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Throwback Thursday: PANTERA Vulgar Display of Power

Welcome to Throwback Thursday! This is the place where we get to indulge in nostalgia and wax poetic about excellent metal of years past. So sit back and relax with a bottle of Crown Royal. We're going on a journey in search of modern albums that have primed the canvas of today's metal music scene.

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For this, the twelfth edition of this series, let's get back to fuckin' basics.

Pantera's Vulgar Display of Power 

Throwback Thursday: PANTERA <em>Vulgar Display of Power</em>" width="680" height="680" />
<p><strong>Release Date: February 25, 1992</strong><br />
<strong>Record Label: Atco</strong>
<p>When guitar-obsessed <strong>Darrel Abbott</strong>, a young teenager and proud member of the <strong>Kiss </strong>army, talked his brother <strong>Vinnie Paul</strong> into starting a band, little did he know that they'd wind up establishing a massive metal empire. The two siblings created <strong>Pantera</strong> in the year 1981 before either of them were even old enough to drink. When <strong>Pantera</strong> started out, the hardcore partiers dominated Texas and the southwest with flare and spandex. You read that right; before <strong>Pantera</strong> became known as the embodiment of metal attitude, they were burnin' up the hair metal and glam-rock scene.<div class=Advertisement. Scroll to continue reading.

After a lineup change in the late 80's which introduced Phil Anselmo as their new lead singer, Pantera ditched the spandex for jeans and regular street clothes. Not only did they change their look, they also changed their sound. In 1990, Pantera recorded their heavy metal debut Cowboys from Hell. This album landed them on a national tour with power acts Suicidal Tendencies and Exodus.

After the tour with Cowboys from Hell, Pantera knew where they were headed with their new sound. Inspired by Metallica and Slayer, Pantera set out to make the heaviest metal album ever recorded. Enter the creation of Vulgar Display of Power, an album that annihilated the confines of everyone's expectations.

Vulgar Display of Power established Pantera as heavy metal that no one could screw with. Phil Anselmo quips that Pantera was "possessed about what they wanted to do" – which was to become heavier and heavier, tighter and tighter. In Loudwire's Legacy series, Anselmo reflects that, "this is the most important record we ever made."

The album incorporates elements of thrash, speed, 90's-era grunge, and even breakdowns. Opening track "Mouth for War" is just a tease of "Dimebag" Darrell's scalding talent. Initially, "Mouth for War" establishes a moderate tempo that makes us wade through sick fretwork and the relentless, thick vocals of Anselmo.

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The song builds up with brilliant guitar/drum work into the first of many insane solos on the album. The song finally ends on a thrashy note; you can almost feel the heat and smell the sweat from a circle pit.

The songs on Vulgar Display of Power are in no way, shape or form redundant despite the fact that Pantera has an immediately recognizable sound. Tracks like "Live in a Hole" play with syncopation and a talk box, whispered voices and nontraditional song structure. Early on you can hear the influence of Metallica and Megadeth, including elements such as a grinding bass-line and a variety of unexpected change-ups on the drums and time changes.

More aggressive melodies are found in tracks like "Regular People (Conceit)".  The complexity of the riffs is something which you might not expect on an album with something as iconic and driving as "Walk". This is the most experimental track on the album in terms of lead guitar and clocks in at their longest song on the album as well. As Anselmo growls, "Don't fuck with this."

Dangit, that song ends  – just – awesomely. The bridge is so unexpected and dynamic. The drum work really diversifies this and all the tracks, and the bass line lays the groundwork for Dimebag to do what he does best – widdly widdly widdly waaaahhhhhh on lead guitar.

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Track "A New Level" is … just that. A new level of in-your-face frenzied fretwork dissolving into sludgey, deep grooves. This track houses my favorite solo on the whole album. Just, just listen to how sick it is.

There is no question after listening to Vulgar Display of Power that Dimebag Darrell is a heavy metal deity.

Most folks reading this now doubt know of the passing of Dimebag Darrel. To recap the devastating incident for those unenlightened, Dime was murdered on stage at a 2004 Damageplan concert in Columbus, OH at the Al Rosa Villa (a place I used to frequent often as a native Ohioian). A fella just hopped up on stage and shot him, point blank in the back of the head, 5 times. The shooter then went off looking for brother Vince. A police officer arrived in time and shot the assailant before he could harm anyone else. Dimebag Darrell was 38 years old.

Reflecting on the tragedy of his death got me a little introspective. When I began to piece together ideas for writing this article, I naively didn't consider the hugeness of this album to the metal world. All I simply thought about was how listening to the album made me feel. There are some days that I am starving to hear something authentic and confidant. There's nothing like having a genuinely screwed up day that includes considering all the horrors of the world – then popping on Vulgar Display of Power to refuel my fiery resolve and focus. It's cathartic to rip the poptab off of my niceties and politeness while listening to iconic track, and one of the best straight-forward metal songs ever written, "Walk":

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2017 marks the 25th anniversary of Vulgar Display of Power's release. More recently, Rolling Stone named the album the 10th most important heavy metal album of all time. Vulgar Display of Power means a lot to a whole lot of people, and Dimebag's murder is still felt throughout the metal community.

I think there's a feeling which prevails through the heavy metal circuit that requires us, the fans, to be authentic. Without this sense of authenticity, fellow metal lovers will suss you out like a troll sniffing out a Christian and toss you out of a venue, ripping your metal card out of your sweaty hands as you glide towards the concrete from the boldly-lit exit sign. It's releases like this which imbue that sense of fierce authenticity and loyalty into it's listeners. There was nothing more extreme, more party, and more brutal than Pantera when Vulgar Display of Power was released. Combined with their laser focus on making a brutal album and the enthusiasm of Anselmo during Pantera's concerts, Vulgar Display of Power had genuine balls from the songs to the stage. Where else could you go to hear music so unflinchingly relentless, coupled with a lead singer that beckoned the audience to lose their fucking minds? The intensity was real, and the wounds from mosh pit survivors were brandished like badges of honor.

Scott Ian of Anthrax fame quipped that Pantera "saved metal" in the mid 90's as grunge took the US by storm. As far as I am concerned, if there is any part of you that connects to this album; that makes you drive fast, that makes you want to hair whip, that makes you want to move your body, that makes you want to sing along at the top of your lungs, then you're in, baby. You authentically love Pantera. Maybe you didn't get a busted lip at a concert in '95, but classic music is all about staying important and compelling even after it's initial release. If Vulgar Display of Power and Pantera saved metal in the 90's, then it's also teaching us today what it's like to be untethered, unbridled, and unfettered – and how to send a message. Vulgar Display of Power is the definition of a modern metal classic – because those who heard it in 1992 react the way people who were born in 1992 react to it now. It's brutal, it's heavy, and it's a staple for metal lovers throughout modern metal history.

And for those of you who did survive a mosh pit, lemme buy you a beer because I wanna hear all about it.

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As always, thanks for stopping by. What do you wanna see on TBT? Got a crazy Pantera story? Please share, I love reading 'em.

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