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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.