Thrash from the past: Pantera

Cover of "Vulgar Display of Power"
Vulgar Display of Power

I get seasick. I’m usually pretty good on transport, but anything floating on water still has a tendency to make my stomach tighten and my mouth water. It’s not guaranteed – I can be fine in the roughest storms then get weak-legged skimming across a lake.

Everyone has their methods to contend with travel sickness. Ginger is common, or fixing on a point on the horizon. I believe there are even pressure points on the thumb which apparently make a difference though not for me. I just look like a meditating green person then throw up in a paper bag.

My method is, I suppose, a version of that meditation. To drift off somewhere a little more comfortable where the bouncing isn’t an issue. Sometimes reading can do that for me, but as many people know this can also make you feel worse. The best method I’ve discovered is to pop in the earphones and listen to something you can really, really get into.

On the journey over from Gili Air back to Bali, I randomly selected Pantera‘s Vulgar Display of Power on the basis that I hadn’t listened to it in bloody ages. Good gravy. I’d forgotten how good it was. So good, in fact, that I just had to write a blog post about it.

I suppose it’s a good time to go on about Pantera, a band that’s no longer in existence and simply will not reform for various reasons. Metal is about as popular as its ever been and so many of the classic names are making comebacks. In amongst all this, new fans could be missing out on an awesome back catalogue of other acts and Pantera is most definitely one that your musical memory banks could do with having access to.

Originally releasing a couple of, let’s face it, crap glam albums that to this day will earn you a kick in the balls if you ask for them to be autographed, Pantera graduated suddenly into some hard-edged, grinding, thumping sub-thrash with a hint of hardcore. This came about with the release of the (in my opinion) slightly hit-and-miss Cowboys From Hell album. Undoubtedly the title track is an anthem and hearing the opening riff live, even by a covers band, sends the hairs up on the back of my neck.

However, the rest of the album is a mix of other really good heavy numbers and some wankery that harks back to the old days.

The follow up, 1992’s Vulgar Display Of Power, though… 53 minutes or so of sublime metal music. I remember this being one of those annoying albums back in the day as it wouldn’t fit on one side of a C90 cassette tape so I doubt I ever really listened to the last couple of tracks. In this day and age, though, it’s great value for money. not many bands give you nigh on an hour on a CD.

I can barely remember a club night back in the day which didn’t feature the superb “Walk” and “This Love”, probably the two “lightest” tracks on the album. A good night would also include “Mouth For War” and “Fucking Hostile” which still rates as one of the best thrash tracks of all time.

Fronted by scary boxing dude Phil Anselmo (now lead singer for Down), bass by Rex Brown, drums by Vinnie Paul and guitars by his brother “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott. It’s the latter who really made the band and who was taken from the music world far too early – shot dead in front of his family and fans while playing live in the US a few years ago.

The band had already split by then – general “blame” seems to have fallen at a rift between Anselmo and the rest of the band – and he was playing alongside Vinnie in their new project, Damage Plan. An awful incident which sent huge waves through the metal community (and ended up in the penning of at least one song – Machine Head’s “Aesthetics of Hate“, aimed at a journalist who for some reason chose Dime’s murder as an excuse to slag him off in the press).

Dimebag was a one-in-a-generation talent. An outstanding naturally gifted musician who was banned from local competitions as a child as he kept winning them all. Vulgar Display… showcases this talent perfectly with a huge variety in musical styles.

Blues is very much present, perhaps most notably at the start of “No Good”. “Regular People” is slow-paced and as heavy as anything Black Sabbath ever released. “Fucking Hostile” is unrelentingly-paced and in your face. “This Love” mixes slow balladic guitar and lyrics with a pounding chorus  that wouldn’t be out of place in a Hatebreed track. “By Demons Be Driven” is very arrhythmic and I’ve even heard riffs from it being “appropriated” by Dream Theatre in their live set.

Each track stands alone, and the album as a whole is undoubtedly Pantera’s best.

As I said, this band won’t get back together. I would reckon the chance of the three surviving members doing anything together being something around zero although the air does seem clearer between them than it has been.

So for this reason, especially if you’re fairly new to the metal scene (say less than 10 years), then this is one band from the past you really should check out. And Vulgar Display… is a prime place to start.

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August 3, 2009 12:21 AM

Vulgar Display of Power.
It was great. I remember listening to Walk and This Love on constant repeat at my boyfriend’s house.
Why am I not 17 any more???????

Why do I not have that album any more????

It’s going to be really expensive replacing all the albums I used to have and thought I grew out of.

August 3, 2009 8:58 AM

The advantages of hoarding everything… well, the downside is that my parents are whinging because it’s all in their cellar and has been for well over three years now.

Of course, I never “grew out” of the albums! More recently I just ripped them from CD and play mp3s instead. And of course I’d never suggest that you delve into the world of torrents and find out how to get said albums for free…

August 3, 2009 2:20 PM

I like having the actual albums :)

I just hope I never get back into Korn. I sold my signed album :s

August 3, 2009 7:39 PM

I like having albums as well, but currently I have nowhere to put them… And don’t get back into Korn. They sucked before and they continue to do so. Get back into Machine Head or enjoy some of the new bands instead. Hatebreed are awesome, Devildriver have quite a following, Chimaera know what they’re doing…

August 4, 2009 1:27 AM

*makes mental notes*
*realises she should make actual notes as the mental notes always go astray*

June 5, 2016 10:22 PM

[…] Nope, not going for Cowboys. Aside from the title track, which raises the hairs on my neck if a band even hints at playing it live, it’s very much an album I can take or leave. VDoP, on the other hand, is one brilliant slab of damn heavy southern groove metal. It’s so good, it staves off seasickness. […]