Released: 2016, Lesser Gods Books
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
During the nineties, Pantera kept the flag of heavy metal flying high while many of their contemporaries either fizzled out, tried (and failed) to follow trends or were relegated to the underground. Where other bands got softer, Pantera actually became heavier as the years progressed, with albums like COWBOYS FROM HELL, A VULGAR DISPLAY OF POWER, FAR BEYOND DRIVEN and THE GREAT SOUTHERN TRENDKILL defining a generation and casting a huge influence for later bands that refused to believe metal was dead.
Capturing the band in full-colour, glossy hardcover, A VULGAR DISPLAY OF PANTERA chronicles the visual history of Pantera. From their humble beginnings as a local Texas cover band to their spot as the biggest heavy metal band of the nineties, Joe Giron was there with his camera. What makes this book different from the many other books about Pantera is the fact that Giron was accepted as a fifth member and allowed into the inner circle, getting shots that other photographers were not privy to. As Giron mentions, there were certain situations and private moments that he felt were off-limits but would often be asked to document them for posterity sake. On stage, backstage, on the tour bus and during outings, everything seemed fair game and that is what makes this book special. The fact that the band’s pre-COWBOYS history is also detailed makes this a must-buy for any Pantera fan. Seeing a baby-faced “Diamond” Darrell performing in what appears to be someone’s basement in 1985 to the final days of the band’s reign headlining the Extreme Steel Tour at the dawn of the 2000’s, Giron was there. The introduction of Phil Anselmo as Pantera’s incendiary vocalist lit a fire under Pantera, driving the band away from its glam metal image to what would become a genre-defining look and sound. That evolution is fully-documented here and is fascinating to see.
A VULGAR DISPLAY OF PANTERA is a no-brainer blind buy for any fan of the band but it also serves as a document of a time and place where heavy metal was on the skids. Pantera shouldered a heavy load for over a decade, keeping the fire burning and reminding people that not only was heavy metal still alive but remained a force to be reckoned with. The cover price ($75 CDN) might scare some folks’ off but this is a true “art book” that would not be out of place on a coffee table as a discussion piece. It’s big, heavy and chock full of photos on high-quality paper and augmented with a lot of informative and revelatory text, so there is definitely some value here for those who can afford it.