thought we were behind the times for digging Metal in 1991. I'm sorry Mr 80s Exodus fan. I'm sorry "Force of Habit" sucked. But it's not Pantera's fault buddy.
"By Demons be Driven" is just a random song I can pick out and anyone who says that riff is not god is a fucking retard. Nu metal came after Pantera. Pantera was never "nu metal." Sure, they probably inspired some of it in hindsight, but Machine Head and Biohazard milked the cliches pretty obviously, while Pantera just did their thing and it happened to fit with what a bunch of meat heads wanted to embrace. Doesn't make this album any less valid or awesome. Once upon a time, Metal grooved pretty fucking hard (Deep Purple? Sabbath? UFO?). The way Pantera did it at this point, was dead-on the way to modernize it, yet honor it. Dimebag knew the blues well, while most bands missed it completely. Blues is the key to making groove work in metal without insulting it. It was later that clueless copycats would bastardize it into that horrible suburb look/sound which lacks all of the conviction and spirit contained in this album.
"Vulgar" blew Pantera up and basically was the beginning of the end for me personally, with this band. However, I will always maintain that this is a complete metal classic and contains every quality of a classic album. Not to mention it was made at a time when it was extremely hard to find a truely awesome, fresh sounding new thrash metal album. It deserves every millimeter of credit it gets in the annals of history, even if it is complete poser nu metal wanna be jar heads who most commonly praise it.
To summarize: This is a complete statement executed with absolute conviction and attitude. It's a band captured at the peak of their musical existence at the time where they were most valid. This was the new era of metal, flat out. It brought back the hardcore/punk attitude, but also brought the raw groove of 70s bluesy hard rock, though a bit down underneath. Dimebag's solos had so much style it was rediculous. All meat, no salad. This album is like a truck going 110 on the freeway. You better hop on or get outta the way. You can analyze it all day and night and you can love it or hate it. But it will crush you if you don't get out of the way. It's a force to be reckoned with in metal, and if you can't deal with that for whatever silly personal reasons, please take your baggage and drop it on Lars Ulrich's lawn, not Phil Anselmo's.
Pantera's "Vulgar Display Of Power" is one of the most controversial releases in the whole metal genre and recently got some fresh popularity with the release of the track "Piss" that didn't make it on the original album and was released twenty years later as a single years after the band split up. This is an occasion to take a look on this famous record again as there will be a new edition coming out quite soon.
This album has nothing to do with the band's early glam rock music or the thrash metal genre and is a rather straight record with some hardcore and groove metal influences. The guitar riffs go in your face but sound one dimensional and the same patterns always come back and lack of surprises. The bass guitar sound is rather inoffensive but has a few good moments on this release at least. The drumming is fast and technically accurate but the sound is not professional at all and sometimes it feels as if you were listening to the table tennis finals in China or a broken drum computer instead of an actually gifted drummer that plays on a real kit. The vocals are aggressive and dominated by angry shouts that bring the offensive lyrics to life but they lack of any other emotion than this. The final result sounds like a mixture of groove metal tracks, hardcore bashing passages and some grunge worship in a few calmer moments. The lyrics are simple and seem to be written by a bunch of angry kids that get mad about anything and felt like using as many swear words as they could find. The most redundant example might be the infamous "Fucking Hostile" as you might have guessed from its title.
A couple of tracks from this record rose to fame, for example "Walk". The track is still played in any hard rock discotheque or in a track list of any metal festival in the whole wide world during the shows of the different bands. The lyrics are very one dimensional and childish, the riff is boring and the track lacks of surprises. I don't get warm with this groove track at all but must admit that it has a catchy flow and won't easily get out of your mind once you've heard it. It's the same thing for the shallow ballad "Hollow" that sounds rather like a grunge track than a metal anthem but even this failed epilogue has something addicting somehow and I must give the band some credit for get a maximum of success with a minimum of ideas.
The only track I truly appreciate on this record is "This Love". The sudden changes between calm and psychedelic passages and the angry chorus is predictable but effective and the contrast works very well while the other tracks only focus on the aggressive or the psychedelic side. This kind of music has a certain kind of vision and is a hint at the sound of modern alternative rock music around bands such as System Of A Down who would later base their sound on these kinds of contrasts. My second favourite track is indeed the new bonus song "Piss" that has some minimalistic but effective changes of style between slow groove passages, faster parts dominated by a catchy and melodic riff and a change of drum patterns even though the sound of these drums is still a disaster and hasn't been changed in twenty years. Even the bass guitar is audible and the middle part adds another dose of energy to this catchy song that should have made it on the regular record without a doubt. Anybody who likes the original record will adore this new tracks as even those like me who didn't appreciate the original album much are able to recognize the hit potential of this solid effort. Apart from these two songs plus the shallow but catchy "Walk" and "Hollow", the record is though not quite spectacular and also fails to grow.
In the end, we have a quite consistent record that has a coherent flow with some catchy and emotional moments. On the other side, the music has been adapted to the trends of its time and remains a superficial mixture of hardcore, groove metal and grunge with some worn out thrash riffs. Anyway, people may still discuss about this album in the next twenty years to come and that's why it has such a special status that not many other records have. This controversial energy is what makes this album so strong and this is what it's all about. From a subjective point of view, I might only give a forty percent rating but from a more objective point of view, this unforgettable record is easily worth eighty percent and I decided to choose the middle path of neutrality. Try this record out at your own risk but you should at least listen to this once to get an idea of what everybody's always talking about and what made Pantera so famous along side the record "Cowboys from Hell" that you might also check out while the rest of the band's discography is more or less forgettable.
Today, February 21, 2012, is the 20th anniversary of one of the most divisive albums in metal history: Pantera's Vulgar Display of Power. On the one hand, it's almost universally acclaimed as the band's greatest work, and one of the most influential albums in metal history. Outside the core metal audience, that is. You can predict with near-certainty that any casual metalhead over 25 has a copy in his collection. But the more outspoken, critically-minded metalheads hate it with near-unanimity. Metalheads on the whole are pretty well divided.
Much of the hatred toward the album is based on what it's not, rather than what it is. The band's prior record, Cowboys from Hell, is reasonably well-loved among metalheads. It's a good example of thrash, with hints of the band moving toward groove metal. But Vulgar is clearly not a thrash metal album. Yet, you'll see many reviews call it a terrible thrash album. That's like ripping on a pickup truck because it doesn't get gas mileage like a compact. It doesn't make any sense.
Perhaps more prevalent is the hatred directed at Vulgar precisely because of its influence. The stripped-down, simplified, slowed-down approach hasn't been seen as bringing Sabbath back into metal (which would be a perfectly legitimate opinion) but instead as ushering in nu metal, and the bad groove metal of the late 90's. The vocal style and mosh-readiness of the music is blamed for the tough-guy posturing of metalcore bands like Hatebreed or hard rock bands like Drowning Pool. But plenty of great albums have led to terrible imitators. It doesn't make any sense to tear down Thergothon just because there are bad funeral doom bands out there.
Taken on its own terms, Vulgar Display of Power is an adrenaline rush that will pump up your blood like few others. Even the ballads, "Hollow" and "This Love", have crushingly heavy and aggressive parts. Yes, I said crushingly heavy, because at the time this was one of the heaviest records ever released. The songs are infectious, too. Who doesn't at least occasionally want to sing along to the "Don't fuck with this" in "Regular People (Conceit)"? And how could you not get into "By Demons Be Driven", which has what is easily one of the greatest choruses in metal history?
