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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.