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PANTERA reviews, Melody Maker, 1994

Be afraid, be very afriad.
   If you've never heard Pantera (unlikely, "Walk" is a club mainstay), they are metal as she should be wrote. Their last LP, "A Vulgar Display Of Power" was damn near perfect; a monumentally heavy hymn to isolation and rage, high on aggression and freaked out on its own adrenalin, it ran with all the lights on red and blew people's heads off. Two years on and they're somehow pulling off the impossible. It scares me shitless but "Far Beyond Driven" actually ups the ante, at times it's like being fist-f***ed by the Incredible Hulk. I can't recommend it highly enough.
   Pantera see the studio as an armaments factory, this is metal designed by Kalashnikov and built by NASA: a huge complex grid of clipped titanic riffs, all breathtakingly precise in execution. Sound is stripped of all fat and frill, honed down to one point of maximum impact, coalescing voice, noise and beat into one almighty butt-f***ing sonic hit - purified, cooked up and mainlined straight into every synapse.
   Like great techno, it's utterly flawless music, free of any error, minimal and animal enough to make a screaming bloody mess of the head. You might wonder if it wasn't deliberately manufactured to physically and mentally bludgeon you into a gibbering wreck, an obedient slave to the rhythm. Play this next to your Tresor compilations, join the dots and, for god's sake, stay off that speed.
   There are some departures; "Good Friends" is avant thrash with guitar pitched somewhere between Eddie Hazel and Main, while "Planet Caravan" is a straight reading of The Mighty Sab's most gorgeous moment but fundamentally, PLAY LOUD AND SURRENDER. Pantera are fast becoming the Ultimate Metal band and the next year should see them collaborating with  Hardfloor and contravening the Geneva Convention. I await with moist lips and my Kanga-Pants on standby but, for now, this is heartstopping.
   Buy it for that rich elderly relative in your life.

CHRIST, 22 years old and I feel like Godfrey from 'Dad's Army'. Young white teenagers surround me, a mass of black t-shirts with pointy letters on, you can smell the Biactol. Do you think I might be excused Mr. Mainwaring? Never mind people's anxiety at rap gigs, half the concerts I go to I have to crane my neck to see melanin so I can relax and enjoy the show. Pantera's interview had me fearing boneheads but, as it is, I only hear one cry of 'Paki bastard!' all night, which is pretty good going. Yeah, lone nutter, but there's one at every rock gig: one day I'll crack and start crying so bring the Handy-Andys or it could be embarassing.
   Anyway, Downset are superb, the sound of possibilities finally realised. Didn't rap rock seem like a fab idea? And weren't the results so disappointing? Too many bands who thought metal was all widdly-widdly, funk was the bass doing the same thing, and rap was nebulous knobcheese to be yelled across dancefloors by big boys. Comparisons are hideous but if RATM were Alan Parker Urban Warrior fronting Credit To The Nation, then Downset are Chomsky fronting Public Enemy. Their authenticity (and they are 4-real mean streeters) is less important than the fact they're a fluid fusion, not an ugly Frankenstein; a slamming tuff ruckus of all those moments in rap where your head just spins, and all those moments in metal where you have no choice but to stomp around spread-legged and head down like Chiyonofugi preparing to throw some fat Hawaiian into Row Z.
   Whaddaya waiting for? If all you sock-headed muppets don't make Downset massive, you're stupider than I look.
   "Ace Of Spades" comes on in the bar just as Ryan Giggs slides in a long one (ooh I wish), I'm getting into this. Pantera come on with "A New Level" and I'm sold again. If metal history is a series of refinements and purifications, Pantera are this year's ultimate model. Phil's a star, Phil's a dishy dreamboat. For the crowd tonight he's got the whole world in his clenched fist. The bass sounds strung by girders. Dimebag Darrell, spotlit head thrown back, cuts from shredding out great platinum slabs of noise to the yellow brick upper echelons of the fretboard to find the Wonderful Wizard Of Gip. Yeah. You know 'em all. "Walk" kills, "Five Minutes Alone" is funky as ever, Beavises get up and take over vocals, Buttheads chase Darrell around air-guitaring, beers are thrown, hands raised aloft, a thousand teen dreams are sucked off and sated in a way Oasis couldn't hope to compete with. Whatever, Aspirin will be needed tomorrow. I buzz home, phoned by a friend, tell him I've just seen Pantera. "Did they give it some gip?" he asks. "Fuckin' A they did!" I reply.
   These bands rule, proof that in every music lover's heart there is a place that remains forever metal.
   Freeze. Rock. RRRRoll.


  1. Biactol, oh god.. ahaha. great review. one of my my biggest regrets is not seeing pantera live when I had the chance


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