It's deceptively simple, like Sabbath. But each and every song on it is loaded with dynamism. Riffs change often, and with little warning. Tempos and moods range from headbanging thrash to depressing ballad to mosh-ready hardcore, often within the same song. The questionably-legendary Dimebag Darrell also imbued each song with his own touches, the pinch harmonics, squeals, and some great solos.
Dynamism and great songwriting are what set it apart from its many imitators. But Vulgar isn't perfect, by any means. "Walk" has a silly riff, and for the life of me I can never figure out why people cite it as a highlight. "No Good (Attack the Radical)" isn't great, either. But the great stuff here is really, really great.
So, it's not what people expected. That's how you make your mark. Well, Pantera made their mark, and it will be remembered for a long time.
The Verdict: Twenty years later, Vulgar Display of Power still holds up well. It's one of the most influential metal albums of all time, with some of their followers good, but most of them bad. But most importantly, it's got plenty of adrenaline-pumping shout-along anthems for those moments when you need it.
(originally written for http://fullmetalattorney.blogspot.com/)
There are a handful of bands out there in the metal world that are particularly divisive; people tend to either love them or hate them. Pantera is one of those bands. What exactly causes a band to gain such a rabid following and a merciless wake of naysayers? In Pantera's case, it was the attitude of the band members and the music they created, and the subsequent influence they would have on heavy metal music.
Vulgar Display is all about attitude. If you wanted to break down what the message and feel of it are at the roots, it's about saying "fuck you" and punching someone you hate in the face. To make it perfectly clear, this is depicted on the album's front cover. Really, the cover is perhaps the most simplistic way to sum up the album's contents. Vulgar Display is the soundtrack to punching someone in the face. But is that a good thing or a bad thing? Really, it's all about your tastes. I, for one, think the cover is hilarious and love how it's so forthright about what is to be found on the disc contained inside.
The music varies widely in tempo and composition. There are a few passages that are clearly meant to be slower and atmospheric. Much of the rest of the album is absolutely blistering. The shift in Pantera's sound from their previous effort Cowboys from Hell is apparent from the very beginning. Cowboys was an eclectic but nonetheless catchy and overall heavy album. Vulgar Display takes the sound from Cowboys and cuts out the remaining traces of glam influence, replacing them with ferocity. Many years after first hearing this album and perhaps one hundred times listening to it since then, there is one word that still sticks with me to describe it: fierce.
In total seriousness, this album is ferocious. The anger and frustration is absolutely palpable. Phil's vocals are very memorable, whether you like them or not. They're mostly shouted, as they would be on a thrash record, but they have a much stronger delivery than one would expect from a thrash group and they border on screams. That's not to mention the several times that Phil actually does scream, all of which are executed quite well. The vocals are the source of much of the album's attitude, and in that vein they are a tremendous success. Dimebag's guitar work is thunderous and unrelenting throughout, but he never gives up his characteristic twang - perhaps the most obviously southern influence apparent in Pantera's music. In the rhythm section, the bass and drums really hold the album together. There's nothing exceptional going on there, but the execution is nearly flawless. The production for the drums is probably my favorite out of all the instrumentation. It's very sharp, but in no way overshadows the rest of the group.
As for the songs themselves, they deal largely with issues of frustration, anger, and hate, which certainly seems appropriate given how blunt the album's cover is. The opening track, Mouth for War, is simply remarkable. Pantera wastes no time in getting directly to the point, within seconds of the album's start laying down the framework for what would become groove metal. The performance is sharp and strong, and the energy of it all is empowering. In particular, roughly the last fifty seconds of the song are absolutely pounding and drive with tremendous force. It closes with a bang, and one of my favorite riffs ever.
A New Level is also fantastic, featuring a simple but effective main riff and generally outstanding guitar work. Dimebag puts on a great show of technical work and a great solo, as he is well-known for. No Good (Attack the Radical), Live in a Hole, and Regular People (Conceit) are also excellent exhibitions of Dimebag's abilities. Live in a Hole, in particular, is one of the most memorable songs from the album because of how bizarre and non-conventional it is. Regular People has a superb into section that I've found myself wanting to listen to again and again for years now. Furthermore, the lyrics are catchy and hilarious, featuring Phil seriously insulting the integrity of some unspecified nemesis, informing him that he doesn't have the balls and that his head is up his ass. It may be considered immature, but maturity is not the point of this music.
On the slower side, the album features two "ballads": This Love, in the middle of the album, and Hollow as the closing track. Both of them have sections of more atmospheric and aesthetic work, along with passages of clean vocals, which contrasts with the rest of the album. This Love is notable for the contrasting vocal sections and more so for the breakdown. It's perhaps the most simple breakdown ever recorded, but it's heavy as hell and incredibly effective. Hollow is worthy of discussion because it's easily the most serious and mature song to be found here, the lyrical subject matter dealing with an emotionally shattered and distanced friend. Once more, an outstanding vocal performance from Phil can be found here, but what I remember the most is how fierce the song's latter half sounds. It's unpleasant to the ear in the most strangely satisfying way, and the fade out at the end is almost what I would describe as eerie. It really sticks with me.
Fucking Hostile, along with Rise, are the song's most unrelenting and heavy tracks. The delivery is ferocious for both of them. The only reason the album loses any points from me is that those two tracks, along with the overrated Walk and the odd By Demons be Driven can get somewhat tiresome. Outside of that, though, I really don't feel that the album has any flaws. Good, bad, or indifferent, it has had immense influence on the development of heavy metal in the past twenty years, and that cannot be denied. Don't hate it for what it spawned - love it for what it is.
For some time now, I havn't felt overly compelled to pen any opinions about this album, or anything that Pantera did between 1992-1994. Both "Vulgar Display of Power" and "Far Beyond Driven" were albums that I wasn't incredibly fond of even when I listened to Pantera on regular occasion. Having heard the better side to this band's creative process on "Cowboys from Hell" and "The Great Southern Trendkill," and some extent their late 80's material, I knew what Pantera could do when they set their minds to it.
I decided to reverse my previous decision and pen some lines about this particular album. My views aren't firmly planted with either the usual Pantera bashing crowd nor the usual Pantera worshippers crowd. I don't really see "Vulgar Display of Power" as a monumental effort worthy of its classic status and recognition by the media, nor is it really the worst thing that metal has ever concieved, probably far from it. Instead, I would agree that Pantera took a serious gamble in expanding their sound here. Some have said this expansion and change in songwriting style was a mad gamble for radio success, which might hold some ground. However, considering their varying changes over the course of the 90's and considering even their diehard fans reject "The Great Southern Trendkill" as their weakest album might put a heavier focus on merely a change in musical direction. A rather poorly planned and poorly executed change in direction, but an honest one nonetheless.
Coming off the thrash/power/groove hybrid works of "Cowboys From Hell," I will be the first to admit that this album is complete step down in terms of quality. For one, the riffs are limited as was/is common in the American groove metal (post-thrash) genre which this album firmly belongs to. Second, Phil Anselmo's once majestic Rob Halford tribute vocals have now been changed drastically to that of a militaristic bark, or "tough guy" shouts as some prefer to call them. This leads to an obvious departure of both the power metal and thrash metal tendencies of the previous album, and replaces both will similiarities closer to that of a more metallic version of the early 90's hardcore scene.
