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Pantera's finale really screams 'mediocre!' right from the off. The cover art is half-arsed, I never hear this album mentioned by casual Pantera fan or metalhead alike, and it is not lavished with praise like their 1990 and 1996 albums, or even as divisive as their 1992 and 1994 albums. And for once, outward appearances are correct. This is a somewhat confused, drained, and dull record, and yet is passable. It is completely inoffensive, at worst being boring. That is all Pantera ever were at their worst - largely boring and inoffensive, with the odd moment of sheer disgust ('Good Friends and A Bottle of Pills' or some of Phil's vocal work circa '92 - '94).
This release is much more of a disappointing and frustrating release than an outright bad one. Coming off of The Great Southern Trendkill, which I honestly believe is THE masterpiece of Pantera and groove metal as a whole, this is a massive fucking disappointment. I know that the preceding album was quite situational, and thus difficult to fully replicate or expand on, but this is a huge goddamn regression. Take for instance, the production. It is the bloody opposite of The Great Southern Trendkill's job, in that the drums sound like a dull plastic thud, it is too quiet, the guitars are muddy and in the odd case nearly inaudible, and the whole thing lacks bass or a low end. It is completely hollow and soft, a massive step down from the loud, abrasive production from 4 years prior.
Another thing to note is the sheer inconsistency of this release. While every 'official' Pantera either consists of lots of throwaway groove and a few choice thrashers, or a little bit of groove with slower and faster thrashers being mixed with atmospheric balladry, the mood of the album remains constant. Whether it be the marketable faux-aggression of Vulgar Display of Power and Far Beyond Driven or the fire spitting, acidic hatred of The Great Southern Trendkill, the atmosphere was present throughout. Here though, the album spends most of its time dithering about in the former, while occasionally getting its shit together and caving the listener's skull in (i.e: it sounds like the latter). It is utterly confusing and annoying, and serves to throw off the continuity of this album completely. Even previous thrashers like 'Strength Beyond Strength' and 'Mouth For War' never did that to their respective albums.
Compounding this inconsistency is the level of musicianship at work and the type of song these respective levels of quality spawn, as well as the mood produced as a result. Groovy numbers have always bashed heads with thrashers of the mid-tempo and fast strain with Pantera, with ballads occasionally wafting into the fray too (a good indicator of quality is a higher number of the latter 2). However, the aforementioned loss/gain of driven anger makes the transition a hell of a lot more jarring, in the bad sense. This album spends a fair amount of time in boring groove land, with Dimebag churning out yet more 3 second, 3 note riff fragments known as 'the groove'. Vinnie and Rex closely follow suit with boring beats and unimaginative bass support, with the shit production not helping at all. Seriously, 8 years of this crap and numbers like 'We'll Grind That Axe For a Long Time' and 'I'll Cast A Shadow' are just as boring and unimaginative as past songs like 'Walk'. Like most groove metal songs, Pantera have not made any progression in any way on this front. The crap, marketable variety of tough guy anger makes several appearances on this album, and all seems about normal for this band (Trendkill and Cowboys are exceptions to the groove genre, not the rule)...
...and then a song like 'Death Rattle' or 'Yesterday Don't Mean Sh**' (censorship, real fucking tough you guys!) just comes out of nowhere and hits the listener like a goddamn freight train. Phil goes from his worsening 'death metal' voice to a much more lethal shriek and a more aggressive and dynamic thrash shout. Dimebag sends forth his best thrash riffs from the days of yore to pummel the listener to death, and Rex and Vinnie are doing something other than following Dimebag's riffs. Songs like this and 'Hellbound' or 'Revolution is My Name' are shot through with the southern spirit of The Great Southern Trendkill and sound genuinely hateful. What the fuck? I never understood that, how can a band write a full album of songs like this, and then only muster up about half the number the next time round? Surely tensions in the band had gotten worse, how could this not be more lethal for more of the time?
The lyrics are really fucking bad. Normally that is to be expected for Pantera (even Cowboys From Hell had some pretty insipid tough guy stuff) but the last album proved Phil could write nearly-intelligent lyrics with 'a lethal dose of American hatred'. However, here he just roars forth his lyrics about being a tough guy who once again, is 'GONNA FUCK YOU UP!'. Seriously Phil? The better tracks here manage to make these lyrics sound something close to the concepts of 'sincere' and 'threatening' but even then the writing still sucks.
Another issue I have with this album include a lack of variety and overall banality to the proceedings. It is still quite animated, as Pantera always were, but the creative synthesisers and guitar effects of the previous album are pretty much gone, with one of the few exceptions being the one in 'Hellbound'. Other examples of this include a reduction in soloing, so some songs here lack the one thing that made groovy Pantera rise above the mediocrity they helped make during the period, and there are no ballads at all here. This albums reeks of a lack of inspiration and being rushed on the whole, with the production, inconsistency, lyrics and cover art being further indicative of that. And yet, I can't hate it. This doesn't really offend me so much as it does bore me with its typical grooves, confuse me with its inconsistency, especially with the circumstances surrounding the album and frustrate me with how they managed to throw away yet another great sound in the name of 'sounding tough'. I would say this is for the fans only, but even they don't take too kindly to this album. Obviously metalheads of 2 or 20 years should stay away. You know that by now though.
This is probably as bad as Pantera would have ever become had it not been their last album. The most unfortunate part is how Ill fated it was, everything that made them good or even tolerable is lost. Skill wise, writing wise and as far as how it blends together, it is just bad on all sides.
I honestly don't get how this band gets the praise that they do. They say this band saved metal in the early 90s but ignored oh... I don't know... Sepultura, Slayer, Megadeth, Dio, the blossoming death metal scene etc. who were all pumping out well received albums at that point as well. Fast forward to the release of this album. Dio is still pushing his hardest to keep the scene going, Megadeth returns to their thrash roots, death metal and black metal have both reached the global market, Iron Maiden welcomes back Bruce Dickinson. Point being made that Pantera are nowhere near the saviors of metal that their fans claim they are. While were talking about saving metal, isn't this the same band that inspired groove metal, nu-metal and metalcore, some of the most hated subgenres you'll find.
