Certified Jams: The Great Southern Trendkill

Certified+Jams%3A+The+Great+Southern+Trendkill

Jackson McCoy, Staff Writer, Editor

The American metal band Pantera was seven albums deep before the rage-inspiring release of “The Great Southern Trendkill.” Released in 1996, the Texas band–made up of frontman Phil Anselmo, guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott, bassist Rex Brown, and drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott, marks the band’s heaviest point–guttural roars, crushing riffs, and louder than life bass and drums. This album also covers serious topics like self harm and drug addiction, so reader discretion is advised.

After Anselmo non-fatally overdosed at a concert in Houston, Dimebag led a sort of crusade against him; while Anselmo was recording in New Orleans, the Abbott brothers and Brown were recording in Dallas. These events created extreme amounts of tension that pour into the music. This is largely what contributes to the heaviness of “The Great Southern Trendkill,” and while I do hate tension it does make the music so much better. 

The title track opens the album with one of Anselmo’s most gut wrenching screams ever, quickly setting the tone for the album. Switching quickly between fast-paced to drawn out in break-neck speed, Anselmo’s vocal delivery is astounding. Dimebag, Brown, and Vinnie all match this ferocity, playing their respective instruments with as much heat as a southern summer.

The third song on the album is my personal favorite song, both from this album and from Pantera’s discography. Dimebag’s opening riff in “Drag the Waters” is an abrasive and crashing roar, setting the anthemic tone instantly, but the lyrics of the song show Pantera’s potent lyrical ability. 

“Drag the Waters” tells the story of small town corruption and accountability. Following the story of a sociopathic son and his rich, influential father (”Your father is rich, he’s the judge, he’s the mayor, he’s the god that got your sentence reduced”) the song watches the son go further and further downhill, his girlfriend at his side the whole time. You can hear the dreaded end approaching the son, coming as everyone he once knew is leaving, except the girlfriend: “Let it move in, you got thin, and got high, and your money went and so did your friends/But she’s by your side, and her smile cannot hide the premonition of the beckoning end/The end.”

Not all of the songs off of “The Great Southern Trendkill” are rage filled headbangers. “Suicide Note, Pt. I” is probably one of the most vulnerable songs by Pantera, and definitely the most vulnerable song on this album, as it features numerous references to Anselmo’s crippling drug addiction. The lyrics “When I’m hiding, when I need it/It lets me breathe,” which can be heard only a minute into the song, are particularly telling of the legendary singer’s drug problem. And the haunting chorus “Would you look at me now? (Would you look at me now?)/Can you tell I’m a man? (Can you tell I’m a man?)/With the scars on my wrists/To prove I’ll try again,” show the broken and battered mental state of Anselmo. Dimebag’s front-and-center playing is in the back for this track; Anselmo’s vocals are the main part of this song, and he is just as evocative and powerful as he’s ever been. This song earned Pantera their second Grammy nod, as it was nominated for Best Metal Performance (“Tire Me” by Rage Against the Machine won instead, unfortunately).

Of course, you can’t talk about this album without talking about “Floods.” Possibly one of the greatest Pantera songs of all time, “Floods” is about a biblical apocalypse the band feels like the world deserves. When Anselmo sings “Wash away us all/Take us with the floods,” you can tell he means it. It also is a breakaway from the usual breakneck speed of Pantera’s songs; “Floods” is slower, meandering through husky vocals and amazing tone. But “Floods” also hosts what I–and many others–believe is one of Dimebag Darrell’s greatest guitar solos. The 1 minute and 52 second monster of a guitar solo is sharp, loud, and overall fantastic. It’s hard to describe just how good the solo is; you just have to experience it. 

To wrap this installment in our Certified Jams series, “The Great Southern Trendkill” is a truly amazing metal album, and definitely one of Pantera’s finest. By far their heaviest and most extreme, any song from this album is worth listening to. A solid 10/10 from me, any day.