Pantera - 1988 Power Metal

edited October 2020 in year-1988

ARTIST: Pantera
ALBUM: Power Metal
LABEL: Metal Magic
YEAR: 1988

LINEUP: Phil Anselmo - vocals * Diamond Darrell - guitar * Rex Rocker - bass * Vinnie Paul - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Rock The World * 02 Power Metal * 03 We'll Meet Again * 04 Over And Out * 05 Proud To Be Loud * 06 Down Below * 07 Death Trap * 08 Hard Ride * 09 Burnnn!! * 10 P.S.T 88



Nothing much in the ensuing years since Dimebag Darrell's senseless murder in 2004 has done much to ease the loss or memory of one of heavy metal's greatest guitarists, but the music left behind gives some hope in his absence.

'Power Metal' was a pivotal moment for Pantera, it saw Anselmo make his vocal debut but even two years before 'Cowboys From Hell' made them superstars there was little indication that Pantera would make the radical musical leap from traditional heavy metal to a more aggressive thrash based ethic.

That's not to suggest 'Power Metal' isn't aggressive itself. Far from it. Like 'Projects In The Jungle' and 'I Am The Night' this is true heavy metal with gallop. The lyrics were still primitive party style, but essentially that's what makes metal enduring.

It must again be stated that those fond of mocking Pantera prior to their image and musical change in the 90's are missing the point. This is superior metal.

The Songs

Think 1988 and what Iron Maiden, Saxon, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer were up to for example and 'Power Metal' honestly makes a joke of all of those acts.

It's headbanging anthem after anthem with Darrell's riffing something to behold. Key point in particular the title track, noticeably the halfway section where 'Diamond' unleashes a barrage of riffs that quite simply astound even a seasoned listener like myself. It once and for all defines the art of heavy metal and makes Judas Priest circa 1988 absolutely shameful.

There's not a poor track, even a remake of 1985's 'Down Below' betters the original and Anselmo initially was an emphatic improvement over Terrence Lee (Terry Glaze) when it came to the high pitched stakes.

Keel's Marc Ferrari helped pen 'Proud To Be Loud', obviously very Keel flavoured. It takes nothing away from the energy Pantera's own 'Rock The World' or 'Over And Out', the latter which contains a blast beat or two.

'Hard Ride' and 'We'll Meet Again' shows Pantera had yet to fully shake their AOR leanings, impressive as always melodically, but followed by the uncontrolled riffing and energy of 'Burnn' shows where the bands minds were. Darrell contributes his first and last vocal with party rocker 'Pussy Tight', and once and for all Pantera had left behind the Def Leppard and Kiss influences and developed their own identity.

In Summary

This has never been easy to obtain, but deserves some kind of proper release. With Darrell's death surely someone would have thought it proper to expose the world at large to the earlier albums that still remain in limbo.

'Power Metal' is such a great testament to the spirit of heavy metal that it's nonsensical to let it gather dust. This is as important as any of Pantera's 90's output and honestly you'll find me listening to this before 'Vulgar Display Of Power'.

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    edited October 2020
    In my mind this album is the musical equivalent of Deadly Prey, especially a track like 'Death Trap'. It's just got that homemade, do it yourself ethic about it. Crude as shit, but all the more classic because of it. Pure low brand, 80s US metal all the way. But saying that, you can definitely hear the direction they were going musically as the 90s approached. Dimebag's riffage work is already like a goddamn drill piercing the brain, nothing proto about it. The only components missing were image, lyrical content and Phil finding his voice as a vocalist - which you can actually hear at times, like his 90s aggro metal shout the last 10 seconds of 'Over And Out'.
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    edited October 2020
    I agree - you can feel a strong musical shift from I Am the Night, having said that each album prior moved on from the predecessor a little the first being very bubblegum pop metal, to a more Def Leppardy feel on Projects and a harder edge again on I Am the Night, but at the time I thought this one especially was quite a departure - little did I know how far Cowboys would take it. Unfortunately I sold all my first 4 Pantera albums in a clear out and didn't take at all to Cowboys - I could kick myself really at times because some of it was excellent.
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    The debut to me had some quite ferocious moments in my opinion, like the title track, Ride My Rocket, I'll Be Alright and Rock Out. There's a couple of lightweight tracks, but nowhere near pop-metal if you ask me.
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    Another thing to consider with this album is Phil's age. I believe he was only about 20 or so when this LP hit the shelves, barely out of his teens.
    So I think he can be forgiven for not having found his true voice yet. But even considering that, the dude already had some vocal chops on him for such a young turk, a true metal beast. The rest of the band must've known they were onto a winner with him in the ranks, that it was just a matter of time before they broke through and hit it big. It's like The Who finding Moon. It's the final piece in the puzzle, an original and unique sound starts to take shape, organically. It's funny to think what would happen two years later with the release of Cowboys From Hell. The metal landscape changed overnight, all of a sudden giants like Maiden and Priest were outdated old farts, well and truly behind the eight ball. At least Priest had the balls to modernise their sound, Maiden were just pathetic in sticking to the tried and tested. 1992: Fear Of The Dark vs Vulgar Display Of Power. How tragic is that, man? A wasting of epic bloody proportions.
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    RkbluezRkbluez Rhode Island USA
    edited October 2020
    The first 3 Pantera CD's should be released and show a different side of Dime's playing, yeah they are more commercial sounding but still have some blistering ripping tracks, don't know WTF they don't remaster and release these. I for one love those albums.
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