What else doesn't live up to its hype? Dimebag Darrel and his playing. He's always had a style that relied on repetitive rhythmics and screeches but he really out does himself here. All that progress made on the last two albums is gone. These are some of the worst riffs he would ever write. They aren't melodic by any means, no technicality at all, overly repetitious, and not catchy in any way (plus there are a couple one fret riffs to be found here as well). Besides being present and being heavy they don't really do much. They might drive the songs forward, but even that seems like a stretch. What could have caused this, band issues, laziness, freshly out of ideas? Whatever it was Dimebag just didn't provide much passable work here; it is beyond boring, it is straight up bad. How about his screeches? Yeah, he relies on those very heavily now but unfortunately screeching is never solid enough to save a performance, add to this that some of these are just terribly placed and the guitar work just winds up as a total mess. Some how despite this all he still has some good solos up his sleeves (Yesterday Don't Mean Sh*t).
It would seem smoking and screaming have now caught up with Phil. His range has gone down the toilet and the general sound of his voice has become unpleasant. Once again he tries to pin you down with that tough guy attitude but even this seems to push the boundaries of his new range. His screams have become a high point but these also aren't as great as they once were. Plus it's overly vulgar, this kind of language is nothing new to Pantera, but good lord, take out all the swearing and you come to find out most of the lyrics seriously lack depth and thought of any type, even the overly manly themes seem poetic and legendary in comparison.
The rhythm department also seems to be running out of ideas, all the drumming is either stuff I swear I've heard on previous records or it is an all speed (with nothing) else attempt to pound his way into the spotlight. The best part about the bass before was that it was always perfectly matched with the guitar (had this still been the case it would have helped both performances) but alas no more. He comes here to round out the sound and awkwardly try to work his way in with the rest of them, he accomplishes this just barely and often slips up. In fact the tight coordinated and well put together group known as Pantera has fallen into full disarray, they had great chemistry and worked with each other perfectly at one point. Now they sound so amateurish in how they try to come together.
Now, I've been listening to Pantera for nearly 10 years, and I'm quite familiar with how this band has changed over the years, mainly because of Phil's almost unbelievable personality and almost fanatical egocentrism. This album is actually quite a good record, far better than what Slayer or Metallica have been doing in the twilight of their careers. However, it is far from what I expected after a solid release like Trendkill 4 years earlier.
First of all, Dimebag Darrell is probably one of the greatest metal riffers in history, he isn't a virtuoso or mad artistic genius, but he can write heavy metal. On each of the preceding records, he always had a kickass riff here or there, in almost every song (even on Far Beyond Driven). However, there are a handful of songs on this already short album that actually have good riffs. "Revolution is My Name" is perhaps the only real 'Dimebag' song on this record, because it revolves around an unbelievably kickass riff and a well written solo. Its probably his best song, at least for me, but unfortunately, thats all there is to this album. There are a few catchy riffs here and there, but nothing quite like most Pantera fans would probably expect. Additionally, it is worth noting that besides the aforementioned song, there isn't a single decent solo on this record. I'm amazed at how Dimebag managed to forget about the solos, considering he's written some classic solos in the past. What ever happened to the guitar player who wrote "Hollow", "Drag The Waters", "Cemetery Gates", "This Love", "10's" and "Floods"? Disappeared: signature Dimebag is completely absent from here, which is the biggest letdown in the album.
My biggest problem with this record how is redundant, reductionist and flat out stupid some of the lyrics are. The lyrics to a songs like "Uplift", "It Makes Them Disappear", "You've Got To Belong To It" and "Yesterday Don't Mean Shit" sound like Phil Anselmo just ran out of brain cells and wrote a bunch of macho man lines to sound tough, it's drunken heavy metal on steroids - he used to be able to sing too, but on this record he grunts his way through several songs, an abomination really and one of the main reasons this record just doesn't resonate, the complete absence of any lyric with meaning. Again, a few songs are actually well sung, but besides that, its his worst performance on probably any heavy metal record.
Now, the album gets a good rating because overall, "I'll Cast A Shadow", "You've Got To Belong To It", "Revolution Is My Name", "Hellbound", "It Makes Them Disappear", "Death Rattle", "We'll Grind That Axe For a Long Time" and even "Goddamn Electric" are great songs, while "You've Got To Belong To It" is somewhat decent, its nothing special. Besides that, this album really doesn't offer anything more than a couple of classics, a few decent heavy metal songs and a couple of fillers which serve no real purpose. Now, the songs are well written and heavy as can be, but the ingenuity of Dimebag and the actual singing of Phil Anselmo are just completely lacking here.
However, I'm obliged to give props to Vinnie, he can produce quite well and is still a beast of a drummer. Unlike other big time heavy metal drummers, Vinnie is always trying to inject some groove and creativity into every song, and accomplishes quite convincingly. He's an unbelievably good drummer who's talent lies in how he's able to complement each and every song rather than just play along (ala Lars Ulrich), play fast (Dave Lombardo) or try to outshine the band. He's the one musician on this record who seems to still have his shit together and always throws in drum lines that go against 'conventional' heavy metal drumming.
To conclude, this is a heavy record, true to Pantera and true to heavy metal, parts of it are absolutely incredible, these guys can still write some of the heaviest music on the planet without descending into jibberish or obfuscated nonsense. Any heavy metal fan will enjoy this record, but as a Pantera fan, there are definitely things lacking here.
In my opinion, the only time Pantera really "reinvented" anything was themselves c. 1989, before the mammoth release of "Cowboys from Hell" the following year. That's not to say that this album, their "fifth" and final album, is all that bad. In looking at Pantera, whether you love em, hate em or don't mind em, you can easily define each of their albums post-Cowboys From Hell.
