The early ’90s were a bleak time for metal, especially thrash. Many bands either conformed to the popularity of grunge and alternative or packed it in. Then, in February 1992, Texas ragers Pantera released their second major label album, Vulgar Display of Power, and almost single-handedly regained the thrash metal reigns. Slower than both Slayer and early Metallica, Pantera were propelled by a trenchant groove that empowered their music and gave them a more contemporary sound than their peers had. If their 1990 album Cowboys From Hell was a bolt from the blue, Vulgar Display of Power was a finely crafted precision attack that capitalized on the strengths of its predecessor and gave Pantera a clearly defined voice that would influence generations of future musicians, including Lamb of God, Trivium and Throwdown.
At the heart of Power is a fierce, hungry and united band determined to make its mark with a sound that combined the lunging riffs, machinegun rhythms and untethered hostility of thrash with aspects of hardcore and southern rock. Much of the firepower came from late guitarist Dimebag Darrell Abbott, who was equally adept at rooting songs with slow, melodic crunch (“Walk”) unearthly six-string squeals (“By Demons Be Driven)” rapid-fire intensity (“Fucking Hostile”) or heart-rending calm-before-the-storm arpeggios (This Love,” “Hollow.”) And whichever direction the songs went, Abbott embellished them with virtuosic solos that were equal parts flash, speed and melody and always matched the mood.
Supporting Abbott was roaring, mouth-foaming vocalist Philip Anselmo, who sang with just enough melody to adhere to the band’s ravaged, undeniable hooks. Bassist Rex Brown played right alongside Abbott’s rhythms, making the band sound more dense and drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott complimented his brother’s playing with plundering double-bass, short, sharp snare and cymbal strikes and a variety of bombastic fills.