Since this album's track list has been analyzed numerous times by now, I won't go into a complete track by track breakdown. "Mouth for War" is a good opener, definitely setting the tone for the majority of the album which is based on the heavy groove. There is a little speed metal influence tacked onto the end, but it doesn't really add much to the song as a whole. "Rise" manages to flesh out some speed metal ideas, and it should come as no surprise that the song is one of the best off this release. "This Love" provides some interesting moments that contrast one another, eventually going on to mesh relatively well from the creepy but tranquil sections to the usual post-thrash metal style displayed elsewhere on this album. "Hollow" also echoes this to a degree, although it can be broken down in a more simplistic manner as a half-ballad, with the ballad at the beginning and the usual Pantera coming at the second half.
Unfortunately, there is a copious supply of throwaway tracks here that represent underdeveloped songs, which also became a characteristic of the bands who became influenced by Pantera. "Walk" and "No Good (Attack the Radical)" are all too obvious examples of this, the former as a five minute borefest with very little of interest going on and the latter with its quasi-rap spoken word sections that probably influenced some of the rapcore acts that would follow in succeeding years. None of the other songs here are quite as offensive as those two, but none of them are really anything of interest, either.
Before I enter my concluding statements, I would like to address one reason for contempt that many have used. This charge that many hurdle towards this album is that it should be scoffed upon solely for influencing nu-metal. Well, I don't have any real doubt that Korn's first album did carry some degree of influence from what Pantera and other groove outfits were up in that time period. These accusations, while somewhat true, are frequently handed out without taking other similar instances into account. However, I can't seem to find anyone who is willing to bash Suffocation or Carcass for influencing Job For A Cowboy and the subsequent wave of deathcore bands, despite that influence being all too obvious in their music. Nor could I find anyone to criticize Sleep or Kyuss for influencing retro hipster bands like The Sword. Its more or less a convienent but empty point to make since disliking a band simply for superficial issues like their audience or what music they influenced is pointless.
So, it seems my overall opinion of this album doesn't differ too much from its other detractors. This is made even more clear because I still enjoy some of Pantera's music from time to time but generally avoid this album and "Far Beyond Driven" altogether. I wouldn't call it excruiatingly bad, as I have heard worse but its not something I'd go on to place on a pedestal. There are better Pantera albums to be heard, particularly "Cowboys from Hell" and "The Great Southern Trendkill," so I'd advise those curious check in either one of those two releases. If one must seek out this album, then I'd advise checking for this "classic" in the bargain bin.
This album is terrible. I'm not going to be subtle about this point. Pantera is something that can only be compared with child rape, spousal abuse, and a rising infant mortality rate. They are far beyond abysmal and a vulgar display of trailer park mentality. The last album might've been just bad in that normal way, like say you're sandwich wasn't too good because the bread was stale and the meat was old. Vulgar Display of Power is like being forced to eat a sandwich consisting only of cow shit and menstrual blood from aging goats.
Vulgar Display of Power is Pantera's first official album. As we all know they started off as a horrendous glam band that no one liked . They released albums featuring such fabulous songs like Ride My Rocket (get the reference there?), Metal Magic, Heavy Metal Rules, and Hot N' Heavy. For some unknown reason, they never made it with those songs of epic prose. The band decided they needed a change. So they kicked out "pussy" Terrence Glaze (that's the worst stage name ever) and picked up "tuff guy" Phil Anselmo. They miraculously got "meaner" and "heavier". Well not really, but they convinced a lot of shitheads they did. Their first album with Herr Anselmo wasn't horrible, definitely their best, but by no means a classic. But no one bought the album and it was later deemed to be not "badass" enough. But soon they got a major label deal and an Exhorder demo in the mail, so Pantera were finally ready to claim they actually recorded the next album coming out. The next album was a sad attempt to mix brain-dead thrash with southern boogie. Harlequin fetuses would be fitting allusions to the results. But remember that Exhorder demo? Guess who they ripped off on the next album?
Even though Cowboys From Hell was terrible, people are stupid and many bought the album. Feeling that the next logical step for Diamond (he wasn't dimebag or dirtnap yet) Darrell and co decided to get even meaner and heavier. So they decided to listen to Exhorder's first album, take the vocals, riffs, and drumming style; but drop the Slaughter in the Vatican credo, the complex song structures, and the varying tempos and wah-la: Vulgar Display of Power. Oh yeah, they also weren't able to write coherent songs and added "i'm angry and I was raised in a single-wide muthafucka!" lyrics. Also every song sticks to an irritating mid-tempo groovestomp that even 2-year olds with downs can nod off to. An atrocity ensued.
Ever seen Gummo? Remember the redneck party that includes chair wrestling in a roach-filled kitchen? Well this music conjures that up to mind. The simple song structures that aren't much different from your standard hard rock of the time and Philip's attempts at being tough come off as well as your neighborhood wigger comes off at being ghetto. The riffs are bland and contrite. Take the most famous one from Walk. I think the sound my dish washer makes is more subtle and complex than that. Seriously it's the musical equivalent a beeping sound that you can't stop and have to endure for five minutes. Oh but remember: RE- SPECT- WALK(fuck you Anselmo). This Love has virtually no direction with the song reverting back to the acoustic part without any sense of progression. For seven minutes it's acoustic, ANGRY PART, acoustic, ANGRY PART, diamond noodling. It also boasts the worst lyrics on this piece of shit. "As it turns out/Deeper within me/ Love was quickly twisted/and pointed at you." "You keep this love, fist, scar, break" (what?) Fucking Hostile is a fucking trainwreck with the guitars, vocals, and drums all sounding out of sync and trying to keep up with the others in pace. A fast-paced track that falls flat on its face. People who like this album don't even care about the second side of it, so neither should you. The complete lack of any inspiration is astounding on those songs. The rest of the music would be perfect for Ford Truck commercials. That big, bad gasguzzling machine needs some Neanderthals from Dallas to provide the soundtrack. One more thing, I don't give a shit how good Dimebag's leads are, nothing can save these songs from the pit of musical inferiority.
Thanks to this album other bands with even worse music were able to make a career by applying the formula found herein. Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Slipknot took the simplified and artificially heavy riffing and sold millions. The first roots of Deathcore can be traced to Vulgar. Disturbed loved that beeping sound on Walk so much that that they covered it. Pantera were claimed to be the defenders of metal in the 90s, but they were really the Judas Iscariots. Ripping off a genuine heavy metal band like Exhorder that didn't start out as a glam band and had no chance of mainstream success and watering it down so much that it could be theme music for monster truck rallies and inbred hillbilly hoedowns is inexcusable. Grunge might've killed metal in the mainstream in the 90s, but Pantera did irrevocable damage to the genre as a whole. Every genre that elitists love to hate (nu-metal, metalcore, and to an extent melodic death metal) owes a huge debt to Pantera. Pantera is the reason that the majority of people think that metal must be for semi-literate morons only.
Vulgar Display of Power is to the metal community as AIDS is to the gay community. There is nothing else to be said.
Pantera. The mere utterance of this word among a group of metalheads can either spawn a multitude of comments of how they were awesome, amazing etc... or it could do the opposite and invoke the wrath of many anti-Pantera metalheads. Most Pantera fans point out Vulgar Display of Power as the high point of their career, where they finally shed all all their melody in favor of a more straight forward and “tough” sound. Detractors of this album claim the exact opposite. They believe that this is the album where Pantera “sold out” etc... going as far as to claim that this album “killed thrash.” Honestly speaking, that is probably the most hilarious thing I've ever read in my entire life. An album killing an entire genre? Give me a break. I'm not going to dwell on that further, though. This IS a review of an album, after all.
