Sound — 10
The sound has changed significantly. Pantera got progressively heavier with each album, and Dimebag's guitar has the same tone, but the C# downtuning gives it a nice bottom end. It's made pretty clear from the first track that Pantera isn't about quasi-anthemic heavy metal numbers like Walk and Cowboys From Hell - they just want their music to kick you in the throat as hard as possible. Phil's screams are better than ever, Dimebag brings his trademark monster riffs, Rex fills out the bottom end with his bass, and Vinnie's drums are better than ever. Heavy, dark, and great. Dimebag brings the only real melody to the album with his guitar solos, which are much more bluesy than on past records. There's less shredding, but it fits the formula.
Lyrics — 9
The lyrics are possibly the only place where the album falters. The theme of the album - the death of trends is a good one, but unfortunately, it takes the ever-popular route of complaining about the media. It's like straight-edge hardcore without the boring music. Some of the tracks, like The Underground in America, do this extremely well, but songs like War Nerve have pretty atrocious lyrics. The ones that aren't about trends are about drugs- and that makes up a fair number. The theme gets tiring, but that's what the band intended. It's just a lot of good material that holds together surprisingly well. However, Phil's bloodcurdling screams make up for the lackluster lyrics, and you end up paying attention to his vicious snarls and roars more than the lyrics themselves. And on that level, the lyrics earn a 9. Phil's vocals are just that good, especially on tracks like TGSTK and Drag The Waters. Some excessive multiple vocal tracks get annoying occasionally, but they aren't too noticeable.
Overall Impression — 10
Having heard a lot of Vulgar Display and owning Cowboys From Hell, I can't say this album is better or worse. It's almost an entirely different band with a different direction. If their goal was to make the heaviest album of their career, they certainly made it. It's a fantastic record in its own right. It's very unnerving on first listen tracks like 10's and Living Through Me especially, with their spaced-out, creepy drug themes, alternating between phaser-layered calm sections and thundering choruses. Every song is excellent, with only War Nerve's lyrics really dragging down any one song. If you're looking for a first Pantera album, I'd suggest Cowboys From Hell or Vulgar Display Of Power, but for fans looking to get into their lesser-known albums, this is an excellent starting place.