Pantera Look Back at Iconic 1991 Monsters of Rock Show in USSR | Revolver

Pantera Look Back at Iconic 1991 Monsters of Rock Show in USSR

"We were ready for war and we were bringing it to you"
pantera monsters of rock 1991 GIRON, Joe Giron
photograph by Joe Giron

On September 28th, 1991, Pantera played one of the most legendary performances of their legendary career: the groove-metal juggernaut's iconic set at Moscow's Monsters of Rock, the first outdoor rock festival ever held in the former Soviet Union. Going on well before headliners Metallica and AC/DC, the Texans took the stage in front half a million fans (and hordes of Russian military police) and stole the motherfucking show.

Jason Newsted, Metallica's bassist at the time, admits as much. "[Pantera] crushed every fucker," he recently said on the Talk Tomey podcast. "They had to be up at 8:30 in the morning to get the thing going. They probably had an hour and a half of sleep, if that, and they got right in and started the beers with us and stuff. ... for them to be able to pull that off! And it was so perfect!"

In 2012, Revolver talked to Pantera singer Philip Anselmo, bassist Rex Brown and drummer Vinnie Paul about the story behind their masterpiece, Vulgar Display of Power. Seeing as how they were in the studio working on the album when they took a break to play Monsters of Rock, the epic gig came up in our convo. Read their recollections below.

VINNIE PAUL We were in the studio for two months max, and five weeks into actually recording, [in September 1991], we got a call from our A&R guy, Mark Ross, and he goes, "Hey guys, we got a big opportunity. How would you guys like to open for Metallica and AC/DC in Russia?" We were like, "Well, we're in the middle of recording." And he goes, "Dude, don't sweat it. Take a break." We had been off the road and in the studio, so we were kinda worried that our chops might not be there, it ended up being the most amazing thing ever. It was the Monsters of Rock festival and it was the first time there had been a Western concert over there.

JOE GIRON (PHOTOGRAPHER) Since he had never been to Russia, Dimebag wasn't sure he would be able to get whisky, so he brought a bottle of Listerine mouthwash and filled it up with whisky. He didn't know if he'd be able to find anything to drink over there.

PHILIP ANSELMO We went on at 2 in the afternoon and it was the most unbelievable, huge stage we had ever been on. Staring out into the crowd was blinding. It wasn't a crowd, it was a fucking ocean. And once we got onstage, man, we fucking clicked. We were a fucking machine. We were ready for war and we were bringing it to you.

PAUL We were as good as anybody that played that day, and the crowd treated us like Led Zeppelin even though most of them had never heard of us. They hadn't even heard of Metallica and AC/DC, because their music was only available on the black market at the time. I was walking around Red Square, and I bought a whole Russian army outfit from some dude for $10. Rubles were worth nothing. It was ridiculous how poor and corrupt and wrecked the whole country was. They gave us a tent to stay in and a half a bottle of tequila, and that's all we got that day, and that was fine with us. We were just so happy just to be there. They made a rock documentary about it called For Those About to Rock, and every time I see it, I get goosebumps.

REX BROWN That was a big boost and it gave us a taste of where we wanted to be. But the thing is, we always kicked ass live. We weren't one of these fluky studio bands that got popular. We had grown up in the clubs and played every cover tune you could imagine before we landed a deal in '89. So we really had our shit together when we jumped on this big stage and did our thing. And I'm still getting people telling me how intense that show was. And it was a short set, but I remember coming back and then we got back into the studio ready to rage.