All three of Pantera’s previous efforts (before this) were very heavy, heavy metal albums. But on their fourth studio album, 1996’s “The Great Southern Trendkill,” Pantera simply went, well…bonkers!
If I had been a Pantera fan at the time, I probably would have seen this album coming. You see, I believe Pantera gradually got heavier with each release (purposely making each C.D. heavier than the one before it). So, to top 1994’s “Far Beyond Driven,” they pretty much had to make an album like this (super heavy). The result is “The Great Southern Trendkill,” an album which is the group’s craziest, most out of control, noisiest, and most dissonant affair.
The stomach-churning, tortured, constipated howling and relentless, wicked, equally-as-pissed off guitars comprise these 53 minutes of music (which I would understand if you hate at first.)
With that said, this is also Pantera’s most underrated and overlooked album. That may be because it’s (usually) an import; or because these songs got very little radio-play; or it might have something to do with only being allowed room for one song on Pantera’s “Greatest Hits” album; or it might be because this is Pantera’s most underground-sounding album. I honestly couldn’t tell you the reason why, but, as any Pantera fan would tell you, “TGST” definitely needs more love from the fans.
“The Great Southern Trendkill” shoots out of the gate with a heavy as f*ck metal explosion. Vocalist Phil Anselmo does some of his nastiest, most viscous yells in this song. Phil opens the C.D. straight from his gut, with a wicked bellow (“WAAAH!”). But it’s after the groovy guitars in the verses and the four part zig-zag guitar solo that you really know it’s on!
“War Nerve” opens with machine gun riffing. The rest of this song is pounding guitars and drums, with the exception of an occasional off-kilter guitar riff. I like the lyrics to this song, too: “F*ck the world! For all it’s worth! Every inch…of planet earth!”
“Drag the Waters,” the one song from this album that was included on the Greatest Hits album, has heavy chugging riffs layered on top of each other, as well as a creatively used cowbell by drummer Vinnie Paul. The chugging riffs make the verses almost slowly gallop, and Dimebag includes a mini, high-pitched guitar solo here, too (I wish it were longer!)
“13 Steps to Nowhere” has some good and fast drumming (mainly a double bass line) bubbling beneath the surface. Towards the end, Phil’s staccato vocals ride the bobbing riffs well. But this song is, overall, fairly predictable. It could use a brutal breakdown, or something unexpected.
Even though it’s not a good representation of Pantera, “Suicide Note Pt. 1″ is probably my favorite song on this record. This was one of the only times in his 15 years with the band that Dimebag Darrell picked up an acoustic guitar. And he was rewarded for it–this song was nominated for a Grammy. The acoustic strums (and an absence of drums and bass) give “Suicide Note” a spacey feel. And this song is also highlighted by some well-written, touching, and deeply depressing lyrics.
Track seven, “Suicide Note Pt. 2″, is the polar opposite of the track that came before it. Sometimes the guitar makes a slight “wah-wah” noise, but for the most part it is blindingly fast and brutal with scorching riffs, and a heavy, grooving and pounding breakdown. Add more of Phil’s heaviest screams, and you have a song that is almost deafening.
But I hope I haven’t given you the wrong impression: this C.D. doesn’t sound like any other band. Aside from the turbo-charged hate in most of these songs and the acoustic ballad halfway through, the group didn’t stray too far from their roots. Indeed, with nothing but more of the famous constipated howls, talented drumming, and speaker-shredding guitar playing, Pantera stick close to the cob. If you listen to this album with an open mind, you will realize this C.D. is just Pantera with maximized sound and intensity.
It may not be Pantera’s best or smartest written album ever, but from the first few seconds of the first track (the title cut) to the last few seconds of the last song, it’s more than clearly evident that “TGST” is one hell of a hardcore album. Also, whether you’re shredding your throat trying to sing along, desperately trying to follow Vinnie Paul’s complex drumming, taking an Aspirin (because you have just listened to these 53 minutes of pounding beats), or straining your fingers trying to play air guitar alongside Dimebag, there’s one important thing to remember: it’s still Pantera. Love it or hate it, it’s still Pantera. Therefore, all Pantera fans should pick this up, as well as fans of hardcore/underground metal, heavy metal in general, and fans of Phil Anselmo’s side projects (particularly Superjoint Ritual-a band which didn’t exist as of 1996.)
It may be because I’m a Pantera fanatic, but when I hear such moments of this C.D. (like when the title track hits its peak), I can’t help but think the same thing Phil is yelling: “Oh…f*ck yeah!”