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Blurring the lines between groove and thrash - 66%

Vlachos, May 4th, 2007

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.