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Metal Magic. The debut album Pantera was too embarrassed to acknowledge. That fact, coupled with poor reviews, let me know exactly what I was getting into before I ever listened to this. And let me assure you, this album deserves all the shit that it gets. This is poor even for glam metal and has very few redeeming qualities.
The most initially disturbing aspect of this album is the sheer amount of cheesiness throughout. From the respective intros to "Ride my Rocket" and the title track, Terry Glaze's poorly over-the-top vocals, the consistently corny lyrics, and the presence of all kinds of 80's synth layerings, it's actually pretty painful to listen to (as the cover is painful to look at). The music itself is fairly weak as far as 80's pop metal is concerned. There's a few legitimate speed metal moments ("I'll Be Alright" is pretty much the only song worth hearing on here), but much of this is pure Kiss worship. There are actually some decent bass lines on here, as the bass plays a much more integral role than it does on Pantera's later groove albums, but everything else is pedestrian at best. The riffs are lame, the drums are standard, vocalist Terry Glaze sucks, and the lyrics are full of cheesy innuendo. A far cry from the personal struggles chronicled in groove-era Pantera, these are desperate anthems for getting laid. If you're into glam, you might be able to find appeal in some of the catchy vocal melodies and guitar lines, but even Poison and Whitesnake never sucked this hard.
Even Dimebag Darrell (then "Diamond" Darrell) fails to deliver here. Later in his career, his fantastic guitar solos made up for some of the shittier songs on Pantera albums, but here, his talent is still in its infancy. There are some cool leads, but most of them are just era-typical and far inferior to the work of the rising thrash metal bands at the time.
"So Metal Magic is sub-par glam. That's really not so bad." Agreed, except that the album's listenability is crippled by really, really shitty production. The guitar tone is thin and fuzzy, there's several equalizing errors, and there's too much emphasis put on the shitty synth effects when they roll around. No matter how cool somebody tries to tell you this album's title track is, just listen to the stupid echoing half-whispered chorus. Lame, lame, and fucking lame.
I can't recommend this to anyone with a straight conscience. If you want to check out Pantera's old albums, skip over this one and go right to Projects in the Jungle onward.