"Power Metal" (1988), their first with Phil Anselmo and their last "glam" record, began to show traces of their new trajectory. "Cowboys from Hell" was heavy, thrashy, and still fundamentally "heavy metal" at heart. "Vulgar Display" expanded on the band's newfound heaviness and yielded some pretty good songs. Generally by now we can assume that Pantera got heavier with each album.
Now, "Reinventing the Steel" is not perfect, and you cannot blame this entirely on musicianship. Pantera circa turn of the millennia were about to explode, not like in 1990, there was tension. This album was likely recorded with a lot of tension between the band, least of all the Abbott brothers and Phil. The album is not lacking by any means, though there aren't any "Cemetery Gates" or "I'm Broken"s on here.
Two songs that really stand out for me personally are "Revolution Is My Name" and "Goddamn Electric". Now these songs are pure unabashed Pantera, I feel a culmination of their work. Some people may disregard this album and the band around the year 2000, and opinions are warranted, and understandable, but "Reinventing" is not all bad, just not all good either.
Aside from those two songs, the rest don't really stand out, not that the musicianship is bad at all, I mean Dimebag's on top form, but it just as if you can sort of feel the internal tension. Although "We'll Grind That Axe For A Longtime" is another decent track, and sort of ironically ominous. If Phil had stayed friends with Dimebag and Vinnie a tragedy in the metal world could have been avoided, and maybe we'd still see Pantera, happy and grindin' on today, but for now we have this album, not their best, but hey not the worst piece of shit they could conjure.
- Classic Pantera
- Dimebag at work
- A few standout songs
- Feel the tension
- Not all standout
- Not their finest either
Reinventing the Steel is an album plagued by egocentrism.
Right off the bat, the album cover really fucking sucks. With this amateurish artwork, the band is trying hard to prove that they are the wildest, “real-deal” heavy metal dudes out there. Typical Pantera.
Then you might think, it's all about the music itself and the artwork shouldn't matter. Unfortunately, the music is just as unimpressive. First of all, Phil Anselmo can still scream like a demon for sure, but lyrically this album ranks among the worst of Pantera records. EVERY goddamn track, it seems, is about the band and how much of a rebel they are. Arrogant bravado gets really old after 44 minutes of it.
But it's not just Phil that's the egocentric culprit here, Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul are equally guilty of resting on their laurels too. As the primary composers for the band, the Abbott brothers had plenty of time since the last album to write and record – almost four years of dormancy with little touring to do because Phil was busy with other projects. Regrettably though, we, the fans, are treated with one-trick pony of loud grooves after another from start to finish. Its general lack of dynamics in favor of nonstop pummeling is akin to Far Beyond Driven, only this time it's less threatening, and definitely more uninventive than FBD.
Some of the songs even sound like a rehash of older Pantera songs too. “Death Rattle” is essentially a second-rate “Suicide Note Pt. II”, even recycling that rattlesnake theme from the previous artwork (it's also laughable that Spongebob sampled this song). Then there is “It Makes Them Disappear,” which attempts to be Reinventing the Steel's “Cemetary Gates” or “Floods.” Sadly, it not only lacks the sense of emotional climax and epic swagger, it is supplemented with a rather unmemorable solo, which is rare feat for Dimebag.
This time, Dime and Vinnie also produced the record. This also meant that Dime and Vinnie basically hogs the attention of the listeners, and Rex Brown gets only one real spotlight (on “It Makes Them Disappear”), and that's after the first 8 tracks are already over. For the vast majority of the record, he's buried in the background like Jason Newsted on Metallica albums. I suppose that's expected when the record is produced by two guys who ridicules Rex as being the “free meal-deal” and don't recognize his talent and contributions to the band.
To be fair, I still enjoy Reinventing the Steel a little. This album still kicks more ass than a lot of mainstream metal records out there, and you still get that superb performance from each band members, especially Dimebag. Some tracks are kinda cool, like “Revolution is My Name,” which features the best and plentiful Dimebag solo of the record. Reinventing the Steel IS listenable really, but this is Pantera we're talking about. At the end of the day, solid performance isn't good enough for a band like Pantera if it's not backed by good show of creativity.
Ultimately, Pantera made a caricature of themselves with this one. Reinventing the Steel sure has the attitude, instrumental prowess, and plenty of heaviness, but lacks a sense of purpose. I hate to sound hyperbolic, but Reinventing the Steel sounds to me like Pantera's best days were already over – or specifically, Dimebag's most creative days were over. I wish as much as anyone else that Dimebag didn't is still alive, but listening to Reinventing the Steel, I get the feeling it's probably for the best that Pantera no longer exists.
Considering their capable career during the 1990's, not to mention the struggling on the local circuit for seven years, its no surprise "Reinventing the Steel" turns off a good deal of fans. Even during my years when I was most enthralled by this band, my approach to this album was always lukewarm. Its not so much that there isn't anything worthwhile on this album, but rather that it contains some great songs surrounded by forgettable groove. This comes as unusual in the case of "Reinventing the Steel" because both "Vulgar Display" and "Far Beyond Driven" are the exact same story, yet both of those are always heralded as some kind of 90's classics.
The key issue here is that the better songs on this album are actually quite good, but in contrast the other songs are that much worse and/or boring. The fact that the sound quality of this album is about as low grade as Pantera ever got in their later career doesn't help things, with the guitars becoming somewhat annoying at times. The enjoyable crunch they had at one time is replaced by a hit or miss syndrome that sometimes listen well and other times can come to the point of grating you to press the skip button. Confound this with an obvious step down in songwriting on almost all fronts and you have a pretty lackluster way to end this band's career.
