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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.