Before I continue, I must confess that there was a time when I hated this album with a passion. This was one of the first metal albums I heard after being introduced to the genre via Iron Maiden, and I hated it. It took me more than 2 years to fully grasp what this album was about, and why it could be so highly praised by the “metal press.”
On Vulgar Display of Power, Pantera set out to push their newly discovered sound further into uncharted territory. In order to do develop your sound and define a genre, it is imperative that you shed some of the “excess baggage.” Slayer did that with “Reign In Blood”, Anthrax did that with “Among the Living.” Hell, even Iron Maiden did that in “The Number of the Beast”. Pantera did the same here; they discarded a lot of the things that made Cowboys From Hell what it was. They weren't “selling out” here, they were simply pushing their sound further, pushing the groove metal sound further. The riffs are no doubt simpler and the tempo is definitely slower, but I ask why is that a problem? The same people that worship Black Sabbath songs like “The Wizard” and “Evil Woman” hate the songs like “Walk.”
With the exception of the aforementioned song, the songs here aren't exactly very catchy. Being catchy was probably the last thing on the band's mind when they were recording this album. The songs on this album are the complete opposite of what the masses' concept of “catchy” is. The songs here are extremely hard to get into and understand, but they are extremely good at doing something else. VDoP focuses on the slow outtake of aggression, as silly as it may sound. The simple riffs, coupled with Anselmo's hate filled (yet somewhat irritating) screaming (death metal vocals? Hah!) creates a genuinely crushing atmosphere. While thrash metal bands usually featured fast songs with a no-holds-barred approach on their albums, Pantera did the opposite, while at the same time using (simplified) thrash metal riffs. Not all the songs are slow, though. There are two notable up-tempo tracks here, “Rise” and “Fucking Hostile”, and the position of the tracks couldn't have been better. I don't know any better way to describe the effect it has on the overall sound, so I'll describe it this way: conserve-conserve-conserve-ATTACK!-conserve-conserve-ATTACK!
A lot of the riffs here are the usual “chug-chug” riffs but they often make way for an infectious groove to slip into the music, which succeeds at drawing an unaware listener further into the music. The first two songs and the second-to-last track show this aspect of the music very well. The drums are extremely simple, and a little more variation and a better overall performance would have contrasted well with the riffs. I don't have much to say about the solos, because I don't know an awful lot about guitar solos and that stuff, but I seem to enjoy them, so yeah.
The two main problems I have with this album is that 1.) Anselmo's vocals are extremely irritating at times, but I think that with enough patience most people would be able to get used to it. And 2.) The bass is hardly audible, and can only be heard when Dimebag releases one of his earth shattering solos, which is a real pity because the bass could have really added to the crushing tone of this album.
Overall, this album is probably the best album Pantera have ever released. It's extremely consistent, and shits on most groove metal albums. This album is not a thrash metal album, so if you listen to this expecting a truckload of riffs and fast songs, you're going to be extremely disappointed. This is a groove metal album, and hence should be treated as one. And considering that this is a groove metal album, it's damn good.
I can tell you with utmost confidance that this is the EXACT point where Pantera sold out. Cowboys From Hell was great, despite the obvious direction it was heading in. I remember I used to listen to this and Far Beyond Driven when I was 14, and I thought it was the heaviest thing around. After less than a year, it grew old. I discovered death metal and black metal, started listening to true thrash as well, and this sounded fake by comparison. I will maintain that Pantera have only done 2 good albums, and they were Power Metal and Cowboys From Hell. Everything else blew balls because it was too commercial.
I'm sure you know what the music sounds like, but if you don't, it's basically a tuff guy shouting over dull groove riffs and dumbed down drumming. The bass is inaudible, and I'm sure Rex was only there for the money. Gone are the searing riffs, gone are the ear piercing screams, and gone is the double bass heavy drumming of the past.
Lots of people claim this is where Pantera got good, and will hail this and Far Beyond Driven as the pinnacle of Pantera's thrash. Well, first off, this isn't thrash. It's thrashy, but do not confuse thrashy with thrash. Slipknot is thrashy, but they are not thrash by any stretch of the imagination (nor are they metal, as you all know.) This is a member of a genre I have grown to hate, groove metal. Everybody knows how many thrash bands quit innovating and quit shredding when it ceased to be cool to do so and started grooving. Grooving is a code word for writing uninspired one string riffs that are fun to play for a few seconds while you're fucking around in a jam session, but are pretty much useless for anything else.
Now, I will devote a special section of this to Walk. FUCK THAT SONG. The most overplayed, overrated, and shitty song Pantera ever made. At least on future releases they managed to have SOME kind of complexity. This is 0-0-1-0-0-0-1-0-0-0-1-0-0 repeat. That's not a riff. That's dinking around on the lowest string. That's numetal territory. Even Got The Life by Korn has a better riff than that. And the drumbeat is no worse. Unlike, say, Stengah by Meshuggah, where it's excusable because the drumming saves it, the drumming does no such service here. Here it's all basic 6/8 stuff even a novice could do. What really pisses me off about this whole affair is that I KNOW Darrell Abbott and co. are clearly capable of better. I know Vinnie Abbott can drum better, or at least catchier beats, I know Darrell Abbott can come up with better riffs, and I KNOW Phil Anselmo is capable of better singing than this. This is that strained "tuff guy" singing that everybody from Trivium to Annihilator does nowadays, and it's such a shit way of singing. If you're gonna sing, sing right. If you're gonna growl, growl. But don't do this halfsies shit. Such a fucking waste of talent.
Now that I'm through ranting about Walk, that above paragraph pretty much applies to the whole album. Oversimplistic shit riffs, oversimplistic shit singing, oversimplistic shit drumming, and inaudible bass that might as well be oversimplistic and shit. Notice a common theme here? I have never seen such an outbreak commercialis selloutus before or so clearly defined. They clearly traded good riffs and good songs for fame and fortune. Maybe they decided that it took too much effort to write good songs, so they decided to halfass it. While this isn't nu-metal, it so clearly influenced nu-metal that it might as well be nu-metal, much as how although Iron Maiden weren't power metal, they so clearly influenced power metal to such a high degree they might as well be power metal. The only difference is that power metal is fucking awesome, and nu-metal is fucking shit. So guess where that puts post-cowboys Pantera? That's right, in the fucking used bin.
Guess what I did with Far Beyond Driven and Vulgar Display of Power? I sold them at Rasputin for a combined amount of 11 bucks, and bought a gram of weed and a bluntwrap with that money. And you know what? Even though I'm clean now and am in Narcotics Anonymous, I must say that 11 bucks was much better spent on grass, who's effects only lasted me a few hours, than the twenty something odd bucks combined I spent on those terrible CD's.
Allow me to point out something that I think very few people are aware of. The word "vulgar" meaning crude or obscene is something of an evolution. Though archaic, the word can mean "common". This was it's original meaning. It's not hard to imagine how amongst the upper class, things that were "common" and "crude" were viewed as one in the same. It's also not hard to imagine that they'd bear the same general negative connotation.
That said, the title of this album is incredibly ironic. Pantera is a band that produced nothing in their career but imitation pseudo-thrash yet were hailed as legendary for absolutely no reason that anyone can come up with any semblance of an excuse for. The irony of the word "vulgar" in the title, is the fact that they are the ultimate generic, faceless band. For the common kind of folks who would be considered casual metal fans. If such a thing existed. But it doesn't. I don't know anyone who owns this album, and a Venom album - enough said.
My point is: It's not unusual to find a "common" teenage male, i.e. one who does not listen to metal, listening to this album. It has the rare distinction of being so bland that it can somehow appeal to any ordinary person. It is vulgar. It's tailor fit for any angsty male to relate to this on some vague, juvenile and generic level.
