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Far Better Than Given Credit For - 75%

hexen, February 4th, 2013

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.