Vulgar Display Of Power

Pantera

Atco Records, 1992

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/28/1997

Any time I listen to Pantera's second major-label release Vulgar Display Of Power, my mind goes back to 1993 and my last two weeks in college. My buddy, who I had talked into doing a radio show four years prior, was ready to sign off of his last show - and did, playing the song "Walk," while uttering the most forbidden word in radio about ten times. (Don't deny it, Mark - I still have the tape.)

But for some reason, I don't often listen to Pantera, though I like the energy they put forth in their music. It was only after receiving an e-mail from reader Leonardo Palazzo that gave me the prodding to dig through the Pierce Memorial Archives (buy two, get one free) for Vulgar Display Of Power. and after repeated listens, the overall groove is great, but it almost seems like the band was missing something.

Lead vocalist Phillip Anselmo screams like he is being electrocuted (I honestly don't know how his vocal chords have held out), but he also occasionally proves that he can sing. Guitarist Diamond Darrell (one hopes he dropped the nickname "Dimebag" after Anselmo almost died of an overdose last year) has a tone that is unique in the field of heavy metal. Rounding out the crew is drummer Vinnie Paul and bassist Rex, whose work on the four-string had impressed me on their previous album my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Cowboys From Hell.

"Walk" is still an incredible cut - a killer guitar riff with a thumping bass line intro drags the listener by their lower lip into Pantera's world. But to me, the songs that show off the band's talents better are the two tracks that follow it: "Fucking Hostile," which throws around tempos like they were matchsticks, and "This Love," which shows off all too infrequently Anselmo's singing. The guitar build from Darrell is also a highlight on this one.

And a nice feature of Pantera is there is not a lot of showboating on this album; each musician is allowed enough room to display their prowess, but they also know they have a job to do.

Anselmo's screams often make it difficult to figure out if Pantera is discussing something good or with contempt. "Mouth For War" seems to border on the latter, as does "No Good (Attack The Radical)."

For sheer musicianship and tonal qualities, Vulgar Display Of Power is worth it. But it almost seems like the band is holding back on their power at times - as if they're torn between going balls-out and putting a little more thought into the music... even if it meant slowing down their audio attack. This question of direction weakens the album a bit - the second side, while enjoyable to listen to, really doesn't stand out in my mind. (The band would show they found which direction they wanted to go in on their following release Far Beyond Driven.)

I also think I could have lived without the use of the "talkbox" on one song - remember we talked about this device's use a few days ago while discussing Bob Marley? When used correctly, the talkbox emphasizes a point; the problem is most artists don't know the correct use of it. (I'm not singling out Pantera; even Peter Frampton dropped the ball in his use of it.)

Reviewing heavy metal - especially speed metal - is a difficult task, simply because the music is so subjective. Each listener will get something different out of it, making it that much more difficult to put into a review a general opinion. To this listener, Vulgar Display Of Power is a demanding, but rewarding, listen, though Pantera's best was yet to come.

Rating: B+

User Rating: B+


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© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Atco Records, and is used for informational purposes only.