Pantera - The Great Southern Trendkill: 20th Anniversary Edition album review

Revisiting the Texan extremists at their volatile career peak

Cover art for Pantera's The Great Southern Trendkill: 20th Anniversary Edition

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Extreme metal outlaws Pantera were already starting to self-destruct when they made their fourth major label album. Fighting a heroin habit, singer Phil Anselmo began picking fights and pissing off his bandmates with inflammatory public outbursts. But despite being recorded under strained conditions at separate studios, The Great Southern Trendkill proved to be one of the Texas band’s most stylistically ambitious and musically rich works, borrowing some of grunge’s attitude while laying the groundwork for rap-metal.

Propulsive groove-metal beasts like the title track, War Nerve and Living Through Me (Hell’s Wrath) are classic Pantera in their pulverising monster-truck aggression, but enlivened by sporadic waltz-time digressions and doomy horror movie interludes.

Suicide Note Pt. I is a rare finger-picked acoustic ballad, the biggest surprise being Anselmo’s crooning voice, which has the grainy soulfulness of Eddie Vedder. But Pt. II blows away all this mellowness with its battering-ram brutality and triple-speed noise-punk guitar pyrotechnics. And Floods is Pantera’s Bohemian Rhapsody, a seven-minute, shape-shifting, post-apocalyptic epic featuring one of Dimebeg Darrell’s finest solos, an octave-vaulting baroque ejaculation that sounds like Brian May on steroids.

The second disc in this remastered anniversary set features remixes, demos, instrumentals and live cuts. Nothing essential, but the early mixes have a pleasing work-in-progress rawness that softens and humanises their testosterone-drenched studio versions. And the clobbering live tracks are far superior to the tinny Donington set that accompanied the Far Beyond Driven reissue two years ago. They finish with Anselmo proudly bellowing, “Thank you, we rule!” On this occasion, he’s not exaggerating.

Stephen Dalton

Stephen Dalton has been writing about all things rock for more than 30 years, starting in the late Eighties at the New Musical Express (RIP) when it was still an annoyingly pompous analogue weekly paper printed on dead trees and sold in actual physical shops. For the last decade or so he has been a regular contributor to Classic Rock magazine. He has also written about music and film for Uncut, Vox, Prog, The Quietus, Electronic Sound, Rolling Stone, The Times, The London Evening Standard, Wallpaper, The Film Verdict, Sight and Sound, The Hollywood Reporter and others, including some even more disreputable publications.