Review Summary: The trailer park takes over in this glorified slab of nu metal.
Now, before everybody gets all up in arms over the summary, yes I am well aware that this album came out before the term "nu metal" was invented. My point is, though, that there is little difference between this so-called sacred cow and the dreaded nu metal genre. This is a point I will reference throughout my review, but first a little backstory on the band.
Pantera started out as a small time Texas glam band, and recorded several laughable albums before realizing that glam was going out of style and that they needed a new image. Refusing to go with the "grunge" image of the time, the band traded in their spandex for a new look. Embracing their Texas origins, Pantera went for the redneck aesthetic and started writing songs about beating people up and getting wasted instead of teen love and PG-13 partying.
Because their look was so drastically different from anything in the mainstream at the time, they were dubbed "trend killers" (a name they embraced quite often), despite the fact that they dropped the music they'd been playing for years like a hot potato as soon as the trend showed signs of fading.
For the next decade, Pantera enjoyed healthy success off the pockets of "metalheads" and "non-conformists" too lazy to look outside of the mainstream. Then, it happened. While performing with a side project called "Damageplan", guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott was shot and killed on stage. This made Pantera's success skyrocket overnight and gave Abbott the title of "guitar god" posthumously.
To this day, many metalheads worship at the altar of Pantera and hail them as legends. While all fans have their favorite album, perhaps the most widely acclamied is their 1992 album "Vulgar Display of Power". Often hailed as the holy grail of 90's metal, "Vulgar" has since gone down as a classic.
How does it hold up? The answer to that question would be "not well at all".
If you're looking for the biggest influence on the infamous nu metal genre, look no further.
Simple, downtuned chord progressions that are supposed to be heavy riffs? Check.
A yelling vocalist that sounds like he's straining his voice? Check.
Lyrics that either express juvenile angst or brag about how the singer's toughness to the point where he sounds like a fourth grade school bully? CHECK!!!
In fact, let's take a look at some of these lyrics:
"Got *** on, pissed on, spit on, stepped on, ***ed with, pointed at by lesser men..." - A New Level
Such is the shallow "I won't take it anymore" posturing found in bands such as Slipknot, Mudvayne, Five Finger Death Punch, Korn, and so-on. Like I've said before, you're looking at the first nu metal album here, folks. And it doesn't get any better from there. The vocals that deliver these puerile lyrics are almost worse. Phil Anselmo screams, rants and tantrums his way through the majority of 11 tracks. At the parts where he's not trying to sound tough, he's singing in a pitchy, half-assed voice lending superficial attempts at sentimentality to this testosterone soaked LP. The results are unintentionally hilarious and the only reason this album doesn't get a plain old 1.
This brings us to the drums. There isn't much to say about them except that they're moderately fast, but totally uninspired. Vinny Paul abuses the toms and crash symbols to an extent where you can literally plan out what his next fill will be in your head. On top of that, their clicky production makes them a nuisance over time.
The bass? What bass? I think that Rex forgot to plug it in and they went through the whole album without bass amplification.
Now, at this point you're thinking "What about the guitars? Surely the great Dimebag must lay down some awsome riffs and shredding solos on here." Nope. For the most part, the riffs just consist of downtuned chords sometimes palm muted for that extra "hardcore" effect (and they wonder where Mudvayne gets it). The times the riffs aren't just nu metal-type fodder, they're usually just a series of somewhat sustained notes given an annoying quality by Dime's persistant abuse of the tremolo bar. (Low > Medium > Squeal in and out ad nauseum). No disrespect to the memory of someone who seemed like a really nice guy, but the mundane/irritating riffs and aimless solos on Vulgar Display evidence a guy who needs some practice and certainly not a guitar god.
Unless you're looking for some laughs, Vulgar Display of Power is a failure on every level. The vocals are horrible, the lyrics are things you would find in the journal of the stereotypical high school jock, the drumming is messy, the bass is inaudible, and the riffs/solos range from uninspired to just plain pathetic.
Pick it up for some laughs or if you want music for a frat party. Otherwise, stay as far away as possible.