photo & text by nacrowe
by the time of PANTERA's eight studio album THE GREAT SOUTHERN TRENDKILL (ELEKTRA, 1996), the band was probably in desperate need of an extended hiatus. singer PHIL ANSELMO had been dealing for years with back problems that led him down a SELF-MEDICATED SPIRAL of PAINKILLERS and ALCOHOL that would eventually culminate in a HEROIN OVERDOSE on tour not long after the release of this album. in retrospect this album is the first PANTERA effort conceived of by a splintered collective, with ANSELMO recording his VOCALS alone with producer TERRY DATE at TRENT REZNOR's NEW ORLEANS studio and the band at the ABBOTT BROTHER's home studio in TEXAS. not surprisingly given the INTERNAL CHAOS, this would be the final DATE-produced PANTERA record, having worked on every release since their COWBOYS FROM HELL (ATCO, 1990) major label debut.
all that being said, THE GREAT SOUTHERN TRENDKILL was the record i first became aware of the band through, given that it came out at the end of my sixth grade school year in NIGERIA. i know for certain that by seventh grade i had a taped copy of the record. being surrounded by oil brats from the AMERICAN SOUTH, most of whom were at least LATENTLY RACIST towards our WEST AFRICAN hosts, i've always had a hard time stomaching SOUTHERN PRIDE which this album has a lot of. the concept for the record was that in the midst of ALTERNATIVE ROCK largely replacing TRADITIONAL METAL, with longstanding legacy bands like METALLICA, ANTHRAX and SLAYER all making concessions to the new format, PANTERA was standing STRONG (the unsubtle insinuation being much like their confederate forefathers of yore) and flying the freak flag of UNDILUTED, UNADULTERATED METAL for the hardcore fans.
THE GREAT SOUTHERN TRENDKILL is an UNCOMPROMISING album about STUBBORNNESS, INTRANSIGENCE and PERSEVERANCE in the face of environmental headwinds like popular opinion and cultural trends. despite the process that birth it, the record is sonically and lyrically one of the most FOCUSED and DIRECT efforts in their catalogue. themes include SOCIAL DEFIANCE and the VULNERABILITY and SHAME involved with ADDICTION. AGGRESSIVE tracks like "SUICIDE NOTE, PT. 2," "WAR NERVE," "THE UNDERGROUND IN AMERICA" "THE GREAT SOUTHERN TRENDKILL" and "DRAG THE WATERS" are made more impactful by their STRIPPED, BACK-TO-BASICS PRODUCTION, especially in contrast to the more THICK and LUSH, MULTI-LAYERED guitar overdubs found on their CELEBRATED previous effort, FAR BEYOND DRIVEN (ELEKTRA, 1994). more MELLOW affairs like "SUICIDE NOTE, PT. 1" and "FLOODS" is where this album really separates itself from the pack, especially the latter and its ICONIC GUITAR SOLOS and much REVERED OUTRO. even in the midst of a BRUTAL RECORDING, the exceptionally AFFECTING "FLOODS" outro is arguably the most beautifully MELODIC COMPOSITION DIMEBAG DARRELL ever wrote.
looking back at THE GREAT SOUTHERN TRENDKILL, there are some REGRESSIVE POLITICAL and SOCIAL ASPECTS of the lyrics i still find deep issue with, but musically this record is an absolute BEAST. its the album in my opinion that most effectively showcases the COMPLICATED PANTERA legacy bar none. that being said it is worthy of investigation and most definitely worth checking out.