Review Summary: A turning point for heavy metal, this album established groove metal as a genre in the headbangers world.5 of 7 thought this review was well written
Ah, good old Pantera. As one of the pioneering bands of the groove metal genre, they established themselves as one of heavy metal's leading outfits during the 90's with Cowboys From Hell
. Of course, this all came to a crashing halt with the disputes between vocalist Phil Anselmo and the rest of the band in the early 2000's. Then came the tragic death of lead guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott. The shooting came as a shock to the metal world and many bands wrote tributes to the fallen shredder. He was one of the most inventive guitarists of his time and was the backbone of the trademark Pantera sound. Phil Anselmo contributed his signature roar and his "We don't give a f**k" lyrics. All of this was backed up by the thundering rhythm section of drummer Vinnie Paul (Brother of Dimebag) and bassist Rex Brown. Vulgar Display of Power
was perhaps the best unleashing of Pantera's raw, unbridled intensity.
Kicking things off, "Mouth of War" unleashes violent riffs and tortured, howled vocals, and booming drums. This song is really a trademark of what this album will sound like and is as good of a track as any to introduce you to the reckless, unforgiving music that Pantera unleashes on the senses. Following that, "A New Level" begins with a heavily picked intro and has a great solo. Phil shouts "A New Level of confidence and power" like a demon possessed. Coming in third is perhaps Pantera's best known song, as well as being one of the best. "Walk" is in more of a sludge metal pace than the two thrashy openers. The riff is unmistakable and the song gets you going like no other. If I was getting ready to pummel someone in a boxing match, this is the song to do it to. A great, inventive solo weaves its way through the heart of the track and the chants of "RE-SPECT, WALK!" will no doubt get you shouting along. A definite highlight. Following "Walk", is one of the fastest, most brutal songs Pantera has ever written. "F**king Hostile" is exactly with the song title suggests, a rampage of destroying riffs and crushing shouts from Anselmo.
"This Love" comes in fifth and is more of a ballad. The song begins with Phil's surprisingly decent clean vocals and quiet guitar. Then, it transitions into a thundering chorus and bridge. A peaceful solo follows and the song finally ends heavily with somewhat of a breakdown and Dimebag playing a screeching solo underneath the main riff. The next track, "Rise", hits you like a semi at 120 MPH. It never lets up and is most likely the heaviest track on the album, as well as being one of my personal favorites. "Rise" is definitely the most thrash-influenced song on the album and it contains a fantastic solo, perhaps one of Dimebag's best. The next four tracks are more of the same bleak, howling vocals and heavy riffs. "No Good (Attack the Radical)" features some spoken word vocals which are excellent, and bring out the aggression in the verses. The chorus is somewhat clean. Phil unleashes some shrill screams, similar to the shrieks heard in "Cemetery Gates" off of Cowboys From Hell
. An awesome, booming outro ends the song. More good solos wind there way through "Live In a Hole", "Regular People (Conceit)", and "Be Demons Be Driven" along with the groove-heavy rhythms from Vinnie and Rex. Finally, "Hollow" is another ballad-like track. In my opinion, it isn't as good as "This Love", but it is a decent closer to end this rampaging torrent. At times it almost sounds like "Fade to Black" by Metallica, which isn't a bad thing.
As far as vocals are concerned, Phil combines his trademark bark along with a few shrill shrieks every now and then. His clean vocals are decent, better than I would've expected after hearing all of his unrelenting roaring. The lyrics focus mainly on anti-political topics as well as failed relationships, be it friendships or love, and just fighting in general. At times, they can be rather shallow and irritating, but for the most part they match the music in general.
Dimebag was a terrific guitarist. He often performed all of his solos without rhythm guitar underneath. His demented riffing and lightning-fast shredding highlights this album left and right. "Walk", "Mouth for War", "This Love" and "Rise" are all great examples of his various talents and inventive playing. The riffs are pulverizing and pound the listener into submission and really contribute to the overall feel of aggression that the album lays on you. R.I.P. Dimebag, you are sorely missed.
The rhythm section delivers a solid performance. Vinnie Paul's relentless mashing on the drum kit and Rex Brown's consistent bass lines provided the perfect trampoline for Phil and Dimebag to unleash their anger from. The downbeats and double bass work from Vinnie are great and Rex's bass is always supporting Dimebag's wailing solos. They are the epitome of a groove metal rhythm section, and their performance is mostly spot-on throughout this album.
As a whole, Vulgar Display of Power
is a groove metal classic and a great heavy metal album as a whole. It sparked a wave of imitators who never seemed to completely match Pantera's bone-jarring, bludgeoning performances. I highly recommend this album to everyone who is looking for a good groove metal album or even to someone looking for a heavy metal album in general. The only cons are the subpar lyrics and somewhat lack of consistency throughout the latter half of the album. Vulgar Display of Power
gets a 3.5 out of 5
Mouth for War
No Good (Attack the Radical)