The album itself, in terms of song quality, is a mixed bag. You have some great songs, some decent songs and then some unbearable songs. The great songs are obviously the ones that cause the listener to remember why he enjoys Pantera (or if you never did, remind you of why you dislike them.) This includes the opener in "Hellbound," which I'd say is one of the best songs this band ever did. Its short and to the point, not a lot of needless repetition or meandering for five to six minutes. The song even has a sense of build-up to a climactic ending and is fairly memorable, not to mention it just works on all fronts. "Revolution Is My Name" is next, again a worthy mention in the context of Pantera's career. Its a song that has ambition, more so than the average mid-tempo groover that Pantera is known for. It takes my pick as the best song on this album, and challenges the better moments from earlier in their career. "It Makes Them Disappear" and "I'll Cast A Shadow" are longer numbers, but both work equally well although they are a bit short in terms of quality to match up with "Hellbound" and "Revolution Is My Name." The only real complaint from these two is that "I'll Cast A Shadow" seems to refuse to end, dragging on about a half minute too long.
The decent songs begin with "Yesterday Don't Mean Shit," which is a fairly enjoyable song. This one in particular seems to showcase a step down in Anselmo's lyrical writings, which were a highlight for me on "The Great Southern Trendkill." While I agree with the song's message, its like he couldn't come up with anything better than "on the fly" lyrics to these songs. "Death Rattle" is another short number and decent enough, but nothing special. "Uplift" is more of the same, though its lyrics get a bit comical and I imagine that isn't the intention the band was going for.
The remaining three should have been cut entirely, for they serve little more than reasoning to press the skip button and to dock points off the album as a whole. "Goddamn Electric" is utterly boring, not to mention more of the same with Anselmo's lackluster writings here. "You've Got to Belong to It" could have been a decent tune but that incessant guitar effect is absolutely annoying as hell and kills the song completely. "We'll Grind that Axe for a Long Time" is positive only in that its shorter, but completely useless and devoid of ideas. Considering this band folded just a couple of years after this album was released, the whole concept of the song seems more contradictory than anything else.
The fact that "Reinventing the Steel" had potential to be a decent end for this band only makes it that much harder to really listen to it as a whole. Had about half of these songs gotten the boot things would have been much better. Pantera should have released an EP with "Hellbound," "Yesterday Don't Mean Shit," "Revolution is My Name," "It Makes Them Disappear," and "I'll Cast a Shadow," this would have been a more enjoyable listen and would have scored a 78%. It would have been called a step down from "Trendkill" in almost every way but a fairly solid way to end the band's career not to mention being a lot easier to listen to as a whole instead of getting your finger ready for the skip button on every other track. That being said, this was not a good way to end things for this group, and on the whole, is about even with "Far Beyond Driven" as the worst of the band's "main" career. I picked this up second hand many years ago for $5, which is perfect because I got five songs worth a damn and I cannot see why anyone should go much higher.
Sad beans it is, that Pantera had to end on a really disappointing note, especially considering their last output, the godly Trendkill. Sadder still, that Phil and the rest of the boys couldn't get it together for one more and had to end the band on the note that it did. And, probably the saddest of all, was the horror that was Damageplan and the tragic event that transpired. Yup, if Pantera was still a band, Dimebag would still be alive, Down would still just be a side project, Dammitplan would never have existed, and Pantera would probably be playing possibly some death/thrash hybrid. Hey, I can dream right? I can't? Oh bah.
Enough with the bellyaching, on to "Reinventing the Steel". If you're hoping for "Trendkill Pt II", you'll be disappointed. If you're hoping for more songs in the vein of "Walk", then you should consider a career around downed power lines and slippery wet surfaces. Yeah, it bears little resemblance to the previous offering and shares more in common with "Far Beyond Driven" minus all the lame-ass groove. Mind you, the groove is still here, just not facefucking you nonstop ("Vulgar"),as much as it is punching you in the shoulder every 30 seconds to one minute. The riffs....not many of them stick out and dickslap you like the ones from "Cowboys From Hell" did, and a good number of them are boring and generic groove based riffs. The drumming is actually not bad, Vinnie gives a good if unspectacular performance. Rex's bass is clear as always, though nothing eye-popping is on display, he's there and audible. As for the vocals....well Phil's vocals seem to be love it or hate it for the vast majority. Personally, I have no problem with them, though I do miss his higher pitched singing a la "Shattered" but that hasn't been seen in years so no surprise that there is no highs to be found. He just sticks with what he's done since "Far Beyond Driven", that being his lower growls.
The songwriting is also weaker than Trendkill. No surprises like "Suicide Note Part 1" to change the flow. Aye, most of the songs are midpaced and adhere to the "verse, chorus" structure whilst clocking in between three to five minutes in length. But not all the tracks on hand are losers. Opener "Hellbound" contains an explosive (by this album's standard) chorus and the bridge near the end isn't too bad. It's also the shortest track. "Revolution is my Name", to my ears, is not bad for being a single, certainly it's assfuckloads better than the other singles released for radio back in 2000 (i.e. Limp Dicklick, StinkinPark) and for that, it's win, besides the intro riff, which I never cared for. "Death Rattle" is probably the fastest song on the album, and the only one that could have fit on "Trendkill". The solo is almost pure noise but it fits the song well so no complaints. "We'll Grind That Axe For a Long Time" is filled with groove but I can go without skipping it most of the time. Don't know why, but it sorta kinda works. Finally, "Uplift" has a fun chorus riff and some nice drumming. The rest of the songs aren't horrible piles of banal groovefuck like a certain song of Pantera's that happens to rhyme with "cock", but they're nothing special either. The only one I tend to skip over alot is the closing "I'll Cast a Shadow". It just never clicked with me.
All told, Pantera's last studio output would prove to be a disappointing end to one of metal's most well known bands. Aye, it's best to just put this on and pretend that Damageplan and HellYeah never existed. If you're unsure whether to buy or not, download "Revolution" and if you dig that, chances are you shouldn't have too many complaints with this.
This album fucking sucks.
