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"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...?