Posted on January 18, 2010 -
What other critics said about this C.D.:
–Blender magazine included this in their “The 50 Greatest Rawk Albums of All Time” article and said it’s “a brooding exercise in listener-as-punching bag, with Phil Anselmo’s vocals a savage roar up against Dimebag Darrell’s spiteful riffing.”
–Entertainment Weekly gave it an “A” grade, and said it’s “undoubtedly one of the most satisfying heavy-metal records since Metallica’s early-’80s cult days.”
–Q magazine: One of the “50 heaviest albums of all time.”
–Yahoo music: “With songs as catchy as they are powerful, Vulgar Display may be the group’s all-around best album.”
–Napster (I couldn’t agree more with this description): “A raw, pulverizing, insanely intense depiction of naked rage and hostility that drains its listeners and pounds them into submission.”
–Hit Parader magazine has several times listed “Vulgar Display of Power” in their “Top 100 Metal C.D.’s of All Time” list.
Now, my review…:
Pantera albums in order, from best to least best:
1. Vulgar Display of Power
2. Far Beyond Driven
3. Cowboys From Hell
4. Reinventing the Steel
5. The Great Southern Trendkill (it’s still a good album, though.)
Like Metallica, Pantera’s sophomore effort was slower than their debut, 1990’s “Cowboys from Hell,” but it was also much heavier and more mature. Pantera continued to release albums (which were increasingly heavy) over the next eight years, and every one of their albums is an epic, but this band shines brightest on 1992’s landmark, “Vulgar Display of Power.” This album didn’t completely abandon the band’s thrash roots (it still showed thrash influence), so it should please “Cowboys from Hell” fans, but it will also definitely please fans of Pantera’s newer, heavier, and somewhat slower metal. The guitar playing is just perfect; the riffs fly, but unlike some bands (i.e. Slayer), Dimebag plays slowly enough so you can absorb and enjoy one riff before another one comes.
Calling “Vulgar Display of Power” the best metal album of the 1990’s isn’t an insult to Pantera’s “Far Beyond Driven,” Metallica’s “Black Album,” or Megadeth’s “Rust in Peace,” but I truly believe this is as good as heavy music– or any type of music– gets. A lot of great metal came out of the 1990’s, and “Vulgar Display of Power” is still, hands down, the best album of that decade. I don’t understand how anyone, especially metalheads, can give it less than five stars. Even 4 or 4.5 stars is an injustice. It is at least a five star album. If you don’t like this album, you don’t like heavy metal! This C.D. is why I need a C.D. player. (As of July 2005) I have 350 compact discs, and “Vulgar Display of Power” is like the crown jewel of my collection. I almost consider it one of my prized possessions.
If I could give only one or two albums five stars, “Vulgar” is one of those albums that would still get five. Mark my words, because I don’t say this often, this album actually deserves more than five stars. It is a very catchy, brilliantly written, perfectly executed, and very heavy album that rivals “Master of Puppets” for the best metal album of all time. Every song on this album is a classic, timeless, very memorable hit, and every song is essential listening. Not one song (or a single second of a song) on this album is less than top-notch. You will find absolutely no filler (or anything close to it) here.
Dimebag Darrel (R.I.P.) is, in my opinion, a modern day Jimmy Hendrix. He lays one big, talented riff after riff and one excellent, acrobatic solo after solo. Dimebag is, obviously, as good as or better than every other modern guitarist, but sometimes on this album (i.e. the song “Rise”) it seems like he’s even trying to out do himself. Plus, drummer Vinnie Paul’s catchy, often complex drumming is always great and bassist Rex Brown is also at the top of his game, here. Finally, Phil Anselmo may not go down as one of the all time greatest singers, but no one can yell or snarl better than he, and his wailing voice is outstanding against the background wall of instruments. Plus, Phil actually does some real singing on here (i.e. “This Love” and “Hollow.”)
Pantera were a modern day Black Sabbath. They were a brutal, no frills band with a sound all their own. They never made the same album twice, they were never trendy, never flavor of the month, and never a band to go with the flow or care what other people think. They weren’t doom metal, thrash metal, or death metal. Pantera didn’t make any type of music except straight up, anti-pop, heavy as heavy gets metal that stops just short of death metal. But their music stopped just short of doom, thrash, and death metal, so fans of those genres should be pleased with Pantera, as well. Actually, fans of any type of metal–except melodic or nu-metal–should be in love with this band.