But anyway, the music - the fathomlessly awful, unlistenable music:
The band's sound is comprised almost entirely of two things: a very transparent, bland influence, being Metallica (with a touch of Black Sabbath), and a style they stole, yet take credit for, the sound of Louisianna thrashers Exhorder. Prior to hearing Exhorder and deciding to rip their sound off, Pantera played glam metal.
The production on this album is obnoxiously crisp, and the guitar tone is passable at best. There is approximately two thrash riffs on this album, both of which would be on Mouth For War. Again, a good deal of the riffs are rearranged Metallica and Black Sabbath riffs (Irony: two of the most "commonly” recognized metal bands). The rest borrow the rhythmic riffs and vocal approach of Exhorder. Exhorder was good, not great, but at least they were actually thrash. This contains too much groovy and sluggish parts, with much too passive vocals.
The vocals are far and away one of the worst parts of this ridiculous excuse for thrash. It's clear to see that many less than favorable styles of music were influenced by this, namely tough guy hardcore and nu-metal. That is precisely what these vocals are. Weak, fringe vocals - wanting to put up the facade of aggression, but making it moderately clean, lest the mainstream wouldn't accept it. Sometimes just shy of Kurt Cobain other times sounding like a poor man's version of James Hetfeild. Occasionally distortion is exploited to feign harshness (such as in "Fucking Hostile") In a couple of songs Phil even attempts to sing. It's really embarrassing, off key, and 120% cheesy. Absolutely unlistenable, but then again, so are the rest of the vocals. Generally speaking, it is rare to find music that is actively bad, and in actuality - unlistenable. Some unlistenable bands are those that try much too hard to be different or sonically offensive (pick any retarded bedroom black metal project or absurd avant-garde band) However, a lot of music, under any genre is mostly made up of people imitating greater bands, and doing it well enough that they can't be god awful - and the irony again here is that Pantera are complete music thieves yet manage to completely fail in every conceivable aspect, yet still earn endless praise.
For being one of the most revered guitarists in mainstream "metal", Darrel Abbott certainly seems to be missing an assortment of things required to make a great guitarist. His tone is unbearably overproduced, far too trebly and not particularly very heavy. The solos are nonsensical, and aimless. He runs through two octaves of a scale, does a divebomb and everyone's impressed. It's not that 1992's standards were much (if any) lower than they are today. I really don't get it. The riffs are just inane. Daft. Goofy. Impotent. Inept. Boring. There aren't enough demeaning words in the English language to fully express how poor these riffs are. Some riffs are one chord played in a dull rhythm. Abbott manage to take Metallica, Black Sabbath and Exhorder riffs, slap them together and make them completely bland, and harmless. Legendary guitarists are normally so deemed because of innovation (Jimi Hendrix) or technical prowess (Yngwie Malmsteen) - neither of whom do I take much of a liking to, but I can certainly understand their popularity, especially among guitarists. But what did Abbott do? He's certainly not innovative in the least, and his technical prowess hardly extends beyond any given guitarist with a decent amount of chops. Pick a country, and I'll give you 10 bands that were playing way better, more innovative stuff in 1992.
The song No Good features a spoken word part that sounds better suited for a jazz song. And the lyrics - another defining point of this band. Boorish, lowbrow, and perfectly geared toward temperamental teenagers who are angry that they're parents wouldn't buy them a new car. They mostly consist of themes about beating people up and how generally tough they are. The poster child for juvenile lyrics. Again, I'm pretty sure this influenced every tough guy hardcore band in the world. Not to mention Nu-metal. Just listen to the main riff of Walk - if that's not nu-metal, than Slipknot is the most brutal death metal band ever to grace the planet.
It would be one thing for the band to be as horrendous as they are - but to be so influential, and such obvious hacks - it's a travesty. How could such a completely worthless band become so popular and widely acclaimed? I could believe it's a conspiricy bigger than the JFK assassination, The Illuminati, Skull and Bones, Roswell and 9-11 combined. How else could I hope to explain that and still retain any sort of optimism toward humanity?
This music - and I use the word mildly - is a complete embarresment and a bad influence on popular music and culture. Literally, only two of these songs are even listenable - Rise and Mouth for War. Saying they’re listenable is by no means clearing them from the abysmal ceaspool that the rest of the album stews in. I would think one’s knowledge of metal would have to be infinitesemal to believe this band is worth a second of your time in the sea of bands that utterly obliterate this in every way, shape and form. You would have to know just as little about guitar playing to think Darrel Abbott is anything but a hack. Too often the term “unlistenable” or “unbearable” is thrown around, because here I truly mean it - I absolutely cannot make it through all but two songs on this album. This is one of the lowest points in the history of metal, and one of the worst albums I’ve ever heard.
According to Pantera, this is where they really starting to get “good”. However, this album is far from good, more to less decent. Most of it is a bunch of mediocre slowed down groove metal fueled by the “tough guy” image. By this time, all they really cared about was being tough popular which is hypocritical, considering that they claim to be “trend killers”. However, the album does have it’s moments. Fucking Hostile and Rise are really the only two awesome songs on this album. The formal is an extremely fast and aggressive thrash song that has some pretty good riffs, and the later having some pretty good riffs and drumming as well.
Mouth For War starts off pretty good with a nice opening riff. It starts to slow down though, when Phil starts singing. His new style of vocals, though they may be appear to be cool, and badass are just shitty. They being said, that’s the only really shit factor in this song. Everything else is pretty good. The solo is pretty cool, and drums fit in perfectly. The song really gets good towards the end when everything speeds up. The riffs are heavy as fuck! It’s a pretty good song. 8/10
A New Level isn’t really anything special though. Phil still sounds like shit, but at least the riffs are decent. The song is pretty boring though. Dimebag’s solo saves this song a little, but it’s still just average at best. 7/10
Walk is about poseurs, and how much they suck. However, they have no right to whine about poseurs when they’re pretty much poseurs themselves. Changing their style of music to appeal to the masses. Not to mention them ripping off of Exhorder’s The Law demo which was already stated earlier. The song is also pretty boring with average riffs. Overall, it’s just mediocre at best. 5/10
However, the album redeems itself a bit with the next song, Fucking Hostile. This song is aggressive thrash with an attitude. It has heavy riffs which will leave you head banging for a while. The solo kicks ass as well. It shows that this band still has the ability to be a pretty good band, it’s just that their image is more important to them than they’re music. This song is fucking hostile! 10/10
This Love is the first of the two ballads. At least Pantera is still good at performing ballads as this and Hollow are pretty damn good. They have both emotion and aggression. About the only reason why I’m not too crazy about this song is that it’s a little too angst driven for my taste. Phil mutters out “I’d kill myself for you.” Oh, poor you! If Phil didn’t have to fuck this song up with that whiny little “aaaahhhhhhh!!!!!” scream than I would’ve given this an 8 out of 10. At least the solo is good. 7/10
Rise is the other fast and aggressive song on here. It’s not quite as thrashy as Fucking Hostile, but it’s still heavy as fuck! The riffs and drumming are very fast and loud with an awesome solo towards the half way point. Too bad Phil’s vocals butcher this song a little, otherwise, I’d give it a 10/10. It’s still awesome though! 9/10
No Good (Attack The Radical), Live In A Hole, Regular People (Conceit), and By Demons Be Driven are all pretty horrible songs with annoying vocals, mediocre guitar work, and solos that are average at best. The solos are probably the only good factors in these songs. I really can’t find anything else that is good about any of these songs. They’re boring and repetitive, and Phil’s whiny and annoying singing certainly help any. Live In A Hole has a pretty annoying noise during the beginning of the song. I’m not sure if that was suppose to help them look tough or not. Oh, and Phil’s whispers sure are annoying as well. When an album has four or more filler tracks in a row like this, you really can’t expect it to be all that good. This is one of the reasons why I’ve been knocking this album so much.
