Happy Birthday: Pantera's Vulgar Display Of Power celebrates 20th Anniversary
25th February 1992. That’s the date Pantera‘s Vulgar Display Of Power was released. Like any genre-defining record, you’re all going to have your memories of when you discovered that album.
I was already high on Cowboys From Hell, but mostly veering between hair metal and ‘Big Four’ thrash. Pantera were something else entirely, sitting in this unparalleled thing they called power metal. We all knew the band had vague associations with glam metal, but that they’d cast off that image to become something altogether sweatier and more visceral.
The first thing I remember about Vulgar Display Of Power is the cover. That brutal, grainy black and white shot of someone’s face crumpling under the force of a punch. It’s been said before, but the VDoP cover pretty much sums up the musical content of the album: aggressive, violent, angry, brutal. Even Phil Anselmo’s voice changed drastically. Where he was an out and out screamer on Cowboys From Hell, he fully explored his lower register on Vulgar Display Of Power, channelling a deep growl which helped set the tone for the album:
Pantera’s lyrics weren’t about goblins or wizards; they were about fighting. Or rather, they were about being willing to fight at all times, confident that you could take on anyone who was fucking with you. As such, they reflected the anti-glam fetishized realness of the grunge moment while completely opposing the crippling self-doubt that characterized so many grunge lyrics.
The album will be remembered for its standout heavy riffs from the pounding Mouth For War to the satisfying grinding stomp of Walk. Amy Sciarretto talks of how Mouth For War was her daily wake-up call:
As a matter of a taste, it is in fact my favorite of all the Pantera albums. For a particularly rough two-year period, from late 2009 to 2011, I listened to ‘Mouth for War‘ every single morning on my way to work and felt empowered by it. It was the spark plug that ignited each day.
For me, Hollow remains my favourite track. Like Amy, it was the song that I listened to virtually every day after my father died. It’s when you find emotional resonance in a song. Hollow was about trying to get a message to someone in a coma and realising that they may never come back. Anselmo manages to communicate the anguish, sadness and futility that are part of grieving.
I don’t know about you, but I remember feeling old when Appetite For Destruction turned 20 years old. But it’s a different vibe for Vulgar Display Of Power. Knowing that it’s the 20th anniversary of the release makes me want to go and immerse myself in it again, remembering all the pubescent rage that I was feeling when I first found that album.
Anyway, over to you guys. Was Vulgar Display Of Power important to you? I’d love to hear how and what your favourite tracks are. Here’s Hollow: