Category Archives: Album Reviews

Pantera’s Vulgar Display of Power

You may have heard that it’s Vinnie Paul’s birthday today. He was the drummer for Pantera, and now drums for band Hellyeah, which isn’t nearly as good, but it’s nice to know the dude’s still got it. He’s 50 years old today.

In celebration of Vinnie’s birthday, I’m going to rant and rave about one of the first albums I ever bought: Pantera’s Vulgar Display of Power. It was released in ’92, and was one of the most influential albums of the ’90s. It’s been described as “one of the defining albums of the groove-metal genre”, and features many songs that have become the band’s most well-known and recognizable tracks.

This was the second album that displayed Pantera’s change of sound. Their first few records were more glam-metal, and were inspired by bands like Van Halen and KISS. When Phil Anselmo replaced Terry Glaze on vocals in ’87, they released their fourth studio album, Power Metal, which started moved away from their original glam-metal sound. Cowboys From Hell was released in 1990, and it was a key turning point for Pantera — their sound was now noticeably influenced by bands like Metallica, Slayer and Black Sabbath.

Here’s a little fun fact, the main reasoning behind the musical style of Vulgar Display of Power. When Metallica’s self-titled album (AKA The Black Album) came out in 1991, Pantera considered it to be a letdown to fans; Metallica had seemingly strayed from their thrash metal sound that was in their previous albums. It’s weird because that album gave us a lot of the Metallica classics like “Enter Sandman”, “Sad But True”, “Wherever I May Roam”. I can see their point though; those tracks aren’t nearly as heavy as “Damage, Inc.”, “Creeping Death” or “Motorbreath”. Pantera felt that they had an opportunity and a gap to fill, and wanted to make “the heaviest record of all time.”

Then Vulgar Display of Power came out with a picture of a dude getting punched right in the face on the cover. It’s now pretty iconic. The band told their label that they wanted the cover to be “something vulgar — like a guy getting punched in the face.”

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Nailed it.

Apparently the guy got $10 per punch, and he ended up getting punched about 30 times to get the shot just right. And then they obviously photoshopped it. Totally worth it. He’s able to wake up in the morning and say, “Hey. Good morning, world. I’m that guy getting socked in the face on the cover of one of the most influential album of the ’90s.”

The whole album is filled with heavy, gut-busting guitar riffs and hostile, angry vocals that gave Pantera their signature sound. This record introduced us to classic songs that were a big part of the soundtrack to my junior high years, like “Walk”, “Mouth for War”, “A New Level”, “Hollow” and “F*cking Hostile”. Vulgar Display of Power is just a classically heavy, no-bull, straight-to-the-angry-point album that makes you want to go around and kick things. In a good way.

Happy 50th, Vinnie Paul. You rock.

All Images Courtesy of Google Images.

Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral: 20th Anniversary

Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of the release of what is said to be “one of the most upsetting, misunderstood, and enduring album of the ’90s.”

This is by far one of my all-time favourite albums. I’m a sucker for concept albums; they’re cohesive, smart, and take you on a journey that makes the listening experience much more engaging and memorable. Each song of The Downward Spiral can really only be fully understood within the rest of the album. Without the other songs, each song is incomplete.

The tracks of the dark and unsettling concept album take us through the twisted steps of the destruction of a man. The plot follows his descent into his own inner world where he eventually meets his demise. The album opens with “Mr. Self Destruct”, which sets the tone for the rest of it and foreshadows the conclusion while serving as an introduction. The rest of the album takes us through the man — some say a serving as a reflection of Trent Reznor himself — dealing with religion, dehumanization, violence, disease, society, drugs, sex, and leading up to suicide. The last one is represented in the final track of The Downward Spiral, “Hurt”: the famously bone-chilling, disturbing song that was covered by none other than Johnny Cash himself. A lot of people don’t realize that the  song was originally the conclusion to Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral.

This is one of the smartest, twisted, and most haunting albums I’ve ever listened to. It’s one of those albums that, in order to fully appreciate it, you have to close the blinds, take the phones off the hook (kind of an outdated saying, maybe just turn your cell on silent) and listen to it — all the songs, back to back. It’s by far Trent Reznor’s most mature album to date, and it’s crazy to think that it’s been twenty years since its release in 1994. It’s brilliant. Plain and simple. Happy birthday, The Downward Spiral!

Have you guys listened to it? What do you think? What are some of your favourite albums?

 

All Images Courtesy of Google Images.

…Like Clockwork

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Like Clockwork is the sixth studio album from desert rock band, Queens of the Stone Age. It was released on June 3rd, 2013. I know this is late, but it’s my favourite album of 2013 by far. The whole thing has been on repeat since I got it. Seriously, it’s a problem. So I’m going to give it some praise.

It was the first of their albums to top the charts in the United States, and for good reason; it kicks ass. It’s full of Queens of the Stone Age familiarities that make their sound so unique, like singer Josh Homme’s mysterious, seductive voice and his sludgy, dirty guitar riffs. Yet this album differs from their previous ones in the sense that it’s unusually focused. It’s dark, meaningful, and influential, and Josh Homme takes us on a journey with every track.

In 2010, Homme was hospitalized for thirteen days, and consequently bedridden for four months following complications during a routine knee surgical procedure. He sank into a deep depression, and didn’t want to play music anymore. The remaining QOTSA band members encouraged him to return to the band to begin working on a sixth album, to which he responded,

“If you want to make a record with me right now, in the state I’m in, come into the fog. It’s the only chance you’ve got.”

Homme claimed that in the dark, he found …Like Clockwork, and I can’t think of a better explanation for the way the album turned out. I have to admit, it took me a few listens of the full album before I started to fall in love with it. I didn’t like “I Sat by the Ocean” at all but now I can’t stop listening to it. I was thrown off by the dark and serious tone of the songs; it’s not something we’ve heard from Queens of the Stone Age before. But the more I listened to it, the more hooked I found myself. The tracks were so connected to one another that it almost felt like a concept album. With tons of amazing guest artists like Trent Reznor, Elton John, and Dave Grohl on drums for the first time since Songs for the Deaf, this album will not disappoint. …Like Clockwork is, in my opinion, the best album from Queens of the Stone Age since Rated R.

Josh recently announced that this year the band will already be working on another album, which is unusual for them considering that it took them six years to give us something new after Era Vulgaris. They’ll be in the recording studio starting in September, after their …Like Clockwork tour is over. The fact that they’ll most likely be touring again next year to promote yet another album has me beside myself. I’ve seen them twice so far, and they put on one of the best live shows I’ve seen. If you haven’t had a chance to see them live, jump on it next year. You won’t be disappointed.

 

All Images Courtesy of Google Images.