Song For The Deaf   

Pantera opens hostilities

After Thin Lizzy, it’s Pantera’sturn to go through our revival time machine. A few weeks after the sad commemoration of the assassination of their emblematic guitarist, let’s have a look at a most famous song written by the glam band who later became one the greatest metal bands (with a capital M) to reign over the 90s.

The song we are interested in is « Fucking Hostile » from their sixth album Vulgar Display Of Power. This album became the Texan band’s biggest commercial success and was a follow up to Cowboys From Hell, the famous LP which objectively managed to revolutionise metal. On this album, the band increased on strength and intensity to create something that quite literally – as on the album cover – felt like a punch in the face.

In fact speaking of the album cover, the legend says that it only cost them 10 dollars to make (this is the amount they gave to a homeless guy to allow himself to be punched in the face).
But let’s get back to the track we want to talk about.
Positioned as the fourth song in the track list, “Fucking Hostile” is one of the most violent and intense songs on the album. 1,2,3,4 and then it’s time for two and half minutes of intense brawling. Modelled on a burnt out Mike Tyson, frozen under an avalanche of Lennox Lewis blows, the listeners ends up KO’d without a chance in hell… The fight is over after less than one round.

The lyrics create an image for the music. The main theme here is purely condensed rage. All elements are there: television, religion, authority. Phil Anselmo is viciously denouncing the oppressive nature of American society, which doesn’t soften the song’s “in your face” approach in any way (this wouldn’t be the point anyway). Such rage and aggressiveness was not doubt going to be copied by many other groups who wished to honour Dimebag, Vinnie and Rex’s creative genius. As usual, some succeed and others… don’t.
Let’s begin with the ones that don’t. The British magazine Metal Hammer[/urlb] published a compilation to commemorate the memory of Dimebag Darrell by getting many artists to do covers versions of Pantera. The song “Fucking Hostile” is covered by the Calfornians from Machine Head :

There is no need to expose Robb Flynn’s posse, nor their ability to make some of the best music around as well as the worst. Unfortunatly, this cover is part of the latter. Although it may be a but harsh to say « the worst » concerning this track since our ears didn’t physically suffer from it. On the whole it seems well formatted and sanitised. However, it seems that the power and rage from the original track were left on the doorstep. Despite Robb Flynn’s occasional phony bursts of anger and shouting “Fuck!” a few times, it comes across as lame. On the other hand, it is definitely well produced and performed since each note is perfectly aligned despite the break neck speed of the song, yet this also contributes to its downfall in the long run. The song doesn’t groove the way it used to. The anger is lost through the polishing and cleanliness of the production. It’s also a shame that despite the accelerated tempo, the band hasn’t tried in any way to make the song their own. All these elements combined make this version one of the worst covers ever made of the eternal Texan “rage anthem”.
Coming back to the tricky subject of how to make a cover song your own, it seems that this isn’t fully necessary in order to produce a good cover overall. On their eponymous 2008 limited edition album, the Swiss band Cataract[/urlb] managed to produce a cover version that seems almost identical and yet also sounds good :

As we mentioned before, Cataract are a Swiss band evolving in a metal core sphere – although you can’t really tell this when you listen to their cover version. Unlike Machine Head, this upcoming band don’t have access to the same super-production services when recording their music. Therefore, the production seems more brutal and a lot less toned down… making it more credible. This thrashing version renders a full on tribute to the name of the song !
However, this cover isn’t without flaws. We could say that the singing is slightly too linear and that there is an obvious lack of groove (probably the most difficult part to cover). The Swiss still manage a good job overall and their sharp turn sequences are enough to knock the hell out of anyone.
Conversely, speaking of remodelling a covered song earlier, some bands haven’t hesitated to change the song completely and adapt it to their own subject choices. This is what Carnival In Coal managed to do on their 1999 album French Cancan :

We can’t say that this is the best cover of « Fucking Hostile » (although that could be debated) but it is by far the most interesting. For those who are not familiar with the band, Carnival In Coal are a French group who have been labelled as “Avant-Garde metal” because they mix all of our favourite extreme metal (death, black, grind) with any kind of contrasted music (disco, lounge, zouk, world music). The band, who have now split, were renowned for their sense of provocation. So their version of “Fucking Hostile” turned the song into a light hearted pop song with lounge and world music influences, coated with an elevator music type production.
You could either consider their cover as a stroke of genius or complete heresy, but either way, their version will not leave you feeling indifferent. This seems to be a good thing. Pantera never sought to please everyone and the word “consensus” has never been part of their vocabulary.

Lyrics :

Almost every day
I see the same face
On broken picture tube
It fits the attitude
If you could see yourself
You put you on a shelf
Your verbal masturbate
Promise to nauseate
Today I’ll play the part of non-parent
Not make a hundred rules
For you to know about yoursef
Not lie and make you believe
What’s evil is making love
And making friends
And meeting God you’re own way
The right way

To see
To bleed
Cannot be taught
In turn
You’re making us
Fucking hostile

We stand alone

The truth in right and wrong
The boundaries of the law
You seem to miss the point
Arresting for a joint?
You seem to wonder why
Hundreds of people die
You’re writing tickets man
My mom got jumped — they ran!
Now I’ll play a public servant

To serve and protect
By the law and the state
I’d bust the punks
That rape steal and murder
And leave you be
If you crossed me
I’d shake your hand like a man
Not a god

To see
To bleed
Cannot be taught
In turn
You’re making us
Fucking hostile

Come meet your maker, boy
Some things you can’t enjoy
Because of heaven/hell
A fucking wives’ tale
They put it in your head
Then put you in your bed
He’s watching say your prayers
Cause God is everywhere
Now I’ll play a man learning priesthood
Who’s about to take the ultimate test in life
I’d question things because I am human
And call NO ONE my father who’s no closer that a stranger

I won’t listen

To see
To bleed
Cannot be taught
In turn
You’re making us
Fucking hostile

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