Pantera’s Vulgar Display of Power

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Next year it will be 30 years since this legendary album was released. 

After having made a mark on the heavy metal world with “Cowboys From Hell”, Pantera took on the role of heavy metal royalty with “Vulgar Display of Power”.

Metal is par excellence the translation of violence into music. All genres and sub-genres related to metal cannot help but raise hardness and roughness to their fundamental characteristics; and there is a whole story of sound research to try to create the most violent, most aggressive, most brutal sound: increasing the speed, the granitic, the distortion of the riffs; hyperbolizing the rhythms; scarring the cantata with the liberating and primitive assault of the screams.

Genres such as grindcore and the most deviant fringes of black metal testify how metal can stage the most atrocious and devastating projections of the soul, sometimes reaching the limit of the audible. Yet already in 1992, a group of Texan agitators had found the perfect musical transposition of violence, understood in the fullest sense of the term, using a very different formula: to draw from the great thrash lesson of Metallica, Slayer, and Anthrax and personalize it in an enhanced version. from riffs stopped and then suddenly released with a hard muzzle, sung of unprecedented power and pressing and infernal rhythms. That is Dimebag Darrel, Phil Anselmo, Rex Brown, and Vinnie Paul. Pantera, of course.

It is clear from the opening that the revolution is taking place here: the first two pieces, Mouth for war and A new level (moreover of the same duration) show the link with thrash, but at the same time they appear new, different, almost alienated from the contemporary metal scene, with the perfect joints between guitar and percussion. It will be the effect of Anselmo’s voice, which seems to be submerged by the walls of guitars to re-emerge each time with more anger; it will be Darrell’s impressive technique, which especially in the second track is really scary. The fact is that we started, and from here there is no escape: immediately afterward, in fact, what is considered the greatest anthem of the American formation, Walk, arrives to hammer the eardrums. Martial and heavily rhythmic, the scratchy voice that this time stands out clearly, the hypnotizing guitar hits, a refrain too powerful not to be shouted, and a fantastic solo; the elements for the masterpiece are all there.

Not even the time to recover from the obscure suggestion of this song when you are overwhelmed by the gun cotton bomb that responds to the name of Fucking hostile. A really “f****** hostile” song, where metal is bastardized with the hardcore-punk influences so dear to Anselmo and what comes out is a real train running at frenzied speed; and when they scarred scream-growl that repeats the title clicks, it’s sandpaper on the skin. The ice is broken, the groove metal exposed in the front line: in the second part of the disc therefore pantera try to detach themselves even more from tradition by combining the devastating sound attitude with a search for new formal schemes.

Pantera, cleverly, counterbalance this little apocalypse with lighter songs that make the entire record breathe again: This love, about halfway through the album, which also drags heavily but with the support of the melody; and the splendid Hollow (the text is also noteworthy), taken to heaven by Darrell’s bright solos and by an Anselmo who hangs the robe of anger on the wall to wear that, even more visceral, of despair and abandonment.

Two certainly milder moments, which make a bit of light penetrate the gloom of the record; but this does not mean that the slower rhythms and the less brutal sound lines weaken the record (indeed, both tracks eventually lead to the well-known Pantera sound), they simply enrich the record in the same way as in a painting to perfectly define the shadows there is necessarily a need for light. Vulgar Display Of Power remains a real “blow” as it is: pulled, violent, angry, aggressive, foaming with rage. On the other hand, we are already warned by the cover, here you get a tremendous punch in the face; and the best part is that they love it.

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