I really wish I could just write that, submit it and have it accepted. No, instead of bluntly bashing this album, I'm going to have to try to eloquently explain why I hate this album and why you should not listen to it.
Now, I'm a reasonable man. I give every album I own a fair shake. If I don't like it at first, I'll give it another shot later. Usually they grow on me after some time. I've been working on Reinventing the Steel for five grueling years and I hate it more and more with time.
In fact, I hate it so much, I'm going to complain about something completely irrelevant about the album: The album cover. Seriously? A dude in boxers jumping through fire with a blurred-out bottle? It tends to remind me of that part in Full Metal Jacket where the drill instructor discusses Texas' cheif exports. This is PANTERA. I would've expected something more badass.
Reinventing the Steel is Pantera's fifth post-glam/half-thrash/groove/whatever-the-fuck-you-wanna-call-it album. After Vulgar Display of Power, it became abundantly clear that Pantera was running out of ideas. Reinventing the Steel is the point where the band apparently ran COMPLETELY out of ideas.
I once read an interview with Dimebag Darrel about this album and he said something to the point of "its got ten songs because we trimmed off all the fat". Great. I can't even fucking imagine how terrible the shafted songs were after listening to boring, uninspired track after boring, uninspired track here.
Its a shame, too. Pantera were always top notch musicians.
And as great of a guitarist as he may have been, Dimebag's performance here is utter shit. The riffs are dull and forgettable. In fact, I was listening to the album five minutes ago and I still can't remember one. The guitar tone is awful as well. It sounds they were recorded underwater.
Vinnie Paul and Rex hold down the fort like you'd expect them to. I was not wowed by Vinnie Paul's performance here like I had been on earlier releases, though. Again, it is a shame.
Phil Anselmo decided he was going to be angry some more and shout in to the microphone for forty-five minutes again. Remember when he used to be able to sing? He had a great range there, didn't he? Apparently sounding like every other hardass frontman was more important than his natural ability.
Reinventing the Steel pretty much sounds like a talentless wanna-be Pantera band in a crappy recording studio. Avoid it.
I've always said that Pantera would have one hell of a “best of” compilation, but until then we'd have to put up with mediocre albums. Honestly, Pantera would have been better off making that best of, because Reinventing the Steel sure isn't contributing much to it.
The average Pantera album consists of 3-4 extremely good songs, and 7-8 pathetic songs. The band's final offering has addressed this problem and made a consistent album, that doesn't drop down to any truly abysmal songs. However, it's got even less standout tracks than earlier albums.
There's some changes from the standard Pantera mould here, it's still got heavy groove, probably the bands thickest slab of southern influence, and very simplistic riffs which make up the band's core sound, but Reinventing the Steel offers up a lot more fast material than usual. Not as much as on The Great Southern Trendkill, but more than the few albums before it. In fact most songs have moments that are at the verge of being thrash. Note that it's just quick pulses of thrash thrown into a vast sea of groove. But it's there. Along with this, there's a big step up in the quality of song structures and dynamics, featuring less linear approaches, and more than 4 or 5 different riffs in a song.
Probably the most notable change is the lowering in the numbers of solos. Now there’s not one in every song. Most still have one, but “Hellbound” doesn't have one, and even the complex "Revolution is my Name" doesn't have a clearly defined solo section, among others. Even then, the solos are really a long step down from Darrel's best work. They still have the Dimebag unique touch, but it's not that stunning. This is pity because Pantera have relied on Dime's solos to really take the songs to being more than stupidly easy-to-play groovers. Instead, this album has a little more complex riffing for its technicality fix. It's still slow as hell most of the time, but the guitars definitely have a lot more going on than usual. The results are a mix in quality, some songs have interesting guitar work, but most of the time it's only average. Still, there's no three note riffs like "Walk" on here, most of the time they've got a very southern rolling approach.
The problem with that album is that it's so safe sounding. There's a little more emphasis on some areas than usual, and other sections of the album are less in depth, but for the main part, the band just plays it safe, and sticks to what they have always done. The solos are dumbed down or just plain absent, the drums are pretty dull, rarely showing any off any of Vinnie Paul’s skills beyond his ability to play complex things with his feet, whilst not losing any arm mobility. This is still a good piece of drum work, but he doesn't seem to be overly powerful or meaty. Phil's screams are almost exclusively limited to his low growl, with his higher screams only coming out on a few songs. I never really liked his high screams, but you know, they're still missing resulting everything being a little one dimensional. And the lyrics are pretty bad. Really, it's quite a cop out even for Pantera. Usually there was at least an immature sense of "Yeah, this song makes me want to fight people". But now we get songs about Texas, or about a passage of time. There's really no silly badassness to it. It's just so tame.
All over the album there are signs that the band simply didn't give a shit. the cover art is stupid, basically it seems like the band decided they wanted a picture of fire, found one, it happened to have a scrawny guy in boxers jumping through it, but they gave up looking and accepted it. Then you've got the lyrical edit on "I'll Cast a Shadow" at around the 4 minute mark, which no one seemed to notice. It just seems to hint that there wasn’t too much effort put into the album.
Pantera’s final album wasn't really a particularly bad one; it was just an uninventive, tame one, with no real drive behind it. And it shows, with most of the album being kind of dull. It does have it strengths, and it is catchy, and due to its consistency, you probably won't be forced to turn it off before it's done due to utter repulsion, but it just lacks the attention grabbers to get you to put it on in the first place.
If you have not yet listened to this album, picture yourself sitting on the couch, eating Doritos, playing videogames and listening to a metal album which afterwards you can't adequately describe. You groaned at some points, but you know that at least half of it was good. You know this is a groove band, but you're sure that the thrash was definitely there. Many of us have our 'shame bands' that we listen to, but if confronted by a fellow metalhead about this you'd probably rate this album with a "meh" so as to not lose your precious social status. That just isn't right though; when this album is good, it's very good. Yet, a "meh" would be far too kind for the garbage found here. Overall, where would this lie?
