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Reinventing The Steel (20th Anniversary Edition)

(Rhino Records)

      Ever not 'get' a particular artists or group? More specifically, did you ever not 'get' them due to your feelings regrading their fanbase? Admittedly, this was my initial experience with Groove Metal icons Pantera when they unleashed their major label debut Cowboys From Hell (1990). The group's second effort to feature Phil Anselmo and first recorded without the 'guidance' of Jerry Abbot, it quickly propelled the group to the forefront of the then increasingly stagnant Heavy Metal genre. Even with the often inescapable presence of “Cemetery Gates” and, to a lesser extent, “Primal Concrete Sludge”, I still found myself unable to join the ranks of their swarming, testosterone-fueled fan base. However, I eventually came to appreciate the group's teeth-gnashing bravado after attending the 2001 Extreme Steel Tour (i.e., Morbid Angel, Skrape, Slayer, Static X and Pantera). Now, forty years after my introduction, I find myself entirely immersed in Reinventing The Steel (20th Anniversary Edition).

      On the brilliant Reinventing The Steel (20th Anniversary Edition) (2021), an expertly assembled eighteen song, two LP collection of Groove Metal Metal, each track, beginning with the fist-pumping, mosh-inducing tirade “Goddamn Electric” and the unnervingly relevant gem “Hellbound”, immediately commands the rapt and undivided attention of all parties involved, myself most definitely included, myself most definitely included. Wasting little--if any--time re-affirming their rightful place amid the hierarchy of the sub-genre, the group flexes their more-than-considerable creative muscles early and often as they capitalize on the chart-topping success of The Great Southern Trendkill (1996) (and, for that matter the in-concert document Official Live: 101 Proof, 1997). Offering a variation of their now-trademark tonalities, the initial series of auditory excursions are as fine-tuned as they are overwhelming, they gloat with a renewed and undeniably well-deserved air of self-confidence.

      Continuing with the relentlessly pummeling “Revolution Is My Name” and the awkwardly-titled statement of intent “We'll Grind That Axe For A Long Time”, the airtight combination of vocalist Phil Anselmo (Arson Anthem, Down, Superjoint Ritual), guitarist Darrell 'Dimebag' Abbot, bassist Rex Brown and drummer Vinnie Paul (Abbot) (Damageplan, Hellyeah) steamrolls ahead at a carefully-calculated pace. Driving home each key focal point via a seamless barrage of guttural vocal, blistering fretwork and imaginatively punishing rhythms, the group wisely panders to their oft-feral constituents. Deftly showcasing their woefully-underrated ability to 'deliver' the proverbial 'goods', the group tempers their strains with a complexity that showcase each member's strengths. With Anselmo delivering a career-defining performance and Abbot effectively anchoring them via the razor-sharp riffs and solos that defined his truly unique styles and sound, Brown and Paul are allowed to glisten.

      Originally Produced and Mixed by the acclaimed Sterling Winfield (Dallas Sound Lab, King Diamond, Texas Hippie Collation), other standouts, including the delightfully doom-laden “It Makes Them Disappear” and the equally impressive, self-aware closer “I'll Cast A Shadow” are 'graced' by the presence of an arguably long-overdue Terry Date Re-Mix. Now afforded the full dynamic range the original recordings undoubtedly strove to achieve, the yielded histrionics serve as a much-welcomed reminder of the group's influence. Fortified throughout via the inclusion of the rare B-Sides “Avoid The Light” and “Immortally Insane” (from the Dracula 2000, Heavy Metal 2000 and Texas Chainsaw Massacre soundtracks), a visceral variation on the Black Sabbath classic “Electric Funeral”, and, perhaps most importantly, all-new cover art, the near-lethal gem that is so often Reinventing The Steel (20th Anniversary Edition) can finally be judged/re-observed solely for it's musical merits.

      But is it their finest moment? Absolutely not (for better or for worse, I'll continue to reserve that distinction for the group's chart-topping tour de force Far Beyond Driven and, to a lesser extent, the oft-groundbreaking Vulgar Display Of Power). Despite this, even if you somehow find yourself less than enthralled with the group's arguably racist, rebel flag-waving undertones ('It's not hate, it's heritage'), one must, at the very least, sincerely admire their once seemingly ceaseless dedication to honing their already razor-honed chops. Love' em or loathe 'em, this is quite possibly as good as mainstream, turn-of the-century Heavy Metal was ever going to get. As a result, if you've once again found yourself in search of refreshing over-the-top, testosterone-laden alternative to the painfully mindless atrocities that are so often force-fed en mass via the proverbial mainstream, then this, my friends, might just be the high-octane counterirritant for whatever ails you. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.

Select Discography

Reinventing The Steel (20th Anniversary Edition) (2021)

1990 - 2000: A Decade Of Domination (2010)

The Best Of Pantera (2003)

Reinventing The Steel (2000)

Official Live: 101 Proof (1997)

The Great Southern Trendkill (1996)

Far Beyond Driven (1994)

Hostile Moments (EP) (1994)

Walk (EP) (1993)

Vulgar Display Of Power (1992)

Cowboys From Hell (1990)

Power Metal (1988)

I Am The Night (1985)

Projects In The Jungle (1984)

Metal Magic (1983)

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