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So I'm on vacation, and I'm wandering through a Target store looking for camera film. Out of habit, I glance over at the new releases in the CD department (well, CD "aisle" anyway).
Practically leaping from the shelf at me is the new PANTERA album, screaming "their first studio recording in four years!" So I snatched it up, eager to get home from my vacation so I could pop it into my CD player and crank up the volume.
Mind you, when I first put THE GREAT SOUTHERN TRENDKILL in my CD player and did the same, Phil's guttural scream opening track one scared the shit out of me - I was looking forward to the same experience.
Over the next two days, I'd be bored in my hotel room and inevitably pick up the CD and wish I had access to a player. The track list certainly sounded interesting, especially songs like "Revolution is my Name", "We'll Grind that Axe for a Long Time", and "I'll Cast a Shadow".
Now, let's backtrack a little further. Hopefully, many of you recall the late, lamented MTV show Headbanger's Ball (if MTV hadn't castrated Ricky Rachtman, he'd probably have been able to do a much better show - and now we have to watch game shows all day). One night he featured PANTERA, and the band discussed VULGAR DISPLAY OF POWER. I vividly remember lead singer Phil Anselmo saying that their next album would be a lot heavier, and they would continue to get harder and harder with every album they put out.
I seriously doubted they could get much harder than "Suicide Note Part II" on GSTK, but I figured there was only one way to find out. When I got home I threw that baby into my CD player as I grinned like an idiot and anxiously rubbed my hands together.
I was so disappointed.
The feeling lies somewhere between getting a date with the most popular girl in school only to have her and her boyfriend laugh at you when you show up at the door with flowers and taking home the prom queen only to have her handcuff you face-down to the bed and start greasing up a strap-on.
Don't get me wrong, PANTERA: REINVENTING THE STEEL is not a bad album, but it's nowhere near what you would expect from PANTERA. The music is good, but the songs themselves are less than spectacular. They all sound alike and there are no real standout singles (unlike the entire first half of VULGAR and several tracks on FAR BEYOND DRIVEN). Artistically, this album sounds like it should have come somewhere between COWBOYS FROM HELL and VULGAR. That definitive PANTERA sound (particularly Dimebag Darrell's blistering guitar work) is there, but the energy of the last few albums is lacking.
While I didn't honestly expect the guys to be capable of getting harder and harder with each passing album (everyone gets old sometime - someone should have shot the Stones ten years ago - I mean, what the Hell is up with "I'm Just Waiting On a Friend"?), I did expect a certain level of creativity and development along the way. Every album the band has put out since COWBOYS FROM HELL has shown that same trend.
I really hope these guys haven't already peaked and are on the downward spiral. I've seen them live several times since GSTK was released, and have been very, very happy with each concert. In fact, if you haven't seen PANTERA live yet,
"What the fuck are you waiting for???"
OFFICIAL LIVE 101 PROOF was a great live album, and I have no doubt that they will continue to kick some ass in live performances.
I just hope these newer songs have more kick live than they do off the CD.
"Yesterday Don't Mean Shit" tends to stick in your head, and "Revolution is my Name" and "We'll Grind that Axe for a Long Time" have that angry, rebellious attitude one comes to expect from PANTERA, but again they just don't pack enough punch. "You've Got to Belong to It" is really the only track with the steely guitar effects Darrell used in "Suicide Note Part II" and several tracks off FAR BEYOND.
The liner notes also brag of Kerry King of SLAYER fame playing on the track "Goddamn Electric", but he only plays the outro. They recorded it live in one take (again, according to the liner notes) backstage at an Ozzfest gig, but you'd never know it to hear it.
One last beef.
While writing this review, I spotted a "Made with Macromedia" label on the back cover of the album. So I chucked the disc into my CD-ROM to see if maybe there was something of really cool quality on the album afterall. Instead, all you get is a simple red and black Elektra splash page that says "Thank you for purchasing this album. For more information, click on the WebLink logo below." I sighed and clicked away, only to get an "Error 404" message when I clicked on it. And yes, I was connected to the Internet. Fortunately I can probably blame Elketra for this one (it points to the elektra.com domain) and PANTERA already supplies four web addresses in the liner notes.
For those interested, here they are:
Maybe I listened with too high of an expectation, maybe not. But I tried to give it the benefit of the doubt, and even listened to it a few times before sitting down to write this review. It's PANTERA, but only half-assed PANTERA, and it is with a heavy heart that I give it three skulls (rounding up from 2.5).
This review copyright 2000 E.C.McMullen Jr.