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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!