No Good: 5/10
Live In Hole: 4/10
Regular People: 5/10
By Demons Be Driven: 4/10
The album closes off with another ballad called Hollow. This song is also very emotional, but not in the “OMG I HATE MYSELF!!!” kind of way which despite popular belief, isn’t “emo” at all. Anyway, the guitar work is good, and Phil’s vocals are pretty good here. He uses clear voice singing here which at least sounds better than those god awful “tough guy” vocals he mostly used on this album. The song speeds up and gets more aggressive towards the middle of the song. Overral, this song is pretty good, and is one of the better tracks on this album. 8/10
Overall, this album doesn’t exactly suck, but it’s not good either has it has a bunch of filler tracks, and annoying vocals. The album does have it’s moments though. I’m not even going to bother to listen to their later albums as judging by their ratings, are probably suck even more than this album did. I would recommend this for someone who is just getting into metal, and probably used to listen to shitty bands like Slipknot and Disturbed. In fact, this was one of the first real metal albums that I bought, and at the time, I really liked it, but grew out of it over time. However, Cowboys From Hell, and even their earlier glam albums piss on this one, in my opinion.
Pantera is an interesting band that surely cannot be generalized like any other. Their first albums were certainly not unique or special and were merely hair metal; the trend of the time. With Cowboys From Hell they changed their sound to fit the mainstream once again now that hair metal had begun fading away into obscurity. When Darrel Abbott was shot down while preforming with his false metal band, Damageplan, in 2004 his and Pantera's popularity skyrocketed overnight as scenester teenagers began to embrace him post-death.
Surely a band that is as popular as Pantera must be good, correct? No, this album is just a pathetic display of awful music that somehow gets called a classic metal album. Listening to another false metal band - Lamb of God or Slipknot perhaps - it is far easier to pick out the Pantera influence than in any real metal band. It is clear through the song titles and lyrics that Pantera is full of angst and merely wanted to try and appeal to the masses instead of trying to put any real thought in their music.
Every riff on this album sounds uninspired and almost like nu-metal. Abbott's solos are nothing special either, particularly on the song "Rise" which has one of the worst I have ever heard. Similarly all the other instruments do not fare well. Paul Abbott's drumming is dull and slow paced, doing nothing other than keeping time. Bass is audible but not exciting.
Anselmo's vocals are nothing great to be sure. Clearly the point of this album was to be "tough" and "brutal" as evidenced by his coarse yells and barks. The whole atmosphere of this sounds fake and is not believable, down to the point of being corny at times (Like on "Fucking Hostile").
So far I have only brushed on the weakest point of the album - That it seems completely artificial, fake, and dumb. The songs do not go anywhere, and all are extremely repetitive and get very boring after the first third or so. Normally the solos would help alleviate this a bit, but since they are also dull and boring they do not. I cannot see any real value behind this album; it only serves as face value entertainment that can be thrown away and never missed. Just who Pantera was trying to appeal to with this album is a mystery. It is also a clear rip off of the sound Exhorder created with "The Law" that was released earlier the same year.
Musically, Vulgar Display of Power is certainly competent. However it fails to excel in any areas at all, instead falling flat. I have seen this album placed high with thrash metal classics like Darkness Descends and Bonded by Blood. But this album is not thrash, it is not original, and it has little merit beyond what you hear at first.
Pantera are most known for their abrasive, ultra-heavy form of groove metal, most predominately displayed here. Sure, they didn't invent groove metal, but they popularized it for the masses and the dozens, if not hundreds, of imitators that would soon follow. Unfortunately for their imitators, the groove metal that they spawned on this album died with this album, and no other groove metal album would really go on to garner any serious respect in the metal community from this moment on.
First of all, this album isn't entirely groove metal. Some leftover Cowboys from Hell style thrash shows its face in tracks like "Fucking Hostile" and "Rise," and it makes them easily among the album's best tracks. The rest of the heaviness on this album is derived from the introduction of Pantera's soon to be signature groove riffing. And to be honest, I don't really mind it here. "Mouth for War" hits hard and fast, mixing some thrash riffing with groove riffing to make for a pretty heavy, pretty cool song. The best thing about this song is that one of the guys at Id Software ripped off the verse riff in MIDI form and included it in one of the levels of their legendary first-person shooter DOOM (I think they ripped off "Rise" too). Seemingly irrelevant, but for me, that sends my nostalgia meter off the charts. The most well known groove metal song of all time, "Walk," is included here, but I actually like it. There's something about it's simplicity, especially since it's the first song of its kind that I ever heard, that makes it cool. The groove metal formula is clearly working well here, but I promise you, by the end of the album, you'll be convinced that's it died here as well. The second half of the album just gets tedious and old, with a bunch of unmemorable filler songs. Fortunately, it closes on a high note. The second power ballad of sorts is here. "Hollow" is magnificent and reminiscent of the mighty "Cemetary Gates" in its fusing of great clean riffing, meaningful lead work, and some powerful riffing. Unlike the earlier power ballad, "This Love," which is the first sign of this album's inherent shittiness.
There's a lot of great, or at least decent, riffing on this album, but the guitar solos are one of its highlights. Every song gets A-list lead guitar treatment by Dimebag, from the classics to the most banal of the groove metal dregs. Everyone else does a decent job as well. The drumming and bass work are spot on, so I can't really form any complaints against them. The vocals, however, have clearly deteriorated from Cowboys from Hell. There's only a few moments where Phil actually sings, and even fewer moments when his screaming is tolerable. Again, it sounds cool at first, but by album's end, it becomes unbearable. And while the lyrics are okay here, every album after this one features shittier and shittier ones.
What we have here is a highly overrated album, glorified more for its aggression and badassness than for its musical substance. This abrasive deconstruction of the once formidable Pantera would only continue as their albums went on, making this look far better by comparison, but it's still no masterpiece, by any means. Oh, and the cover art, while sort of brutal, is in no way the best picture of a guy getting his face destroyed by a fist. Check out Anthrax's Fistful of Metal to see and hear what a great metal album should look and sound like. At best, Vulgar Display of Power has its moments. At worst, it, along with Far Beyond Driven, influenced an entire generation of moshcore/groove metal bands that continue to plague the metal scene to this day. You might feel inclined to avoid it on principle, but at the end of the day, it's really not that bad.
Back in the year 1992, the musical world was essentially collapsing down onto itself, as the recording industry was reveling in its newly found ability to completely destroy a musical scene and then rebuild it as it saw fit. Nearly everyone I’ve debated on the fall of metal in the early 90s say the same thing, “it was inevitable”. Bullshit! Things are only inevitable when no one stands up and acts in opposition to what is happening. The fall of metal back into the underground that it came raging out of back in the late 70s was brought about not just by the disease of “Grunge”, but also by the willing submission to that takeover by bands like Pantera.
The question revolving around how Pantera could have helped in destroying metal is the concept of “The Groove”. Many have alluded to this in reviewing both this album and the ones that came after it, all of which were piles of crap that happened to be sugar-coated with some amazing guitar soloing. Essentially when music grooves, it doesn’t go anywhere, we don’t get change ups, we don’t get contrast, we simply get the groove. We don’t get intricate riffs, we don’t get soaring banshee screams and clean low vocals, we merely get the groove. We don’t get music: we don’t get art, WE GET THE FUCKING GROOVE!!!
