Phil Anselmo on the making of The Great Southern Trendkill – “We were a heavy metal band that had created our own heavy metal niche and that was Pantera.
I saw everyone jumping on a bandwagon that was destined to die and, sure enough, it did—like anything else. Follow the leader for a little while until it gets burned out then bingo, right back to the basics. I called out all of the little fucking trendy things, and I bashed them and lambasted them. That’s where my head was at the time. It’s very obvious that music comes in cycles. We will have our day again. Those of us that are pure and true to our music will have our day again.”
Let me start by saying that I am a Pantera fan. They are one of the bands I grew up on and one of the bands I listened to through my angry youth. They were loud, ballsy and they were fucking heavy. Now a little older, a little less angry and possibly a little wiser, I can fully appreciate not just the crushing heaviness but also the skill and musicianship behind the songs. It has been 10 years since they officially existed as a band and 13 years since they released an album of new material yet even now, their albums are among the top played in my collection of music and out of all their albums, it is The Great Southern Trendkill that by far gets the most attention.
The Great Southern Trendkill, released in 1996, was written at a time of tribulation for the band and as such, Phil Anselmo recorded his vocals separately from the rest of the band but this does not show at all. The first track, the title track, kicks in with a blistering scream and continues on to be one of the most brutal metal songs ever written by Pantera, possibly by anyone. It is followed by two songs, War Nerve and Drag the Waters, which show the Southern style heavy riff machines at their finest. In comparison to the rest of the album, 10’s is slightly mellower and while not the greatest song on the album, still very much holds its own. Vinnie shows off his drum work in 13 Steps, a song which again has a slightly slower tempo to most of the album but just try not to play air guitar to it.
These lead us nicely in to the epic 2 partner which is Suicide Note Part 1 and Part 2. Telling two different aspects of suicide, escape and cowardice, Part 1 is a short acoustic song which kicks in to Part 2 which is intense and angry. Two very different tracks that work well together but can exist just fine on their own.
Living Through Me (Hell’s Wrath) comes next and again is straight in with a heavy riff, has a slightly peculiar slowdown in the middle before coming back at you even heavier than it was in the first place but overall this song sometimes comes across a little disjointed.
After this comes Floods. A true metal masterpiece, Floods is a beautiful, intense and sombre ballad. It has the most amazing guitar solo with powerful lyrics and is not only Pantera at their best, but is also Heavy Metal at its best. Following on from Floods ,if you haven’t already pressed back on your iPod to restart the song, are two songs that actually blend almost seamlessly into each other so they almost appear as one song, The Underground in America and (Reprise) Sandblasted Skin. Whilst the former is a slower tempo to the latter, the angry vibe of the majority of the album continues into these songs to make sure the album ends as aggressively as it began with the shouted lyrics “The trend is dead. The trend is dead. The trend is dead. The trend is dead!”
While the album never really got the recognition I feel it deserved, this is Pantera and heavy metal at its finest showcasing a band that were creatively at their peak while also being at their angriest. A must have album in any metal fan’s collection.
Pantera – The Great Southern Trendkill (East West Records)