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.