The true nature of the groove is fully realized in only a small number of the tracks on here, the most blatant example being the pretentious and utterly terrible song “Walk”, but its presence is seen in nearly all the songs on here. To be fully forthcoming, I don’t despise the groove in itself, but I do if it interferes with the musical value of the album. This album bears almost no resemblance at all to “Cowboys from Hell” other than the guitar solos; it sounds like a third-rate punk band with Eddie Van Halen playing the lead tracks.
As much as I hate to say it, Pantera did something truly groundbreaking on this god awful release; they managed to completely piss away a great sound in favor of innovation gone haywire. This album, in its entirety, is probably one of the most blatant musical self-contradictions I’ve ever encountered. You’ve got amazing lead guitar work and drum work meshed with boring as all hell groove riffs and probably the worst attempt at death metal vocals I’ve ever heard. Phil Anselmo probably had the most versatile and powerful voices of the late 80s, and he would throw it all away on trying to sound like a dying bullfrog (which is the only thing he succeeds at).
Although this particular release has its share of stand out tracks that I can not only tolerate, but actually enjoy, they number a rather pathetic 5 out of 11. Out of these the obvious winner is the opener “Mouth for War”, which contains a solid set of thrash riffs and an amazing set of guitar solos. Phil Anselmo is not breaking the high ground as he was 2 years ago, but among the songs on here is voice is not overtly ridiculous, as is the case on many others. “Fucking Hostile”, despite having a rather stupid sounding title, is an amazing speed fest that actually reminds me a lot of the faster sections of Type O Negative’s “We hate everyone”. This is essentially high octane punk rock with a guitar player who actually has his shit together. Anselmo’s singing on here is fairly ridiculous, but it works well with the hyper speed guitar riffs and blast beats.
“This Love” has a nice quiet section with some somber low singing, reminding a lot of the softer sections of “Cemetery Gates”. The chorus is a bit repetitive, but the riffs are fairly solid and the solo is crazy as all hell. “Rise” kicks off with an amazing speed metal intro, and then settles into an up tempo set of thrash riffs. The lyrics are actually quasi-intelligent, and take some good shots at the education system. “Regular People (Conceit)” has a great set of introductory guitar riffs, which thankfully are not accompanied by Anselmo’s annoying ass grunts. The lyrics on this one are kind of stupid, but the singing mostly sounds like a decent James Hetfield impersonation, which has its redeeming qualities on a song like this.
Everything else on this album is skip-worthy, ranging from the 100% terrible to the mostly bad. “A New Level” has probably the most utterly boring introductory section, followed by a somewhat interesting faster section. Essentially the true killer of this track are the vocals, which are intelligible, but utterly hideous sounding. “No Good (Attack the Radical)” starts out with a decent riff, but as soon as the vocals kick in we have something that sounds like bad metalcore, loaded with quasi-rapped, quasi-screamed nonsense. The chorus is slightly less ridiculous, but still has the core sound to it. “Live in a Hole” has a nice guitar solo at the beginning, including some rather cool talk-box effects. However, the corrupting presence of both Anselmo’s dead frog vocals and the groove pretty much kill the body of the song.
“By Demons Driven” has a rather generic sounding intro riff, in addition to an out-of-tune unison bend that is probably where Korn got their inspiration for all of their music. We’ve got a good amount of groove on this one, with the occasional changes in feel which amount to nothing more than mindless meandering. “Hollow” has a nice acoustic line for the first half of the song, and I can actually tolerate Phil Anselmo’s voice because he is actually singing, although you can tell that he’s already blown out his higher range. However, the second half of the song sees the electric guitars kick in and the return of that fucking annoying groove.
However, the true viral corruption, the true reason why I hate this album as a whole, is the 5 minute plus groove-fest “Walk”. Back in 1993 this fucking song was all over the place, and even though I was a full-blown Kurt Cobain freak at the time, I couldn’t stand this song. It’s the same damned 3 notes banged out over and over for the first minute, and although we have some occasional held out power chords, like a bad habit the damned 3 note groove manages to worm its way into the verse, the pre-chorus, and the damned chorus. Truth be told, I don’t think there is a damned verse or chorus in this song, there is only the groove, it’s just there, grooving, not moving, just grooving.
The lyrics to this song are so utterly brainless and pretentious that they deserve to be satirized for the next century. “Re...spect….Walk….Are you talkin’ to me!”, what the hell are you singing about Phil? In my experience, when someone feels obligated to shout at the top of your lungs that you’re manly, there must be some question in the matter. To give you the brutally honest truth, as this album claims to be doing, if you want to prove your manhood you can do so by doing something with yourself. Grabbing a microphone and doing nothing but bragging about how much of a tough guy you are is the same as a whore grabbing one and boasting about how many guys she’s been nailed by.
Basically to sum up, this album underscores the pretentious angst that was on full display in nearly every mainstream act during the early to mid-90s. Although now the self-proclaimed “Dimebag” Darrel has not given up on shredding up some amazing solos, this is about the only thing that is remotely metal about this album, everything else here contains the building blocks of grade A mallcore, mostly of the Korn variety. The riffs are redundant and boring, save the exceptions that I noted previously. Furthermore, I’m probably going to piss off a lot of people by saying this, but Phil Anselmo’s vocals on this album and subsequent releases are more reminiscent of Fred Durst than they are of Charles Schuldiner. Did Pantera help usher in the generation of mallcore posers that we still hear about even today? It’s tough to say, but I suspect that their concession to the same groove style may have been a model for others.
In conclusion, I can not give this album my recommendation; it is a truly painful listen. If you really want to get a taste of the better parts of this album, go onto itunes and download “Mouth for War” or “Rise”. If you simply love Dimebag’s soloing and can stand a little bit of extreme S&M style pain, you may give this album a whirl, but definitely go for a used copy out of the bargain bin.
While it may not be quite as good as Pantera's rokkin' debut(eh, Rex?) this album kicks ass. In every sense of the expression. Every riff on this album are anger-fueled creations of heaviness created by none other than the late Dimebag fuckin' Darrell. Need I say anymore? Yes, but the mention of Dimebag Darrell alone should be a good indication that you need this album.
Walk was the first heavy song I'd ever heard. As a young Christian at the time, this very song set me straight for good. You don't hear a riff this heavy and churning(and simple too, but that's beside the pont) in some shitty Christian rock band and it's still one of my favorite riffs today. After I heard this song I purchased the album...and it was the first heavy album I ever bought, serving as an introduction to the great wide world of METAL.
So, of course Dimebag Darrell is the highlight of this album as one of the best metal guitarists to ever walk the earh, at least in my humble opinion. There is a solo in EVERY song in the true heavy metal tradition, as if to remind you that this ain't no acoustic set guitarist...but a pure electric madman. It takes skill to do what Dimebag did on the Pantera albums, and more than what it takes to please a crowd. The second best thing about Pantera is Phil Anselmo. From various television commentaries, I've seen that Phil can be a total dick as a person both on and off stage, but when it comes to being Pantera's frontman Phil does a terrific job. Although he doesn't show off his vocal range as much as he does on Cowboys from Hell with all of the 80s screams and what not, he proves on songs like This Love that he can actually sing....and then tears your speakers apart with a straight up badass voice. It's the only way to describe Phil Anselmo and the album as a whole: badass. Behind the drumkit we have the man, the master Vinnie Paul. This guy strings everything together, providing some righteous back beats to some righteous riffs. Rex is on bass, but we don't hear him as much. He keeps the production thick and meaty, sticking to the drums more than the guitar.
