What the fuck is that?!
Yes, this is a Pantera album. The band in the 1990's wanted everyone to think that their first album was Cowboys From Hell, but that is not true in the least. That was actually their FIFTH album. Pantera disavowed their first four albums and that is not terribly surprising given the large difference in sound and quality, but I would argue that this is a pretty damn good album. In fact, it is not all that dissimilar from the aforementioned Cowboys.
This was the first album with the classic Pantera lineup as Phil Anselmo joined the band as singer. His style at the time was less tough-guy hardcore and much more dynamic. Anselmo can truly sing on this release among some truly impressive shrieking. Seriously, he does one hell of a Rob Halford impression here.
Another highlight to this album is the amazing guitar work of "Diamond" Darrell. He would of course go by "Dimebag" later on, but he was "Diamond" here. People have long claimed that he was one of the greatest metal guitarists of all time, but I was never totally impressed with the groove metal work, much preferring his work on Cowboys. He has some of his greatest riffs on this album and some damn good solos as well.
There are some less-than-stellar songs here, such as the regrettable "P.S.T. 88", but most of the songs are actually damn good. "Proud to be Loud" is the kind of anthemic track that would have been at home on an early 80's Judas Priest album and the first half of the album is full of some of the best and catchiest songs of the band's career.
If you are looking for something like Vulgar Display of Power, you are going to be disappointed with this album. However, if you are like me and Cowboys is far and away your favorite Pantera album, you should at least give this album a shot.