This article originally appeared in the July 1992 issue of SPIN.
Geography has a lot to do with it. The members of Pantera are Texans, first and foremost, and personify the bluster and directness of the more rugged residents of the Lone Star State. They pile it on like a pack of amphetamine-crazed cowboys pumped with the adrenal fury of early Black Flag.
Audaciously calling their new album Vulgar Display of Power, they play it like they say it—like a Metallica stripped of all excess, fronted by the equivalent of Henry Rollins‘s angrier kid brother. Hard to believe that in 1983, Pantera began as just another bar band playing Van Halen and Judas Priest covers (peppered with a few originals), six nights a week.
The guys looked pretty silly back then, employing the standard teased-hair-and-bandana regalia and releasing independent albums with titles such as Metal Magic, but their past hardly makes them blush.
“That was the best training a band could get,” declares drummer Vinnie Paul, who formed Pantera with guitarist-brother Diamond Darrell when the two were 17 and 15, respectively. “Play like we have for the past nine years, and you get to be one hard bunch of motherfuckers!”
This is precisely the ethos Pantera sums up with Vulgar‘s anthemic “A New Level.” Judging by the monumental rhythmic structures of “Rise” or the wiry guitar skronks of “Live in a Hole,” the band’s a whole different animal now. With the new album, it steps out of the claptrap of passé thrash bands to become what lead singer Philip Anselmo modestly describes as “the heaviest band in the world.”
Respect is key with Pantera. Earning it has been a driving force for the group personally and professionally.
“The way I am today has a lot to do with growing up as a scrawny, insecure kid, always gettin’ eaten alive by dumb-asses with big-muscles,” snarls Anselmo, who displays a tattoo reading “Strength” on the side of his bald head—and, coincidentally, who grew up with crooner Harry Connick, Jr., as a schoolmate. “Without respect, you get walked on.”