The Great Southern Trendkill
East West Records
Pantera used to moan they never got any media attention, but now, like true platinum punks who've discovered any rage is good rage at the cash register, they bitch about what coverage they have gotten: "Every fucking second, the pathetic media's pissing on me and judge what I am in one paragraph--fuck you all," Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo grunts on "War Nerve." Though it's the fourth album from the former Krokus cover band from Arlington, Trendkill plays like the second--appropriate since its predecessor, Far Beyond Driven, debuted at the top of the charts, established Pantera as the metal band of Metallica's moment, and allowed various band members to buy into various nudie joints around town.
Trendkill has all the markings of a follow-up to fame--slaps at the press, assurances they're not the product of fad but The Real Thing ("If I said I was God, you'd sell your soul," from the title song), the same-ol'-same-ol' but louder to prove the point. Here's where Pantera puts up to shut up, speed metal that revs its engine louder than a mother but never gets out of the driveway. It's almost shtick by now--jackhammer guitars, Anselmo's gut growls, lyrics about wanting to kill yourself by men who wouldn't dare do any such thing--and like any shtick, how seriously you take it depends upon whether you like your clowns with or without stage paint.
Pantera has long insisted they're the voice of a so-called disenfranchised (white) suburban audience, the kids on the fringes who don't get a big enough allowance to buy more than two CDs a week--the kids who either turn into Nazis or junkies when Mommy's not looking, the suburban middle-class smashed into the ground by the punks from "rich homes with money and food." It's a Green Day vs. Pantera world with Anselmo battling for the hearts and minds of "The Underground of America," as he calls it: Punks are the poseurs, the product of fad, and even worse, "lesbian love is accepted and right" among their lot. It's like Nirvana never happened.
Pantera's rock is all visceral and external; the kids like to feel the guitars coarsing through their veins, the growls coming from their own throats, the vague and explicit poetry coming from their own brains ("Would you look at me now? Can you tell I'm a man?"). Pantera--who still look like they're in a Krokus cover band--exist as catharsis not for themselves, but for their audience; they're the final stage in the evolution and self-destruction of punk and all its nihilistic fury. This is music about self-empowerment: I am, and you're not. Anselmo roars, "It is weakness that grants us the power," and he may call that empowerment, but better men than he would call it exploitation. Fuck me? No, Phil, fuck you.