And in an album of such uncertainty, there's even more to be found because the listener isn't quite sure what genre some songs are. 'You've Got to Belong to it' has a main riff which is thrashy, yet doesn't progress like thrash riffs should. You really have to listen to this bullshit to believe it: if I may describe it in such a way, it's "chugga-chugga-chugga NCDUF&GCU$*GC$HJ chugga-chugga-chugga NCBV^EU&TIE$GHBVHS". Hey, don't look at me like that. Pantera probably wrote this shit with crayons themselves. And then afterwards, it's all groove. 'We'll Grind That Axe For a Long Time' isn't as mind-numbingly awful, but it's still mind-numbing nonetheless. Two wankers could argue whether the riffs here are groove, thrash or are just plain old, straight up heavy metal riffs, but it doesn't matter because it's boring. Nothing about it says "give a fuck about this song", so you shouldn't.
I wouldn't be surprised if anyone found themselves enjoying the track 'Goddamn Electric'. In many ways this is the stand-out track and representative of Pantera themselves because, yeah it's a groove-oriented song, but it isn't plodding. Typically I dislike groove metal although I do find that if musicians assert themselves to do so they could pull it off without suffering from the usual tediums thereof. This pretty much shits on the aforementioned tracks, and it's because they nailed it here whereas they fucked around on the other tracks, probably just to meet a track quota. Moving on...
The opening track 'Hell Bound" is pretty good although when you take out the vocals it sounds a little too much like stock music (Just like '5 Minutes Alone' and a whole bunch of songs from Vulgar Display of Power except that this isn't the works of drudges like those were). As soon as I heard that riff I knew it was from a motor cross or an insurance ad or something. Nevertheless, 'Death Rattle' is a neat slab of thrash. Not in the "let's pack as many riffs in here as possible" sense, but Pantera have at least written something memorable here. The chorus and other sections could be construed as featuring groove, but it never abandons the idea that the song must go on and thrash. At approximately 2:29, the best riff of the song and perhaps even the album kicks in, too.
(Minor aside: that's the funny thing about Pantera: a lot of the time they were mediocre and boring, but then they'd do something really effective and simple like that.)
Again with the thrash: 'Yesterday Don't Mean Shit' and 'Revolution is my Name' are more advanced in their structure than the other thrash songs and are both thoroughly enjoyable. Catchy sections, good solos, strong rhythm sections. Everything's as it should be.
In the end, everything comes full circle. The good parts of Reinventing the Steel are worthy of your attention and appreciation, and the bad parts are worthy of the skip button. Songs with a mish-mash of unsuitable ideas thrown together prove to be a red herring between the actual good songs to distract the listener about what they're actually listening to. Surely you will remember what parts you liked about this album, and the parts you didn't quite like almost make you want to listen to them again in case you "missed something" due to the confusing nature of them. Ironically, the groove-oriented 'Goddamn Electric' is formidable in being memorable and underlines that through thorough, careful writing any style of song doesn't have to be awful. Beneath all of the confusion, the bottom line is that this album is more deserving of a more positive than negative feedback. Not because of the experience from the first listen, but from the actual content; some of it is poorly written, but more often than not it's good.
Overall this is recommended to Pantera fans as usual, but for anyone else it's worth downloading the good tracks. Even if you like those there's only a slight chance you'll be happy with actually purchasing the album. Nevertheless this is a solid release, and parts of it don't get boring even upon repeat, if nothing else.
But I can’t. I really, really can’t. The first problem with this album is the shitty production. When you take into consideration that Pantera produced this album themselves, you gotta… well… UGH, NO. There is no excuse for this; the majority of the other Pantera albums had amazing production. What happened here!? A huge disappointment…
The lyrics on this release are shit. True, Pantera were never praised for their amazing songwriting… but they could’ve written something better than:
“When I die, I cast a shadow
And I'll fly, I cast a shadow
Everybody get fucking up!
I cast a shadow...
I... I cast a shadow
I cast a shadow...
I... I cast a shadow
When I die, I cast a shadow
And I'll rise, I cast a shadow”
One part of this CD that I had the highest hopes for before my first listen was the usual that’s to be expected from Pantera: kickass guitar from Dimebag Darrel. As much as I hate to admit it, I haven’t found that here either. No, don’t get me wrong, there is SOME good playing from him (such as on Hellbound, probably the only song on here that compares to anything off of “Cowboys From Hell”). But around 90% of the playing is boring, mediocre, weak, lame, shitty, unexciting, dull (need I think of more adjectives?) mallcore riffs. No, I’m being perfectly serious. No more of Pantera’s godly thrash solos. Mallcore riffs… gimme a break Darrel, what happened?
The songwriting in general (not talking about lyrics now, but music) is… well… sloppy. I can think of any other way to describe it. All the sounds seem to be forced together, and the vocals that are attempting to tie them all together failed miserably. Phil’s voice is steadily dying out, as it could be starting to be heard of Vulgar Display of Power… It has gotten so weak; it just doesn’t cut it anymore. Combined with the sloppy drumming, which is way off in a lot of parts, combined with Darrel’s disappointing weak riffs create a mixture that is almost sickening to listen to.
It’s quite a shame for Pantera to end their career this way, really. They started off with “Metal Magic” which was also terrible. Starting out with BAD glam/hair-metal, they evolved to one of my favorite power thrash bands of all time… and then once again turned to shit, this time in the form of mallcore that almost makes Trivium seem like a great band. Sad to see this happen to Pantera; they should’ve called it quits ten years ago.
Pantera's legacy is not a pretty one. They began as shitty glam, evolved into some pretty sweet thrash, than degraded into shitty groove (despite the fact that they pretty much innovated that style of metal). Reinventing the Steel is their final futile effort to justify their overrated brand of sludgy groove-core garbage, and it's probably their worst album since their glam metal debut.
