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Although that’s not to say it’s a bad album. Quite the contrary, Metal Magic easily shits all over Pantera’s 90s material (with the soul exception of Cowboys From Hell, which, to quote hells_unicorn “was seen as an 80s album by nearly everyone”), and as with all their other 80s releases, is deserving of a re-release.
The main thing that sets this back from their next three albums is without a doubt the production. There is very little depth in the guitar tone, which is often buried beneath the cheesy 80s synthesizers, which leads me neatly onto the album’s other biggest problem. The synth intro to the album is annoying for two reasons: It’s part of the first song, so you can’t skip it to go straight into the opening track, like the nice chaps in Motley Crue let you do with their release of the same year. The title track suffers from this problem as well, which means you have to wait an annoyingly long amount of time before you can listen to what would otherwise be fine songs. Someone clearly wasn’t thinking when they recorded those intros. And the second thing about them is that they just sound crap. The really sad thing is though that if the band took a bit more time to make the synths less tedious sounding, the song “Tell Me If You Want It” could have been a much better song than it already is.
Fortunately the song is good enough to stand up against the poorly executed synths, and is still enjoyable to listen to. While this album’s production and synths are pretty damn bad, they don’t manage to cripple the entire album. Anyone who is a fan of glam can’t help but enjoy fun upbeat songs such as “Latest Lover”, the speed metal number “Metal Magic”, the cheese-laden “Sad Lover”, and even the balled “The Biggest Part of Me” isn’t actually completely horrible to listen to (it’s synths are actually rather tastefully done, with a cheap sounding strings section sound used).
And while the whole album is a very cheesy listen – as glam generally is – it still stands to bare the name glam METAL. Despite being fully of KISS worship, this is nowhere near the pop display of bands like Poison Bon Jovi - can you see either of those bands playing a speed metal song? -, and by no means sounds like a demo the former would have recorded, as stated by an earlier review. Terry Glaze does a pretty good job of handling the vocals, but certainly something any despiser of glam would, well, despise. He doesn’t display the hard edge future vocalist Phil did during his peak (that would be his first two albums recorded with the band), but would certainly improve over time, unlike Phil, who by 1992 was putting out some of the worst vocals I’ve ever heard.
If you can ignore the poor production, synths and somewhat disturbing artwork - and I know that’s hard - this is actually a very consistent album. Aside from the closing track, which is a bit of a none event, there isn’t really a bad song on here, although certainly nothing to special either (especially if the riffs department, not Dime’s strongest effort). It’s really sad to see such an enjoyable album held back by poor production and tasteless synths, as if it weren’t for these this album would certainly be earning another 20 points to it’s score.
So in conclusion, if it’s well produced polished riff-based glam metal from 1983 you’re after, go and buy Shout at the Devil instead, which in every single way Metal Magic can’t hold stick to. However, if your standards are slightly lower and you just want a fun glam metal release that doesn’t have the pop riddled sound of Poison, or you merely wish to here where Pantera came from, download this from an illegal P2P network now, since the band themselves are to ashamed to admit that once upon a time, they weren’t the crappy groove false thrash metal band they turned out to be. Maybe one day the band will grow out of this stupidity and re-release (and in this album’s case, remix and re-master as well) their releases on "Metal Magic Records", but until then: www.limewire.com