Dimebag Darrel, “Vulgar Display of Power,” and Pantera (in general) were as original, influential and innovative as anything else in music the 1990’s. They might not have been the creators of heavy metal, but, in addition to being the pioneers of 1990’s metal (and giving birth to modern metal bands like Lamb of God and Shadows Fall), Pantera also helped to keep metal alive. In the early ’90’s, when grunge rock was dominating the charts, heavy metal seemed to be dead; but bands like Pantera (and Prong and Megadeth) kept it alive.
If you’ve ever wondered what it was like experiencing metal for the first time back in the 1970’s, and if you wonder what it was like listening to Black Sabbath for the first time, do yourself a favor and get some Pantera. Next, if you believe every metal band goes through a sophomore slump, or if you’ve never heard a 100% perfect album (and truly grade-A metal), and you wonder what it sounds like, proceed directly to “Vulgar Display of Power.” Finally, I cannot recommend this C.D. to you more if you don’t like modern music and have nostalgia for older metal.
Everything! Every song song is a stand out!
1. “Mouth for War” (3:56), the first single, includes a great opening riff which speeds up as the song goes along–as do the drums– before falling into a surging groove. The vocals and guitars meld perfectly on this song (as they always do on this C.D.). “Mouth for War,” which debuted at number one on the Billboard music videos charts and also has some rhythmic drumming, is a good headbanger and VERY catchy. Rating: 20/10.
2. “A New Level” (2:57) opens with sound of glass shattering, then it Rex lays down some good bass riffs, but Dimebag again dominates the show, with more great, bludgeoning guitar licks and a four part guitar solo. Phil’s vocals are harmoic, too; he repeats some heavy yells in the chorus. The only problem with this song is it’s rather short. Rating: 10/10.
3. “Walk” (5:15) is one of Pantera’s most famous songs, mostly due to the staccatto riff that runs through the whole song. This toe tapping riff is about as catchy as you’ll ever hear, and the drum beat is mighty catchy too. (Drummer Vinnie Paul fills the space in between the riffs and makes the rhythm have that thumping sound.) The riffs stop only briefly, for a speaker shredding guitar solo (a solo that Guitar World magazine named one of the all time best.) And you’d be hard pressed not to shout along to the chorus (“RE!SPECT! WALK!”) You’re just not metal if you don’t know this song. Rating: 19/10.
4. “F’in’ Hostile” (2:49) is an amazingly fast and brutal song that you can almost feel exploding out of your headphones. It’s a shame this song wasn’t included on Pantera’s Greatest Hits album, because it’s another fan favorite and one of Pantera’s most famous tunes. Rating: 20/10.
5. “This Love” (6:32) gives the listener the first bit of relief. It’s actually a semi-ballad, with almost “haunting” riffs and clean vocals in the beginning and verses. The lunging shout-along choruses, which have buzzsaw riffs, are still brutal, though, and they make this song another classic. Lyrically, this song is about a relationship gone awry. Rating: 15/10.
6. “Rise” (4:36) begins with guitar playing that’s even more fast and brutal than “F’in’ Hostile.” Plus, after like the first ten seconds, it shifts to an even higher, faster gear. Guitarists everywhere must be driving themselves crazy, trying to match Dimebag’s insane, piledriving, blistering, scorching guitar work, on this song. And when Phil’s vocals begin, the song becomes extremely catchy. The beat almost bobs in places, and you’ll have this chorus–which is mosh worthy–running through your mind all day. The real highlight here, though, is the guitar solo. It’s one of my favorite guitar solos of all time, and is definitely my favorite Dimebag solo. It builds like a skyscraper (it just builds and builds, then builds some more.) This moment and this moment alone made me want to pick up and learn the guitar. (Though I don’t know why I’d even bother trying, because no one can top Dimebag.) Rating: 20/10.
7. “No Good” (4:50) has a riff which builds and gains speed like a snowball going downhill. Phil’s vocals again go from supple growling (in the beginning) to yelling (in the unforgettable chorus). Another wailing guitar solo is included, as well as a killer ending of thumping riffs which echo Sepultura. Rating: 13/10.
8. “Live in a Hole” (4:59) has a guitar solo that’s so close to the start, this song almost begins with it. Dimebag then turns the riff into a riff that goes up and down throughout the whole song. A shorter guitar solo is included (Pantera always had great solos) and the song ends with Anselmo whispering. Rating: 10/10.
9. “Regular People” (5:27) is another great and unforgettable anthem. The guitars and drums begin by pounding the same beat (“boom boom boom boom”), which builds as if it’s running up a hill, then levels out. What really makes this song catchy, though, is the chorus. Every time I listen to this part of the song, I have it running through my mind all day. Rating: 15/10.