Dimebag Darrell is a phenomenal guitar player. His riff-writing on Cowboys from Hell was brilliant in execution and powerful in delivery. So why the fuck did he regress into pumping out shitty downtuned groove riffs? The rhythm guitar here is the spiritual precursor to Darrell's next band, Damageplan, and almost as bad as everything on that band's New Found Power album. His lead work is still good, but his solos encompass a very small part of the songs. The songs generally consist of agonizingly banal mallcore rhythms accompanied by Phil Anselmo's increasingly irritating vocal roars. The lyrics are garbage, plain and simple. The only memorable parts of the album are the guitar solos and a few occasional rhythm/drum collaborations, namely in "Hellbound," "Goddamn Electric," and "You've Got to Belong to It." These moments are few and far between, and their rarity is the primary reason for this album's failure.
Worst of all is the production. Inexcusably shitty. Their fucking glam albums sounded better than this. Perhaps its worth noting that the band produced this album themselves. It certainly shows.
This is a sad way to end the legacy of the same band that brought us the mighty Cowboys from Hell, and even the memorable Vulgar Display of Power. Reinventing the Steel reinvents nothing, only reinforcing the fact that groove metal lacks innovation and sucks major ass. Avoid this atrocity, it's an unfitting final release from an otherwise talented band.
I picked up a second hand copy of this album a few months after it came out, and it immediately got a treatment that I rarely give a CD, a use of the repeat button on a single track in “Revolution is my Name”. At the time I was still occasionally tuning into VH1 and had seen the video several times. It always associated it with some of the better moments on the Trendkill release, which I had gotten into not long before. Recently I gave this one another listen and found out that there were some positive things going on here, though nothing that stood out as being phenomenal.
Pretty much we have 5 songs on here that qualify as good, while 2 others are listenable and the other 3 are completely groove dominated throwaways. I can’t still figure out why Pantera resorted to writing more groove material, when it was being taken up by the likes of Limp Bizkit and other posers in the Nu-Metal scene. “We’ll Grind that Axe for a Long Time” is kind of self-refuting lyrically when you think about, it is bitching about the establishment, when in fact Pantera had pretty much become the establishment in their own right. They actually sought to protest the fact that pop bands keep recycling their material, and then proceeds to write a song about it over a set of riffs recycled from “Mouth for War”, excuse me while I step aside for a moment to laugh my ass off.
Things are slightly less ridiculous lyrically on “You’ve got to belong to it”, but the guitar riffs are fucking comical sounding as hell. Dimebag Darrel was a decent guitar player, although amongst the flock of shredders in the 80s he was par for the course, but here it just doesn’t show at all. That annoying as hell high end guitar effect that he uses for the break down section just kills it for me, let alone the fact that we have way too much groovy repetition in the riff section. “Goddamn Electric” (Goddamn Boring would be more appropriate) has more groove, ergo it sucks as bad as most of their early 90s material. It’s too fucking slow, the riffs are under-developed and dry sounding, and Phil’s vocals sound as nauseating as they did on VDoP.
On the mediocre side of things, “Uplift” has its moment, but is mostly a more up tempo variation of the same groove crap that I just went through. The main riff is solid, but repeated way too much. The bridge before the chorus sounds almost like something Jimi Hendrix would do. During the solo section things are pretty cool, and the guitar and bass have a brief lead duel, something rare for this band. “I’ll cast a shadow” has a nice up tempo intro, but then it settles into a groove for the verse, and I begin to lose interest until the tempo picks up again. Phil is occasionally singing in a clean voice, which is a positive as even after 3 albums of screaming his lungs out he can’t get that low death metal voice right at all.
On the more positive side of things, “Hellbound” learns the lesson of previous albums and elects to keep things short, and properly balances out the groovy sections with the more Black Metal sounding chorus. “Yesterday don’t mean shit” has a hell of an awesome thrash riff in it, which almost sounding like it could have been on “Seasons in the Abyss” by Slayer. “Death Rattle” is a great speed metal song featuring some solid riffing, unfortunately I had to go through 5 other songs to get to it, usually the fast cooker is track 2. “It Makes the Disappear” starts off with a goofy guitar effect, but then gets cooking with another great thrash riff and basically keeps it interesting for the entire song.
And the grand highlight of this album is the single “Revolution is my Name”, and it stands strong in it’s delivery of a single message, this band is finally finished beating a dead horse. They got some good licks in on the decaying stallion corpse with Trendkill, but ultimately their glory days were gone with the end of the year 1991. This song encompasses all the best thrash ideas that were found on Cowboys from Hell and the few diamonds that you can pull out of the rough of VDoP and FBD, in addition to one last effort by Phil Anselmo to sing with his voice rather than fart through his mouth.
Not long after this Pantera called it quits and they did it 8 years too late if you ask me. One of the common misconceptions people have about those who were angry with this band is that they were angry because they were successful, they may articulate that anger in such a way that one would think that, but actually the reason for the anger lay in the inferior product they put out. Vulgar Display of Power was a contrived piece of garbage that tried to marry thrash with groove metal, Far Beyond Driven was a slightly better produced version of the exact same thing, and the Great Southern Trendkill was a properly focused expression of rage towards the truly bad elements of human society. So where does this album fall into that mix you ask? It falls somewhere in between the first two and the third one, pure and simple. It has some nostalgic moments to it, most of them borrowed from better days; otherwise it is a self-contradictory attempt to free itself from its own success. When a person becomes the leader of a country, he is laughed at and called an idiot if he complains about the direction that it’s going, because he is the one determining the direction. Pantera bitched about the mainstream, and continued to do so long after the mainstream made them rich for the musical compromises they made with it. It is fashionable non-conformity in the same vain as Kurt Cobain, only in his case he never had any great accomplishments to throw away, Pantera did and it will haunt them for the rest of their careers.
