What's there to say that hasn't been said? Pantera's 1992 album, Vulgar Display of Power, reshaped aboveground heavy metal into a meaner, heavier beast, set Pantera on the path to superstardom, and dialed up the intensity of the overall genre by inspiring legions of young bands to play harder and groovier. Fans, critics and even the surviving band members themselves largely agree that it's their most definitive statement, and in honor of it turning 30 this year, we asked our readers to pick their favorite song out of its god-tier tracklist.
We got our fair share of "the whole album" responses — and rightly so — but of the many voters who did manage to narrow down a single superior track, the following five songs earned the most love. Posers and casual fans got trampled, because two of the album's most popular cuts didn't even make the cut. See what did below.
There's a solid argument to be made that "By Demons Be Driven" is the heaviest song on VDOP, so we were thrilled to see it crack the top five. The pregnant pauses in between the machine-gun fire blasts of instrumentation add so much phenomenal tension, and the way Philip Anselmo delivers, "Beckon the call," with a demonic gurgle sends shivers down your spine every time. The battering-ram aggression is a hint at where Pantera would go on their next few records, but there's still tons of melody in the writing. Even the noisy-ass Dime solo is instantly memorable.
Of the two phenomenal power ballads on VDOP, many fans cherish the album's emotionally devastating closer, "Hollow," as the one, but "This Love" pulled ahead this time around — and it's hard to deny its place in the coveted top five. The song's cleansing opening strums calm the raging storm before it ("Fucking Hostile") and suggest oncoming tranquility, but "This Love" is a release of profound anguish and self-hatred. "I'll take my life (and leave love with you)," Anselmo croons tenderly before unmasking the grim truth and uttering it with a doomy bellow: "I'd kill myself for you/I'd kill you for myself." Fucking shudder-inducing.
We know we've got the right kind of readers (A.K.A. diehard Pantera fans) when songs like "Regular People (Conceit)" end up on lists like this. Aside from "Hollow," the back half of this record doesn't always get the shine that it deserves, which is understandable in one sense (side-A is one stone cold banger after another) but also unfair to cuts like this that would undoubtedly be the best song on any other band's album. "Most regular people would say it's hard/And any streetwise son of a bitch knows/Don't fuck with this," Anselmo barks with a swaggering sing-song. The riff owns. The groove wallops. This shit smacks.
If there's one track in Pantera's discography that you could point to and say, "That's power-groove," then it's "A New Level." The stomping drums, the creeping-up-the-wall-behind-you lead lick and then the verse that explodes into a gallop that's thrash-metal speed, but elastic and pounding — like being stuffed in the back of a cruising 18-wheeler with no seat belt and no handles to grab onto. VDOP as a whole — and this song in particular — represents Pantera coming into their own and hitting their historic stride, and Anselmo's howling refrain ("a new level of confidence") drives that point home.
It's hard to think of a song that's more quintessentially Pantera than "Mouth for War." VDOP's roaring opener harnesses their Southern roots in its lassoing main riff, which has all the dirt-kickin' swing of a demolition derby car doing victory donuts, and all the menacing intensity of a group of hopped-up good ole boys breaking each other's noses in the parking lot outside. Musically, it embodies the art of whipping ass, and its lyrical thesis ("use your mouth for war/Use it for what it's for") is such a simple, effective mantra for an album with a dude getting clocked on the cover. Now, this is a vulgar display of power.