Thursday, April 15, 2010

PANTERA "POWER METAL" (Metal Magic Records)

Holy shit, this fucking rules. Pretty much any Pantera fan knows they had a storied career before the release of "Cowboys From Hell"; we all pretty much know the four albums that preceeded it are near impossible to find and have thus attained a sort of "holy grail" status amongst the base. "Power Metal" was the fourth album before the big break and the first album to feature Phil Anselmo, making it the perfect bridging point between the Pantera of old and the aggressive adrenaline machine the band would become afterwards. And again-this album fucking SLAYS.
Why Pantera have disowned these records and this style is well beyond my grasp. There is nothing bad or embarrassing about this-the only sadness about this album is its criminal unavailability because it's a fucking perfect example of of the title. Pantera had it down cold like only a few others before, and where stalwart acts like Manowar and Accept found themselves lost in tides of epic silliness amongst the majestic riffing, Pantera brought in the unbridled ferocity of thrash metal to make a definitive (albeit now near forgotten) statement pertaining to the awesomeness of rocking out.
"Power Metal" is a perfect amalgamation of "Rust In Peace"-era Megadeth, Judas Priest and Kiss. Every reference is there but it never comes off as anything less than inspired. There's no contrivance, no blind emulation, no unnecessary chromatic heaviness or oblique demonstrations of technique (something that would plague the band towards the end)-just pure fucking metal, in spades and without apology. Every song is a streamlined destroyer packed full of awesome riffs, frantic double bass patterns and Phil's insane, near-operatic lungpower, easily giving Halford a run for his money. Shit like this was probably what prompted Judas Priest to lay down a record like "Painkiller" in the first place-they needed to compete with the new breed of metal (and all that competition certainly made for some awesome wax.) Anselmo easily makes a case for himself as one of metal's most iconic singers with this performance. There's hints of what he would do with Pantera here, just like there's hints of what he USED to do hidden amongst the later, more popular records. But mostly there's just a crazy display of talent and a massive upper range. Anselmo is ON FUCKING TOP here.
Also reaching the mountain peak is Dimebag Darrell (here known as Diamond Darrell, before glitter and glitz was traded in for smoke-filled tour buses and hazy hangovers.) I don't think i need to tell you that he's one of the bes guitar players that ever lived-if you aren't aware of that cold hard fact then i suggest you move away from the screen and invest in "The Great Southern Trendkill" right fucking now-but i do need to tell you how fully realized that playing was so early on. There is not a single misstep here. Everything is as tight and crafted as it would ever get on any subsequent Pantera release, and on "Power Metal" is was a hell of a lot more melodic and shitloads more fun. "We'll Meet Again" has a solo that will drop your jaw to the fucking floor-it's so astonishingly composed and gorgeously melodic, and so mind-blowingly fast-that you'll probably feel the need to stop whatever you're doing and air guitar along until it's over. I did and i'm not ashamed. It's cool as shit. And this is coming from a listener who agrees that "Floods" was "Guitar Solo of the Year, 1996."
There's no reason to snooze on this. You can find it if you look for it, and trust me, it's worth your minimal search time. Pantera would go on to make rougher, more alienating music, but after hearing this album i'm not sure if that was the right direction. I love what they accomplished on "GST" but that seemed to be a peak of sorts-maybe a secondary peak. And it was great becasue they were finally letting some melody and groove in-it wasn't just ridiculous thrash stop/start tactics anymore, it was a renewed interest in writing awesome songs. "Cemetary Gates" provided perhaps the truest peek into the past, with its ultra-high falsetto singing and hyper-melodic riffing, and it's no wonder that song was both a fan and concert favorite. We remember, and we never faulted Pantera. We just wanted to hear the fucking rock. Get this shit NOW. Highest possible recommendation.

1 comment:

Benjamin said...

Yes, but HOW MANY PINCH-HARMONICS ARE ON THIS? YOU DIDN'T MENTION THE PINCH-HARMONICS!!