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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.