Vulgar Display of Power by Pantera: A Review
Just When I thought Metal Was Dead
Back before I became a jazz aficionado, when my hair was a little longer, OK, a lot longer, I used to be into some pretty heavy stuff. Bands like Metallica, Slayer, and Megadeth received heavy rotation on the tape deck back in the mid-80's.
Once the early 90's arrived I was a little burned out on the direction Metallica and Megadeth were going in, they decided to make money, a lot of money, and heck both of their more commercialized albums were very good, but Pantera was a real revelation. Pantera was a band that actually got heavier and less commercial and sold more records.
Pantera was heavier than Metallica was in 92' by a long shot, and really only got heavier throughout their run, and yet they still sold a boat load of records with their highly aggressive trash metal variation.
"Mouth For War"
The Name, The Cover, Pretty Good Foreshadowing
Vulgar Display of Power was one of the most aptly titled albums in rock history, and one of my favorites, the album leaves little room for posers that's for sure.
Phil Anselmo's vocals are a clarion call for every dirty white boy who ever felt he got the short end of the stick. I am starting to feel the machismo well up inside me as I write this review, such is the power of the album.
Everything about the album kicks ass:
The name of the album is taken from the movie "The Exorcist", when possessed Regan McNeil responds to father Karras' asking for her to break the straps that bind her, she responds, "That's to vulgar of a display of power".
The album art is an iconic image of a man being punched in the face and it perfectly foreshadows the music within. There was always this urban legend that the man on the cover was punched 30 times before the perfect take was accomplished. Since the guy lived, I suppose that wasn't true?
"By Demon's Be Driven"
Why is Vulgar So Special?
The riffs! Man this album still sounds fresh nearly 25 years later, the late Dimebag Darrell Abbott's guitar sound is really unmatched to this day, for both fat crunchy rhythm playing, and his white-hot blues drenched vibrato lead style. Darrell Abbott was no ordinary guitarist, almost everything was rooted in the blues but somehow it sounded like something new.
Vocalist Phil Anselmo's vocals are to say the least visceral, he grunts and growls with a passion that seems like he could pass out at any minute. Would you doubt the validity of his vocals to his face?
Drummer Vinnie Paul, who is Darrell's brother, also works his double bass drum like he invented it, the guitar riffing and drum interplay are so tight that I think only brothers could have sounded this good. It's so sad we can't hear Darrell and Vinnie play together anymore.
Ticket From My Only Pantera Concert
Recollections About My Favorite Tracks From the Album
I remember it vividly, my friend Chris and I sitting down in '92 to listen to the album for the first time.
We had already been fans of the band from their previous album Cowboy's From Hell, but vulgar was everything that album was times 10, a serious dose of brutal aggression.
The album opener "Mouth for War" a chart hit in U.K. believe it or not, has this mind-boggling riff that doesn't quite prepare you for the new heavier singing Anselmo.
Mid way though the track you are almost ready for war yourself, and nothing could clear a parking lot full of poser boy band listeners on a hot summer night like "Mouth for War".
"This Love" is about as warped as you get, you'll have to read the lyrics for yourself, but suffice it to say, many an unhappy ending with the opposite sex for possibly them (the band), and us (my running buddies), back in those days made "This Love" all the more poignant.
This next track "By Demon's be Driven" has a special place in my memory banks, not because I am driven by Demons mind you, but on the contrary, Demons has a guitar riff that makes you take notice.
The way Vinnie comes in on drums, then this killer swinging bluesy metal riff with Anselmo's vocals over top perfectly drive the track. "Demons" is cemented in my mind. The track stood out particularly when I saw a live reading of it in Dayton Ohio 1993. Man this album must have ticked off some of the religious right. I guess they wouldn't be able to see the humor in it?
Speaking of ticking off the religious right: The fastest song on the album and without a doubt a huge middle finger to any proselytizing busy body out there trying to convert you to whatever faith or way of life their peddling is "Fucking Hostile".
The track is so brutal and in your face, it will separate the men from the boys. If you can get to a point where this track seems listenable, you likely have become a die-hard thrash, speed, or groove metal fan.
I remember the outro of the track "Hollow" being particularly spine tingling live.
Death of Darryl Abbot
While on stage December 8th 2004 at Columbus Ohio's Alrosa Villa, an a-hole murderer whose name I won't mention, not only snuffed out any hopes for a Pantera reunion, but also ended possibly the greatest heavy metal guitarist of all time's life.
Dimebag Darrell is right up there with Tony Iommi in my opinion for important and influential rock guitarists .
Pantera was one of the most influential metal bands of all time, with a drummer, singer, and guitarist, who were at the top of their games, both in innovation, and in technical ability.
The Fact an album as heavy as Vulgar Display of Power went double platinum, speaks volumes to me how they touched a nerve. I don't think any metal collection should be without it, It would be hard to think of a more aptly named metal album.
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