In conclusion, this CD is bargain bin material. Half of this album is good; the other half is either forgettable or painfully horrid. I bought this CD off a friend who didn’t want it anymore for $6, and I still feel like I got ripped off as even today I could get the good songs off it for less through legal MP3 downloads, despite price inflation. The lost generation of early 90s metal heads who lived for the groove will like some of this, but everyone else should stick to real metal, something that Pantera had forgotten about a while ago
One can see the decay that was slipping into the Pantera camp during this new "Reinventing the Steel" album. While a quality "party-death" metal album it was, it certainly wasn't the focused surge of "Far Beyond Driven" or the strange redneck-genius of "Trendkill". Pantera weren't together for this, the songs were obviously written by two seperate parties hiding from one another and the vibe is a disjointed one at worst and a loose ass-kicking at best. This may be the album with the most style over substance...but it's obvious that Pantera weren't in this for the focused attack but to keep the name alive through hard times for a band that has taken the stick from the underground and often faced accusations of being pretenders to the throne.
In terms of songwriting, the record has three or four knucklehead classics in "Hellbound", "Yesterday Don't Mean Shit" and "Death Rattle". Much of the record though is sloppy, with terrible vocal melodies that show Phil losing his way around the often sloppy riff-structures. Is much of it enjoyable but lacking in hook? Sure. Is this anything compared to "Far Beyond Driven" or "Trendkill"? Hardly. One can still feel the redneck-beer-rage spitting from the mix, but one can hardly remember most of it once the record has completed it's running order. "Death Rattle" and "Yesterday Don't Mean Shit" though served as passable singles that save the band from sinking into the "angry but directionless" mess that this could have been.
The seeds of dissention and musical disagreement can be heard on this release in plain form. Thankfully though, the bands commercial grunt-and-roar approach does provide a few sure kickers to keep the Pantera party moving...
It's half-good, half-horrible and all somewhat pointless for a band that had managed a strange classic only one album before...
So it took pretty a long time for Pantera to come up with a follow up to "The Great Southern Trendkill", and I recall being quite curious when I finally got my hands on this album, Pantera were never my favourite Metal band ever, but I always used to enjoy their stuff. They had their own thing going and they did it well; my only concern was that IMO the songwriting, despite taking a much more personal and distinctive approach, has started to become quite watered down since "Far Beyond Driven". For this reason, "Reinventing The Steel" quite surprised me when I first cranked it up. It was still packed to the brim with that typical Pantera-styled aggression that marked "The Great Southern Trendkill", but this time the boys slowed it took a bit more time to come up with some more interesting riffs to hold the listener's attention. Not that I hated "The Great Souther Trendkill", but I just found it overdone at points, and still believe it could have been better with a bit more variety thrown in.
Album opener "Hellbound" assaults the listener with classic Pantera trademarks from the first second: Dimebag's guitar is still there with its load of vicious distortion, Phil's vocals are abrasive as ever (although I wish he'd stop using those whispering/moaning interludes which make him sound like he's having anal sex with an orangutan), Vinnie's not the best drummer in the world but still shows a rare precision, and Rex's bass... hey, someone turned his bass volume up! That's a good achievement, for the former "Rocker" guy has quite some cool tricks up his sleeve for this album. Anyway, "Hellbound" alternates more laid-back verses to angry choruses, and finishes with a nice Thrashy acceleration. Powerful, varied and accessible - great way to open an album.
"Goddamn Electric" continues the thought although the rhythm variation between verse and bridge/chorus is more drastic and the tempo is generally slower. Phil throws in some clean vocals in the chorus, which helps the variation, and Kerry King of Slayer fame contributes with a solo in the outro... nothing to write home about really, as it barely classifies as a solo (just a bunch of distorted noises with - guess what? - lots of whammy bar masturbation). Still, the song stands out thanks to its heavy groove feeling.
"Yesterday Don't Mean Shit" kicks the speed up and relies on a very strong rhythmic backbone provided by Rex and Vinnie's excellent work; above it, cool riffs and Phil's angry performance complete the winning formula. Watch out for the bass lines underneath Dimebag's solo, and see why having an audible bass sound is a good thing.
"You've Got to Belong To It" is further focused on the rhythm, with Vinnie pulling off some nice patterns closely followed by Anselmo's vocal lines; a bit of inconsistency is to be found in the riff department, but the good points make up for it. Dimebag's shrill guitar hook is also pretty damn cool.
Then we get "Revolution Is My Name", which opens with a rather pointless slow intro before kicking into a great groove which sustains the whole song. The whole band's performance is top notch here, and Phil stretches his limits swithcing between cleaner parts to agrressive screams.
The second half of the record begins with "Death Rattle", a short and fast injection of crushing riffs and intense vocals. The riff structure is actually more complicated than a first listen would let imagine, and the whole thing is a great combination of mature musicianship and no-frills aggression. It can't be a bad thing, can it?
"We'll Grind That Axe For a Long Time"... long title, and the song itself seems to be a bit too long too. It's not really bad, it just tends to drag on a bit due to sections that would simply need to be cut off before they last long enough to become repetitive (see the chorus).
"Uplift" has more bite, especially in the first part, but then again drones on for too long near the end; still, it has some pretty interesting riffs going on here and there, and Vinnie's drumming is precise as ever.
The pace goes down for "It Makes Them Disappear", a dark, brooding track filled with heavy riffs, tortured vocals and haunting clean guitar passages (although Dimebag could have picked up a less silly effect for it).
"I'll Cast a Shadow" retains a similar mood but lies on the faster side, and closes the album on a high note... or rather would, if it wasn't for that lame talking section at the end which doesn't serve any purpose at all.
At the end of the day "Reinventing The Steel" comes out as a great addition to the Pantera discography. It won't make you change your mind about the band's music in any way, so if you liked Pantera's pervious albums you can go for it right now, otherwise avoid like plague.