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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.