10. “By Demons be Driven” (4:39) might be my favorite song on here (and that’s saying a lot!) It begins slowly with (what sounds like) the amplifiers turning on. My air guitar fingers itch again, all throughout this song. When I hear the part where Phil whales “by demons be driven” (over the great riffs), I pause the C.D. and think one of two things: either “Oh yeah!” or “God, I love metal!” Another high point of this song is the ending. Most of the songs on here usually end about the same time that the vocals are done, but here the guys keep playing (for like a minute another minute.) More excellent, choppy riffs and almost machine gun hand drums, here. Every band member plays power chords/notes. Rating: 20/10.
11. “Hollow” (5:45) is the other semi-ballad. The first half of this song adds good melody and texture to the C.D.; but the second half of the song is still metal (which no one does better than Pantera.) Shortly after the second half of this song begins, it turns to an irresistible bobbing beat. Phil’s howl rides this beat well, too. If, when you hear this part of the song, you don’t bang your head and stomp your foot, there’s something wrong with you. Rating: 13/10.
Total running time and length: 11 tracks, 52 minutes and 50 seconds.
Total rating: 175/110. An A++++++.
Fastest/heaviest song: “Rise”
Slowest/lightest song: “Hollow”
Best song: “By Demons Be Driven”
Worst song: Ha! EVERY SONG IS A HIT!
I just can’t say enough good things about this album! No album is more deserving of five stars, and “Vulgar” is one of those few albums that I would truly give more than five stars, if I could. I have listened to it a countless number of times over the five years that I have owned it, and I still can’t get enough of it. All metal bands strive to make an album as masterful as this, but to no avail!
Pantera were a great band, so they (of course) always made great C.D.’s. But this is great even for them! “Vulgar Display of Power” is definitely the sound of Pantera (and heavy metal in general) in tip-top form, and it’s like a greatest hits album in itself! If I ever start to cool down on heavy metal or Pantera, or if I ever want to listen to any other genre besides metal, I just plop this C.D. in and I instantly remember all of the reasons why I love heavy metal. If you ever liked Pantera (or heavy music–death metal, thrash/speed metal, extreme metal, etc.), you owe it to yourself to buy this album. In fact, buy two copies, just in case you wear the first one out.
It’s well over a decade old now, so the sound quality has dipped slightly, but (other than that) everything is perfect and rates at least a 10 out of 10:
The music is (obviously) no less than brilliant, but the lyrics are also very good. Sometimes in metal, the lyrics can be a bit cheesy and contrived. That isn’t the case, here. These lyrics are fit for heavy metal, but they are also not overly evil or tough.
–Sound quality: 9/10.
As previously mentioned, the sound quality has dipped slightly because it is over a decade old. I’d like to see this album re-released in a few years, but as of now, “Vulgar” still sounds great and is still mighty loud.
It wouldn’t make me cry if the basslines were a tad bit more audible, but when the final product sounds like this album, you can’t complain. But it isn’t all just guitars and vocals; the drum work is still very audible.
What can I say that I haven’t already said? “Vulgar” has musicianship which is nothing short of mindblowing (and some of the best ever guitar work). if you’re a young guitarist looking for some inspiration, you need to get this album,) and very deft, nimble, and catchy drumming. If you want to make a C.D. of songs with the best riffs/solos/music, don’t bother making a mix C.D.; just buy this C.D.!
As aforementioned, Phil’s voice goes perfect with the instruments. His voice is very catchy and he nails every hook and Phil is at just the right volume on this album (loud, but not too loud–he doesn’t over dominate). He can wail, yell gutturally, switch to staccato barks, growl, and even whisper.
–Listenability/consistency and repeated listenability: 20/10.
Since this C.D. is all killer and no filler, it is completely listenable if you like heavy music. And the guitar solos alone make it worthy of repeated listens. I’ve listened to this C.D. a countless number of times, and I will listen to it countless more.
On this album, you will find traces of Black Sabbath, Slayer, and even a little bit of Helmet. But every band has influences. Pantera took those influences and really turbo-charged them (they, as Vinnie Paul says, “added a Texas-sized twist.”) That twist made all the difference; the result is one of the most original sounds you’ll ever hear in heavy metal. If this C.D. sounds a little familiar now, it’s only because a lot of bands have tried to copy it. Pantera made this sound first, and this sound was one of the most influential of all time.
–Album length: 10/10.
