Mouth for War
A New Level
No Good (Attack the Radical)
Live In a Hole
Regular People (Conceit)
By Demons Be Driven
Pantera followed up their breakthrough 1990 album, the platinum-certified Cowboys from Hell, with 1992’s Vulgar Display of Power, an even more punishing record. Thanks to the lightning-fast, nimble playing of the late guitarist Dimebag Darrell, the Texas-formed band unleashed breakneck thrash (“F*****g Hostile,” “Rise”), hulking hard rock (“Walk”), and viscous groove metal (“Mouth for War”). Phil Anselmo, now three albums in as Pantera’s lead vocalist, was comfortably settled into his role as a jawing bruiser who barked lyrics like a stern drill sergeant or taskmaster boxing coach.
All of this brutality was a reflection of Pantera’s focus and ambition. Post-Cowboys, Pantera had toured with acts such as Sepultura, Judas Priest, and Suicidal Tendencies, which inspired the group to kick their aggression up several notches. Terry Date, who produced both Cowboys from Hell and Vulgar Display of Power, later told Revolver magazine that the band members “wanted to make the heaviest record of all time.”
Yet although Vulgar Display of Power had no shortage of speed and heaviness, the album’s nuanced dynamics provided the biggest sucker punch. The moody “This Love” starts off deceptively slow and spare before exploding into a barrage of throwback ’80s metal riffs; the sludgy, droning rhythms on “A New Level” and “Live in Hole” churn like quicksand; and the anti-racism anthem “No Good (Attack the Radical)” touches on funk rock. Vulgar Display of Power is a towering achievement that ushered hard rock and heavy metal into the ’90s.