Review Summary: Raw, groovy, and powerful are the first words that come to mind when I think of this masterpiece.
Ahhh, the nineties… If only I were competent enough to realize how awesome music was back then. Not only was 1996 the year of my birth, but also the year that Pantera, my favorite band released The Great Southern Trendkill, my favorite album, which hit stores a mere eleven days before I was born. I’ll do my best to describe what to expect from this album without sounding too fan-boyish. Back during this time, Phil Anselmo (the vocalist, for those who are not familiar with the band) was becoming a heroin junkie, much to the displeasure of his band mates. Phil was forced to record the vocals in Trent Reznor’s studio in New Orleans, while the rest of Pantera recorded in Dallas, Texas. About three weeks later Phil overdosed and was taken to the hospital after a show, but that’s enough about the history of the band, let’s go into the music…
Most people consider this to be Pantera’s most overlooked album. I consider it to be their best work. It’s their heaviest and most evil sounding for sure. The album starts off with the whole band just going apesh*t, Phil is screaming his ass off with the rest of the band going to town on their respective instruments, which leads into the title track. This was a good song to start the record off with, it let’s you know that this album WILL break your balls, snap your neck, and bruise your brain in the best ways possible. Guitar solos aren’t used as often as in past Pantera releases, which for some may be a problem. I can see past it because in my opinion, Phil sounds his most aggressive and raw, seen best in the tracks War Nerve and Suicide Note Part 2. Plus, any lack of guitar solos that you might see (13 Steps to Nowhere, Sandblasted Skin) is more than made up by Dimebag’s most emotional solo, and quite possibly his best. I am, of course, talking about Floods. Widely regarded as his best solo and it’s hard for me not to agree.
Speaking of Floods, as heavy as this album is, it has its fair share of ballads. The first one, 10’s, lyrically about drug abuse, is a bit heavier throughout than the other two. Aside from a very melodic and powerful solo, it’s not your typical ballad. Being slow in tempo and void of any screams or really harsh vocals, it still qualities as a ballad. Suicide Note Part 1 is one of Pantera’s more experimental songs, using keyboard effects, all acoustic guitar, and no percussion. Not a bad song by any means, I just find it to be the most boring on the album. However, even as the albums weakest point, it’s still should not be skipped. The last ballad is Floods, of course, which gets kind of heavy before and after the solo, then one of the greatest outros I’ve ever heard. It’s a very emotional riff, with sound effects of rain in the background, which really adds to the song’s theme of the human race being wiped out because of a global flood.
Suicide Note Part 1 isn’t the only experimentation in this album. It’s also the only Pantera release to feature the demonic layered vocals you hear during 13 Steps to Nowhere and some guest vocals from Seth Putnam of Anal Cunt infamy on the song Suicide Note Part 2. You also may notice that the guitar is tuned lower than ever before on this album, making the riffs extra br00tal. Instrumentally, the band isn’t necessarily at their best (besides Phil, but that guy is always at his best IMHO) but that doesn’t mean they can’t still blow the f*cking house down. Vinnie Paul shows us what he can do with the opening drum solo on 13 Steps, and I’m not sure if it’s just me, but during the guitar solo of Suicide Note Part 2, he reminds me of Slayer’s Dave Lombardo. Rex shows us that he is a damn monster when he wants to be (or maybe when the band lets him) and Dime shows us how it’s done once again with his trademark tone and groovy riffs.
If you are looking for aggression, raw power, and manliness all put into audio form, this is the album for you. I wouldn’t recommend that someone new to Pantera start here, though. If you’re trying to get into the band, go check out Vulgar Display of Power. This is for Pantera fans and probably Pantera fans only. I can’t imagine this being the only album someone would like from them, but nonetheless I found it to be a brilliant release. As I said before, it’s my favorite album of all time so I hope I didn’t sound like one of those stereotypical, redneck, meathead Pantera fans with this. So if you want to have a good time with some outstanding metal, buy this album right now. If you want to get a feel for the band first, I’d wait before listening to this because this really isn’t a good representation of what Pantera sounds like as a whole. Or maybe you just don’t like Pantera, which is fine too. I don’t judge, I’ll let you listen to Opeth or whatever the metal purists are listening to right now. This album is just fun to listen to, so I hope anyone listening to it has a good time, IE goes f*cking crazy.
Suicide Note Part 2
Sandblasted Skin (Reprise)