It’s only eleven tracks deep, but it’s 51 minutes long, and that’s just the right length. Long, but not so long that you get tired of it or you have to listen to it in more than one sitting. “Vulgar Display of Power” is very addictive and I always feel like listening to it, but it’s long enough that you don’t have to savor it and you’ll be satisfied for a long while after listening it, so you won’t have to press the ‘PLAY’ button as soon as the C.D. is over.
Terry Date is famous for a reason. He is an excellent producer. He has produced everything from Soundgarden to White Zombie and Deftones. This album is anything but overproduced, but it’s not under produced, either. It never sounds muddy, it is always crystal clear. Every chord Dimebag plays is as brisk as the last. It’s not just the musicianship–the production helps “Vulgar” to have the impact that it does. The production has also helped make this album stand the test of time. Even over a dozen years after its initial release date, this album doesn’t sound at all stale. 10/10.
–Order of the songs/mastering: 10/10.
Mastered by Howie Weinberg, this track listing is in just the right order. It starts out with a killer song like “Mouth for War,” and it continues to gain momentum for the rest of the 10 songs. Some songs like “This Love” are thrown in at just the right place to make sure this album doesn’t become monotonous, but there the very next song (“Rise”) is an onslaught that tears your head off and makes sure that “Vulgar” keeps you on your toes and isn’t at all predictable.
–Cover art: 10/10.
The cover art (a picture of a man being punched in the face) is worth mentioning because it’s a truth in advertising (it describes this C.D. well).
Cons: Like all good things, this C.D. eventually has to come to an end.
You might think I’m over hyping this C.D. You might be thinking “it can’t possibly be that good.” Well, my friend, it is! If I am sure about one thing in this life, it’s that “Vulgar Display of Power” is as great as I’m saying it is–if not greater. If you don’t take my word for it, let’s look at the facts: Pantera have sold over 8 million records total, “VDP” debuted at number 44 on the charts and number 64 on the UK charts. Plus, as of 2004, “Vulgar” has sold over two million copies in the US alone. Can all those people be wrong about this album?
Now, obviously, metal isn’t everyone’s favorite genre, so I can’t really recommend this to anyone who loves music. But, if you’re a metalhead, you should definitely already own this C.D., and if you’re new to metal, make this one of your first purchases, because no metal collection is complete without all eleven of these songs. If you’re a metalhead (or even a casual metal fan), I don’t recommend you buy this album…I require it.
Buy this album, if:
–Let me make this easy for you. If you like heavy metal–even a little bit–and if you’ve EVER liked metal, you owe it to yourself to buy this C.D..
Don’t buy this album, if:
–You like predictable, slow, boring, bloated radio songs.
–You’re so broke, you can’t even afford food (and if that’s the case, then find someone who has this C.D. and burn it).
–You already have it.
–You’re a Dave Matthews fan and/or you think Linkin Park is heavy.
If you don’t have a C.D. player, get one! And even if you don’t like Pantera, you’ve got to give them props for making one of the most influential heavy metal albums of all time.
–It’s best to play this C.D. when:
You’re trying to get pumped up
You want to know what a perfect album sounds like
You want something to renew your faith in metal
You’re hanging with friends
–Don’t play this C.D. when:
You’re trying to be romantic.
If I could wrap all of this up and describe my love for this album in one sentence, it would be that IT IS MY FIRST OR SECOND FAVORITE C.D. OF ALL-TIME, IT IS DOUBTLESSLY PANTERA’S ALL-TIME BEST C.D., AND THE BEST METAL ALBUM OF THE 1990′S, AND IT HAS MY VOTE FOR THE BEST HEAVY METAL ALBUM EVER!
Take my advice (you’ll thank me later) and believe me when I say this: it is more than well worth the 15 bucks you’ll pay for it. In fact, how can you even put a price tag on an album like this? The 15 bucks you spend here will be one of the most wise investments you will ever make. You will never regret buying “Vulgar Display of Power.” It is nothing short of genre bearing, career defining, standard setting, chart topping, era influencing, imitation inspiring, speaker shredding, ear pleasing, satisfying (actually “satisfying” is an understatement), virtuoso displaying, flattening, pummeling, blinding, jaw dropping, exciting, punishing yet highly rewarding, pulverizing, genuine, energetic, intense, powerful, deft, precise, brilliant, addictive, brutal, intense, exhilarating, memorable, super catchy, cathartic, caustic, contagious and infectious, consistent, innovative and original, timeless, essential, raw, crystal clear, mosh worthy, hostile, masterful, wonderful, phenomenal, an instant classic, 100% incredible, and completely and utterly flawless.
It’s the best album of the year (1992), the best album of the decade (the 1990’s), the best album of the century…THE BEST ALBUM EVER!