Platinum Anniversary Albums
7 May 1996, Rhino/Elektra
It’s really difficult to pick just one but if I had to I’d call The Great Southern Trendkill my favorite Pantera album. It wasn’t the first I ever heard and it doesn’t have a lot of big hits on it, but it does have the coolest cover of all their albums. I’ll take that rattlesnake over the guy getting punched in the face on Vulgar Display of Power any day.
Honestly, I think it works better as a whole. All of their other albums lose me during the second half. Sure Vulgar has the great track “Hollow” as a closer and Far Beyond Driven ends with their cover of “Planet Caravan,” but I couldn’t pick out most of the other songs on the latter part of those albums. And I’m not even sure I’ve ever listened to the second half of Reinventing the Steel.
But Trendkill is solid from top to bottom. Right from the opening of the title track you know what you’re in for. BLLLLAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!! screamed over the chugged guitars and pounding drums. That may be the greatest opening to any album ever. “Fuck it,” they seem to say. “We’re going all in.”
“War Nerve” won me over as a teenager with the line “Fuck the world for all it’s worth, every inch of planet Earth.” Honestly sometimes after a tough day at work I still find myself humming that.
I remember thinking the guitar solo in “Drag the Waters” felt forced when I was younger. It seemed like it was jammed in there because Dimebag Darrell was a guitar hero and every Pantera song needed a solo. I’ve since changed my mind on that and love the song structures all through this album. Not only are the songs filled with the riffs and leads that they need but nothing is overplayed. Ironically, this sounds like a rather simple guitar album for a shredder as accomplished as Darrell. The riffs are simple, but goddamn are they heavy.
And it’s hard to ignore how talented the rest of the group was on this album. This is definitely one of Phil Anselmo’s greatest vocal and lyrical performances. From the poignant, heartfelt, somber melodies on “Suicide Note Pt. 1” to the throat searing screeches on “Suicide Note Pt. 2” the man runs from opposite ends of the spectrum seamlessly over the course of two songs.
And how could anyone forget “Floods”? It may not be the greatest song ever, but that is one of the greatest guitar solos ever. When I think of this song I don’t ever get the melodies from the verse or chorus in my head. It’s that solo all the way.
I’m not sure if this is a concept album, but some of the themes are repeated. I hear the words “Fuck the World” several times through it. And the desire to kill all trends is reinforced during the closing track “Sandblasted Skin.”
I’m not sure if Pantera just ignored what was going on around them musically, made a conscious decision to go against what they were hearing or just went into the studio and jammed out a great album. I know this was the beginning of the end for them as Anselmo was struggling with heroin addiction and working on his own away from the group. But whatever their goal or statement was, I think it’s safe to say they created a masterpiece.