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Philip Anselmo - vocals Dimebag Darrell - guitars Vinnie Paul - drums Rex - bass

On March 21, 1994 a name unfamiliar to many weekly readers of Billboard appeared at number one on that week's chart of the top 200 best-selling albums. The name was Pantera and the album attached to it, Far Beyond Driven, their third, had shattered all expectations.

All, that is, except those of the legion of Pantera fans who have followed the band from Dallas bars to the world's arenas.

With just three albums -- Cowboys From Hell, Vulgar Display Of Power and Far Beyond Driven -- Pantera has sold over six million albums worldwide. These numbers, however, don't begin to tell the story that will matter in the long run, the story that matters to their millions of fans. The real story is in the power of Pantera's music, savage, searing, soulful rock & roll that stands unchallenged in its intensity. With a fiercely independent attitude, they have accomplished their success with little support from radio or MTV and without catering to the momentary whims of "the industry." Immune to the tyranny of trend, they have become the outspoken standard-bearers of musical integrity, D.I.Y. spirit, and rebelliousness. They've taken their uncompromising music straight to the core of hard rock fans who demand that if a band talks the talk, they damn well better walk the walk.

Their new album, The Great Southern Trendkill, finds Pantera poised to strike once more. The album shows remarkable growth among its members as individuals and in the band as a whole, with tight songwriting that displays a new sense of melody yet somehow wrings still more venom from their instruments than ever before. The album's tone is set with the title track, opening with an explosive squall of drums, guitar and Philip Anselmo's guttural growl. The song virtually codifies the band's philosophy, its relentless rage leveled at the corrupt, the hypocritical, the weak-willed. "It's bullshit time again/You'll save the world within your trend .... /Pierce a new hole/If Hell was 'in' you'd give your soul," Philip roars in a merciless indictment. That sentiment is brutally reiterated in the last two tracks, "The Underground In America" and "(Reprise) Sandblast Skin," with its refrain of "It's all fake/it's getting old, old, old."

In between, the album thunders unabated, devastating everything in its path. The band stops, starts, turns on a dime with the daunting precision, like a powerful, well-oiled machine straining at the joints to perform perilously beyond its capacity. The first single, "Drag The Waters," throbs with spellbinding power, its lyrics plumbing the depths of a darkened soul. From the somber beauty of "Suicide Note Pt. I" to the incendiary force of its follow-up "Pt. II," from the dissonant atmospherics of "10's," to the sinister, soulful vocals of "Floods," Pantera is in full stride. And when they hit their patented power groove, there's not a band on the planet that can keep up.

As usual, the album was produced by "fifth member" Terry Date, along with drummer Vinnie Paul and the rest of the band. In a turn away from past experience, however, the band opted not to record in an existing studio, choosing instead to build their own, which they did -- right in Dimebag's back yard. "We had to go all the way to Nashville to record Driven, and we didn't want to do that again. And there's only one really good studio in Dallas, but it's 45 minutes away and we didn't want to do that either," Vinnie says. "So we built one over at Darrell's place. Now we'll always have it." The band took a bit more time preparing in advance for Trendkill, as well, recording demos and working out parts before entering the studio. The result is a new level of confidence and impact. As Philip recently told Rip magazine, "It's a different record, but we're not going to change for anybody. We just want to deliver gut-level motherfucking songs. We don't want to let any of our fans down and I know for a fact we have not done that. The new shit's fucking brutal."

With The Great Southem Trendkill complete, Pantera will take to the road again, co-headlining a summer tour with White Zombie then continuing on their own. To fully understand Pantera, it is essential to witness their wrath unleashed on the stage. "It's a one hundred percent pure energy release from both the band and the audience," Vinnie asserts. This is one mosh pit you won't want to miss.

Ounce for ounce, decibel for decibel, few bands can approach the fury that is Pantera. The Great Southem Trendkill won't just put Pantera on a level playing field with the popular purveyors of the "rock of the moment" -- it will leave such panderers flattened on the highway to rock & roll immortality.

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