After setting the world on fire with their groundbreaking groove metal major label debut release “Cowboys From Hell,” the Texas bad boys PANTERA were poised to become the next biggest thing in metal and with their followup release VULGAR DISPLAY OF POWER (a title taken from the 1973 film “The Exorcist”), they achieved just that. In the the wild and woolly 90s metal was splintering off in more directions than an explosive detonation of a TNT factory and with their newly discovered direction of groove metal, PANTERA had risen to the top of the metal universe. With catchy riffs, super heavy crunchy guitar, bass, explosive drums and rancid punk attitude dripping from every orifice, the band continued to build their legacy with some thought provoking tracks (“Mouth For War”) and some totally banal adolescent ones (“Walk.”)
Yes, gone and forgotten were the embarrassing glam metal years of the 80s and PANTERA had emerged as the new bad ass bros from the South with a hellacious heavy sound that fit in with the Slayer, Metallica and Megadeth crowds. Well, the new PANTERA was here to stay and with VULGAR they simply cemented that wise career decision of changing things up and never looked back. The momentum from all the hype around this album earned the band some touring time with the bigwigs of the day including Skid Row, Soundgarden, Megadeth and White Zombie. All of the exposure along with their addictive mid tempo thrash turned groove made PANTERA one of the biggest metal bands of the 90s. One again Phil Anselmo, Dimebag Darrell, Rex and Vinnie Paul dished out their new sound in super heavy doses.
While in many ways VULGAR follows in the footsteps of “Cowboys,” this to me comes across as the weaker of the two. Gone are the wonderful range of sounds and vocal styles. While on “Cowboys” Phil Anselmo displayed wide ranging vocal performances from heavy attitude filled blistering metal to tender Halford inspired shreds and screams on certain tracks like “Cemetery Gates” and “The Sleep,” on VULGAR he went full on heavy metal punk style for the full run. The sole exception to this is the finale “Hollow.” Likewise the band delivers a more blistering raucous sound focusing on their heaviest aspects and tamping down on the tender slower ones. This results in a less diverse album that makes VULGAR a powerhouse of raw aggression with steaming testosterone filled rants but fails to convey the wide range of sounds PANTERA showed they were capable of on “Cowboys From Hell.”
Of course VULGAR went on to sell millions and made PANTERA international superstars in the metal universe, but personally i find this album is a step down from the previous one. By creating a more one dimensional sound they may have appealed to a wider audience but sacrificed something in the process. However a step down from a masterpiece still results in a great album. All the catchy grooves are still here. All the metal attitude is exploding in yer face and the energy level firing on all pistons. The album starts off strong with my favorite tracks “Mouth For War,” “A New Level” and the 12/8 time signature riff of “Walk” strutting into your metal consciousness stealing the thunder and creating one of their most recognized tracks, but unfortunately i tend to get bored by the end of this one with one churning riff after another slowly bleeding into each other and becoming interchangeable. Based on the strength of the first half of the album i find this to be an excellent PANTERA album but i find this much less accomplished as “Cowboys From Hell” and not as interesting musically as the more experimental releases to follow.