If Pantera didn’t save , the band most certainly altered the genre’s trajectory. By the time had changed musical direction and released Cowboys From Hell metal was already in a downward spiral, caught in the grips of hair metal’s third or fourth generation of bands, bowing down to thrash metal giants like Metallica and Megadeth entering the mainstream market, and primed for the grunge takeover. And when 1992’s Vulgar Display of Power it was all about grunge and the Seattle scene.
Despite heavy metal turncoats, Pantera didn’t make it easy to ignore Vulgar, as it was something that most of us weren’t ready for, and it was certainly something we were craving. It was just so fucking heavy and powerful, and while it could be furiously fast, it was thrash. It had a crunch and a bottom end that was all but unheard of in metal. And Phil’s vocals were harsh; they weren’t wailing like power metal, they weren’t growls like the emerging death metal genre, but they definitely weren’t soft and clean, but their hard bite was addictive.
In the following two years, Pantera’s name spread like an STD in a brothel. Amidst a sure-footed grunge culture, and a growing punk scene thanks to Green Day and The Offspring, Pantera emerged with the Billboard Number 1 album in 1994 with Far Beyond Driven. Phil Anselmo used to boast about this fact, and ask audiences the question, “Who says hard music is dead?”
The rest is history, but while Pantera may have forever changed heavy metal, they didn’t do it on their own. There was a small army of like-minded sludge factories in New Orleans, where Phil is from, and elsewhere, such as Crowbar, Eyehategod, Shell Shock, Graveyard Rodeo, Exhorder, Rigor Mortis, and, of course, the Melvins.
This history is what Vice magazine’s Noisey division is attempting to tell in NOLA: Life, Death And Heavy Blues From The Bayou. Part 1 on the 7 partwas released yesterday, September 23rd, which you can watch in the player above. You absolutely have to watch this.
Stay tuned as we bring you updates on NOLA.
Rock Hard \m/