Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Pantera - The Great Southern Trendkill (1996)

Ok, here we go. First off... let it be known that during the veritable fucking craze that was the era of 'Vulgar Display of Power', I pretty much hated this band. Surprisingly, I actually didn't mind the "chuggier", slower moments generously scattered throughout that album, such as those found on 'A New Level', 'By Demons Driven' (though, the more rocked out main section pretty much embodies everything I hate about this band) and 'This Love'. It was the band's awkward and rather lame take on thrash by infusing Southern fried tendencies into the proceedings that prevented me from embracing them. Odd, as I actually like a good deal of Southern rock as well as the fact that I grew up during and was weened on thrash within its formative years, but something here just didn't gel with me. The band's next album and supposedly more "extreme" 'Far Beyond Driven' only proved to further alienate me from the band and their fanbase especially. Being deeply entrenched within the 'death metal/grindcore' scene during that time, I hardly found Pantera's follow-up to 'Vulgar...' to be offensive by any stretch.

Fast forward a few years and we find the death metal scene, hell, the metal scene in general to be in severely fucking dire straits. Sure, there are still some great things going on in the underground, but as far as the mainstream's all encompassing eye was concerned, metal in general was dying a slow and bloodless death.

I remember during that time thinking that the world could use another Metallica album. Sure, I was hardly a fan of their self titled release, but on the other hand, I felt that a new Metallica album would have the strength to readjust everyone's attention back to what was going on in the metal scene. Unfortunately we did get another Metallica album', and to keep this short and sweet, let's just say that the band unwittingly (or perhaps prophetically) chose 'Load' for the title of their latest sonic outing, as a load of shit is exactly what it was.

A month or so later, Pantera's latest would also be unleashed upon the masses. Of course I was hardly interested in this endeavor, but then a funny thing happened. After merely a minute or so of listening to the first track, I found myself slightly blown away. Elated, even. This was the sort of hatred and aggression that, for some reason or another, Metallica chose to abandon. Another thing that I found to be pleasantly curious was that the Southern rock angle that I always felt to be an awkward element in Pantera's sound, actually fucking worked this time around! Sure, it was groovy as all hell at times, but I never minded a a little "stomp & stalk" in my music from time to time. Sue me.

Despite the fact that 'The Great Southern Trendkill' falls in perfect alignment with the band's insistence on adorning their albums with the worst album covers imaginable, this was Pantera's crowning achievement. This was the band's pinnacle moment. This was their 'Peace Sells...', their 'Led Zeppelin IV'. Everything seemed to align perfectly on this album. The anger and intensity found on their previous albums was here in spades, but their was a considerable jump forward in terms of emotive craftsmanship. I actually found myself fairly compelled by Anselmo's "junkie poetry" and lyricism. Up until this point I hadn't put much stock into his bald headed, tough guy antics and posturing, but this time I felt myself coming around.

Unsurprisingly, this is perhaps Pantera's most misunderstood album. Many folks who were hoping for a retread of 'Walk' or 'I'm Broken' were undoubtedly let down upon hearing the first maniacal outburst of the album opener and title track. Of course not everything is hell and a hail of bullets. There are all types and manners of tempo changes and emotional highs and lows. I still do not consider myself much of a fan of Pantera, but I can say, without a doubt in my mind, this is one of the best albums ever recorded, and fro the record... yes, Pantera is, without a semblance of a doubt, a bonafide thrash metal band.

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