Pantera - Vulgar Display of Power - Review
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critics' view

Vulgar Display of Power, this is the Pantera album that fully realized their new, ultra-tough style into the style that they'd continue with for the rest of their career. Tough-guy anthems, menacing riffage, and an expression of outright… well… power make this album the one to kick off the genre of groove metal. While Cowboys from Hell was a strong album that was rooted halfway in thrash and halfway in the then-nascent groove style, Vulgar Display of Power eschews the 80's thrash style completely for a much more pure groove metal sound. The sound is bigger, the tone is thicker, while the singing is less dynamic, it's also more ferocious and more fitting to the sound and aesthetic of Vulgar Display. Everything is made beefier and fuller for conveying an air of undiluted macho rage, which Pantera pull off with the utmost strength.

As far as music is concerned, we have a beast on our hands. Many of their more scathing, intense, and iconic tracks cover this album like bruises cover the cover model's face after the shoot. "Mouth for War" begins the albums with Dime's thundering riffwork and Phil's battle cries go off with all the intensity of a bomb, sending listeners flying, and making necks sore from all the back and forth movement. It's the ideal opener with how it comes out of nowhere and all the energy it dispenses, not to mention the gnarly riff that carries the song and gives it its iconic status. Other fast pieces on this such as "Fucking Hostile" and "Rise" make use of faster tempos to convey their aggressive shredding alongside rousing choruses belted out by Anselmo at full strength. Anselmo's barking, paired with Dime's menacing, snaking grooves, and pummeling chugs, along with wild bluesy solos combine to give us the unofficial soundtrack to many a bar brawl or back-alley slugout. While "Walk" is a rather monotonous song with posturing lyrics, it still fits well among the much more superior fare that surrounds it, it also lays the ground for more agile songs that use its formula such as "Regular People" to a much greater effect, laying the groove down and making it as delicious as possible to keep a listener engaged with infectious rhythm. Sledgehammer riffing, an overall atmosphere of fierceness and rage, along with Pantera's penchant for making catchy songs around their riffs and choruses give us an album that unabashedly lives up to its name.

Pantera's second album after going from glam to groove certainly showcases how far they've come from that style in only a few short years. This is a punishing affair and while it may not be at Cowboys from Hell's level of consistency, it goes for a more ferocious and intense sound that roars in the listener's face and smashes everything to bits in its fury. From the death charges of "Mouth for War" to the morose, snaking rhythms of "This Love" this album is one big, muscular beast. For all of its aggression, there's still a catch, a hook, and many great songs to be heard here. For a truly hostile and strong piece from Pantera, this will do you well.

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