"Projects in the Jungle" is glam metal, pure and simple. This is a marriage of Kiss, Accept and Van Halen with a sprinkling of 1980's uber-popular somewhat heavy rock and a pinch of Ted Nugent. In a slightly less conservative environment "In Over My Head" would have been a huge radio hit, with its massive keyboard overtures and Outfield-esque chord progression. Pantera obviously knew what was selling and made a run for it on this album, staying hard-edged enough to please the hair rockers and palpable enough for some family-minded goon to not change the station if they came on the radio. It's weird to hear.
This incarnation is way less enjoyable because of the trendiness, but there's still some decent moments. Soundwise this is Kiss all the way, with pounding cavelike reverb and a slightly dirty, overblown guitar tone with echoes on everything just for good measure. The riffing is pretty substandard with a few exceptions. "Heavy Metal Rules" is the greatest song Gene Simmons never wrote, "Killers" employs some enjoyable pedal-point demonstrations and "Takin' My Life" is as good a song as any band has written in any decade, ever. This was a group of young kids blazing a trail, making a name and thinking they were a bunch of take no shit bad-asses and the lyrics reflect that sort of acceptable rebellion. You never get the idea that Vinnie Paul would throw a punch at someone, but he'd probably tell them to fuck off because they "just didn't understand."
That's maybe the biggest difference between this incarnation of Pantera and the one that showed up on "Power Metal" and i can't help but think it was because of Phil Anselmo. By "Power Metal" Pantera had become a raging thrashing beast and while still rooted in the idea of glammy rock it wasn't a huge stretch to accept or anticipate the progression to "Cowboys From Hell." Throughout his career Anselmo has proven himself to be an intensely creative, visionary figure with myriad metal interests and talents-mayhaps Pantera saw that fire in him and decided they needed him to take up the ferocity a little. I always thought that Dime and Vinnie were the creative heart of Pantera but listening to these albums i'm thinking i was wrong. I think it was Anselmo calling the shots from the moment he joined up. He had the idea of what Pantera could be if they pushed hard enough and branched out further .
There are no thrashy moments on "Projects In The Jungle." It's not an aggressive record by any means. It's a flashy record, and its slick in its intent if not its sound (had it had the budget of the Outfield it might be a different story). Terrence Lee is an excellent vocalist for this style but he's got no range. He can sing high and little else and he certainly doesn't have the Halford-esque sound of Anselmo, nor does he veer at all from his comfort zone. He's not bad-if Pantera had ever found an audience amongst radio listeners i'm sure Lee would have been up to the task-but he simply had no spark. The same holds true for "Projects in the Jungle" as a whole. For Pantera fans it's invaluable but for anyone else it's laughable.
Bonus points: "Blue Light Turnin' Red" is a totally Van Halen guitar piece that probably should have opened the record, as opposed to being track three. Ridiculous.