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This is "glam?" - 82%

natrix, March 10th, 2007

Many times these early Pantera albums are derided for being "glam." Well, I totally FUCKING DISAGREE!!! Sure, they may not be the mosh pit inducing groove-whatever-metal of later years, but are they worthless? HELL NO!!!

For those of you who had been following this band along for a while, Terrence Lee changes his squealy vocal delivery a bit on here, making it quite a bit more rude sounding. He's not doing the Halford antics of early Phil Anselmo, what he sounds like is kind of a really pissed off Axl Rose with a much better and more controlled range. Pretty damn effective, I must say, and his vocals really give this some added heaviness.

There are some moments of uttter cheese such as "Daughters of the Queen" and "Hot N Heavy," but these are more than made up for with slamming tracks like the title track, "Valhalla" and "Down Below." The former two tracks sound quite a bit like vintage Judas Priest with more technical riffing, but really fast paced and driving. "Down Below" really showcases a churning, sleazy sort of riffing that shows up on a number of other tracks on here, and Terrence really wails on here. Heavy shit, that's for damn sure.

"Onward we Rock," despite having a really stupid name and really stupid lyrics, is one hell of a driving tune. It's got an almost martial quality to the way the drums and bass "march" onward. In here we get another totally viscious solo courtesy of Dime. Fucking sweet! It's got to be my pick for best solo on here.

The closer is a ballad, "Forever Tonight." Sure, this is ultracheesey, pretty glammy, and features falsetto vocals, but damn! It's fucking beautiful! Seriously, I never thought I'd say that about a Pantera song, but it really does sound nice. The main melody is played by harmonics, with riffs being more of an afterthought. Cool stuff.

The production is pretty weak, and I can't say that Vinnie or Rex get too wild on here, but otherwise there're just a few weak moments in songs, and certainly nothing that makes this album "glam shit." If anything, you find still more great leads by Dime, and an interesting time piece. It's a damn shame that Vinnie doesn't rerelease these old classics through his new label so all Pantera maniacs can hear Dime's potential at such an early age.