Projects in the Jungle


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Projects in the Jungle Review

by Eduardo Rivadavia

As impossible as it may seem, only a minority of Pantera fans seem to realize that the groundbreaking Texas quartet's career did not begin with the blueprint-defining extreme groove-metal of 1990's Cowboys from Hell, but rather seven years and four studio albums earlier, with a different lead singer and a virtually unrecognizable sound rooted in the comparatively heretical gimmicks of '80s glam metal. This "terrifying" prospect is indeed certified historical fact, however, and despite the surviving bandmembers' insistence on suppressing circulation of those out of print early albums, most of those who have heard them agree that this is all much ado about very little, once the initial surprise subsides. Having said that, 1984's Projects in the Jungle may be guilty of more '80s metal clichés than its surrounding releases, since it caught Pantera in the act of distilling their original '70s influences (Kiss, Judas Priest, Van Halen) with modern traits borrowed from the new decade's rising glam metal stars, such as Ratt, Mötley Crüe, and especially Def Leppard. Yes, Diamond Darrell was still beholden to the gospel of Edward Van Halen (so much so that he tendered his own "Eruption" with the 90-second solo spotlight "Blue Light Turnin' Red"), but his ever more dominant guitar work was also capable of saving otherwise forgettable efforts like the title track and "Only a Heartbeat Away" from total iniquity. And if anything, Projects in the Jungle was a riff album, with the guitarist possibly looking to Mötley Crüe's Shout at the Devil for the inspiration behind highlights "All Over Tonight" and "Like Fire," while providing tantalizing glimpses of Pantera's future via occasional speed metal thrillers like "Out for Blood" and "Killers." On the downside, knee-jerk pop-metal exercises such as "In Over My Head" and "Takin' My Life" sounded, at best, like low-budget Def Leppard, and frontman Terry Glaze's ear-assaulting screeches, robotic squawks, and frequently moronic lyrics (see possible worst offender "Heavy Metal Rules") could only be forgiven in a world where Joe Elliott, Vince Neil, and Stephen Pearcy were considered bona fide "singers." Still, in the balance of things, Projects in the Jungle's songs constituted a major improvement over the band's tentative performance on debut album Metal Magic, and its much improved production clarity and musicianship spoke volumes of Pantera's growing professionalism and maturity. And, heck, as cock rock albums go, Projects in the Jungle was actually rather good.

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