On June 24, 1988 "Pantera" released their fourth album "Power Metal".
This is a historically significant album that serves as a bridge between the band's earlier glam metal sound and their heavier thrash-influenced style that would come to define their later releases.
This album marked a turning point for "Pantera" as it introduced Phil Anselmo as their lead vocalist, solidifying the lineup that would remain intact until their breakup in 2003.
The album's backstory adds depth to its significance. After parting ways with vocalist Terry Glaze, "Pantera" held auditions for a replacement singer and began working on songs with various candidates. The tension between the band and Glaze led them to search for a heavier vocalist, which led to the introduction of Phil Anselmo. Anselmo's first appearance with the band was recorded on November 25, 1986, and he brought a new energy and aggression to the group.
"Power Metal" showcases "Pantera's" musical evolution and the band's determination to shed their glam metal roots. The album's songwriting and musicianship demonstrate a balanced fusion of their earlier flamboyant prowess and the street grit that would become characteristic of their later releases. The influences of glam acts like "KISS" and "Def Leppard" have given way to heavier inspiration from "Judas Priest" and "Metallica", with hints of the groove metal sound that would define their later work.
Phil Anselmo's vocal performance on "Power Metal" is a standout element. His mix of Rob Halford falsettos and David Lee Roth swagger, while lacking some of the quirks that would later become his signatures as a vocalist, exudes confidence and captivates the listener. His techniques may make him nearly unrecognizable in compered to "Cowboys from Hell" for example, but his delivery is compelling and enjoyable, showcasing a range that would come to define his future work. It is worth noting that the lyrics underwent significant changes from their original versions, with Anselmo altering most of them to suit the band's evolving direction.
The instrumental prowess of the band is evident throughout the album. The Abbott brothers, Dimebag Darrell on guitar (then credited as Diamond Darrell) and Vinnie Paul on drums, display their growing strength as musicians, with Dimebag's guitar work combining southern crunch with tight chugs and acrobatic soloing. Dimebag was working at the time with "Slayer's" Kerry King and there is no doubt that this was affecting the outcome on this album and on his future playing style. Vinnie Paul's drumming injects hard rock beats with faster patterns, adding dynamism to the songs. Bassist Rex Brown's presence on "Power Metal" is more pronounced compared to previous albums, laying the foundation for the role he would come to play in the band's sound during the nineties.
(Photo: Revolver Magazine)
The songwriting on "Power Metal" is more consistent than on any other "Pantera" album. The album largely avoids the pitfalls of their earlier glam releases while steering clear of the experimental tendencies of their groove metal era. The album has a perfect balance between the past and future of the band's musical styles. Tracks like "Rock the World" go more toward the glam metal roots of the band, while tracks like "Power Metal" with the double bass-driven onslaught showing their thrash metal influences. The rollercoaster continues with the glam of "We'll Meet Again" against the fast-pace of "Over and Out", the stomping beats and catchy choruses "Proud to be Loud" (written and produced by "Keel's" Marc Ferrari who also plays guitar) vs. the thrash metal riffs of "Down Below" and Rob Halford's-like vocal of Phil Anselmo. "Death Trap" sounds like a very early "Queensrych" song while "Hard Ride" adds a touch of AOR flair and a chorus reminiscent of "Judas Priest's" "Rock Hard, Ride Free". The album ends with the speed metal track "Burnnn!" and "P*S*T*88" featuring non-other than Dimebag Darrell on vocals.
Despite limited promotion and the absence of major label support, "Power Metal" has garnered a dedicated following over the years. While initial critical reception was mixed, with some acknowledging its transitional nature, the album has since been recognized as an intriguing early effort from one of the most important metal bands of the '90s.
While "Power Metal" may not have achieved mainstream success or received the same level of acclaim as "Pantera's" later releases, it remains a hidden gem for fans of the band. Its role as a transitional album, combining elements of the band's earlier glam metal sound with their evolving heaviness, makes it a worthy addition to "Pantera's" catalog. The album serves as a testament to the band's musical growth and showcases the talents of its members, particularly the emerging vocal prowess of Phil Anselmo and Dimebag Darrell's guitar skills.
In conclusion, "Power Metal" deserves a second look and appreciation for its place in "Pantera's" history. It might not be one of their best, but its importance in the band's progression cannot be overlooked. It stands as a testament to "Pantera's" resilience and determination to carve their unique path in the world of metal.
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