Onto the songs! Rather than outline every song on this album, I'll just rap about the ones I really enjoy and the ones that you, dear reader, should hear right away. This album is a bit of a premature ejaculation with all the good songs stacked at the top and the leftovers trailing after. Pantera is a band with epic songs that you can listen to over and over again....and with other songs that aren't really that great with less memorable parts, and that's why this album received an 85 instead of a full fledged 100. Now, Vulgar Display does not fuck around, it starts off with arguably the best song on the entire CD...Mouth for War. It even has a short intro section much like Cowboys from Hell to sort of psych you up for the badassery that is come. The main riff is great, the kind of riff you hear in a movie when a biker or some sort of rebel is walking down the street. It's not quite a head banging riff, but there's no denying that it commands respect. The chorus is really nice too, and I think that Phil pulls it off really well. I won't waste time explaining how much I love Walk, but this should be the first song you play when you pop in Vulgar Display of Power. My favorite song other than Walk is Fucking Hostile...man, what a kickass song. This *is* a headbanging riff. When Pantera played this live, you got to the pit right away. You don't get anymore metal than Fucking Hostile...a total expression of anger both musically and lyrically. And that solo! It's insane, which proves once more the incredible talent of Dimebag Darrell. Right after this brilliant little thrasher, is This Love. It starts off a little gay, and the song isn't *that* great until the riff of the album. Go to 2:47. This is a riff to raise the dead and it's only followed by another riff that pulverizes you with crushing heaviness. Hell, it's even the riff that Beavis and Butthead hum.
Well, that's it kids. Vulgar Display of Power. In summary this is one of the finer pieces of metal from the early 90s in my opinion. Riding the line between groove metal and trash and influencing band after band who heard the band as I did...as an amazing work of heavy music and indisputably badass.
All moving parts intact, Pantera moved into the serious big leagues here, remaining, with Metallica one of the few bands able to stay standing after the great grunge purging of ’92. And while Cowboys From Hell began the snarl age of Pantera, Vulgar Display Of Power left no idea left in metal minds worldwide that this band would be mellowing out anytime soon. In fact, whereas it’s predecessor offered some small rays of melodic light here and there, this one offers less respite from the fury of riffs that just don’t let up. Pantera staked their claim last time around, and here they’re like pissed off prospectors, letting loose torrents of gunfire at anyone foolhardy enough to trespass on their turf.
There is a slight snag though, and it’s a snag that would haunt this band right up until their unfortunate demise; there are less killer songs here. Now the good news is that when the songs are good, they’re titanic. Let’s check ‘em out: “Mouth For War” opens with some teeth rattling guitar shrapnel and a beautiful bent-chord performance from axe-man Abbott, and Anselmo really lays into this one vocally, especially in it’s thrashing finale. And don’t even think about picking a scrap with “Walk,” one pissed off anthem of a cut that only an idiot would stroll into a dark restroom with. Seriously, the riffs, Darrell’s soloing, the righteous slam of the lyrics and monster chorus make this a blueprint for most metal that followed it. Any young folks in the audience who think Limp Bizkit or Linkin Park or even Korn is badass shit should go directly to this one. Hear it and weep, my sons. Even the ballad “This Love” does it’s clear evolutionary predecessor “Cemetery Gates” one better by being menacing rather than heartwarming, and contains a trudging riff so blunt it hurts (don’t worry, you’ll KNOW when it hits). Elsewhere “Fucking Hostile” rings some major bells, and “Live In A Hole” contains that signature super-compressed style riff only the demented mind of Darrell Abbott could give us.
But on the whole, the album’s remainder is just really good, just not as much of a shock to the system that Cowboys From Hell and it’s what the hell pissed them off so much of all sudden vibe was. Don’t get me wrong, this is still high caliber shredding, and as time will tell, Pantera would travel further down the brutal spiral on their next time out. Because one massive tour, about 50 bales of reefer, many gallons of whiskey and a brewery full of suds later, Pantera would blaze out with their most radical offering yet. My advice is go directly to Far Beyond Driven....Now!
They kind of lost me a little on this one, as it certainly doesn't hold up to the previous album. Pantera tends to fit a greater amount of groove into the thrash framework of the Cowboys from Hell formula on most songs, sometimes bringing that up to the forefront. The album is very reminiscent of the last disc, with Phil Anselmo's vocals a step up in roughness and coming in with more low-end bellows than higher pitched screeches. Any traces of their pre-Cowboys from Hell sound are now just about erased. If taken a few songs at a time, there are some very good moments on here which rank up with some of those on Cowboys. But as a whole the album becomes redundant in places, with a lack of new ideas to push it onward being the main problem. The band stops trying and stays where they are, but still manage to keep their heads above the water.
It starts off very promisingly. Mouth for War and A New Level end up not unlike some of the faster tracks from the last album only substituting the relentless thrashing with a firm grooved up base which keep the songs dynamic. It still packs the punch, but in a different way. Fucking Hostile is your token fast thrasher which cannot help but be headbanged to. It’s one of those familiar areas they can’t really mess up. This Love and Hollow work in dark acoustics and function as counterparts to The Sleep and Cemetery Gates coming out with similarly cohesive results.
Ugh, Walk has to constitute the scarcest arrangements and minimal substance which drags on and on following its dull main groove. Take your pick of what is now left, and you’ll find songs varying from above average replicas of the first two tracks (Rise, No Good (Attack The Radical)) or those coming off a little hollow and lazy (Live In A Hole, Regular People (Conceit), By Demons Be Driven). I honestly didn’t expect this to be as disappointing as it invariably turned out to be. It’s not their worst album at all, and for those few very good moments it comes recommended though turn your attention elsewhere for something truly worthwhile.
"Vulgar Display of Power" is quite vulgar indeed. It's a well crafted (but hardly artful) piece of "tough guy" rock that stomps and growls but doesn't really go anywhere in the end. Phil started to destroy his range and singing voice on this record for a predictable "death-groan", the riffs are good but not great and the performance is tight but somewhat lacking in terms of feel. It was the perfect record to catch the post-80's audience and lead them back to metal because it wasn't too challenging, and gave enough violent lyrical/musical edge to catch the few who wanted something "dangerous", but didn't feel like falling into culture-trap of "gangsta rap". Pantera were the right band at the right time...but they weren't the best band of any time. (Though they, and their fans would have you believe differently.)
The bigger singles like "Walk" and "This Love" have so much bravado and chest-pounding to them that one who is slightly self-concious cannot help but giggle a bit. Phil convinces you that he THINKS he's tough, but he hardly convinces you that what he thinks may actually translate to the proper reality. Maybe it's just the glam photos from the early...but something...stupid emanates from the songwriting on this record. The guitars and drums do a good job of putting the riffs/hooks where they belong and hence captured the imagination of the metal populace...but the overall feeling of one is "desperate to please" and not nearly catching the brutality of something like...oh..say the early Cro-Mags. This is "good", but it's hardly GREAT. The band could have done a lot more with the ideas put down on plastic...
Pantera did what was needed, and nothing that was to compete with what would become a much stronger metal underground. Bravado, rage and violence are all here, delivered with an all-too-simplistic feel that anyone can enjoy for a least a few moments...
It ain't higher art...but I guess it did what it was supposed to...?