Let's face it: heavy metal is the cockroach of rock 'n' roll the one musical species that survives any and all cultural trends and manages to prosper even as oblivious commentators proclaim that rock is dead, dead, dead.
Of late, we've seen the ever-resilient heavy-metal genre evolve in some unexpected ways, particularly so-called sports-metal (a term suggested by Marilyn Manson) played by boys such as Limp Bizkit and Korn who, while they may be deemed terminally unhip in some quarters, have actually managed to create an interesting crossover zone for young white and black listeners. Yet, however much a title such as Reinventing the Steel might suggest the contrary, the latest offering from maniacal Texas metal vets Pantera makes no concession to current trends in their chosen genre. Instead, the band retools its version of straight-up metal by going back for inspiration to the source, the mother of all metal bands: Black Sabbath.
Aside from being a blistering disc in its own right and with nary a hip-hop beat or funk riff to be found, I might add this album provides still more proof of the continuing durability of the musical template Black Sabbath developed way back at the dawn of the 1970s: stop-start rhythms, turn-on-a-dime tempo changes and, of course, the mammoth, gothic blooze riffing and sizzlingly succinct lead work of guitarist Tony Iommi, whose legacy only increases in stature as the years go by. Appropriately, then, the disc really belongs to Pantera guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott, who emulates the Iommi style to perfection on tracks such as "Goddamn Electric" (RealAudio excerpt) which, by the way, finds tattooed vocalist Phil "White Trash and Proud of It" Anselmo offering this expert commentary on 21st-century lifestyle options: "Your trust is in whiskey and weed and Black Sabbath it's goddamn electric!" Touché, dude!
Throughout the album, the band carries on in a fashion that suggests Black Sabbath's classic 1975 Sabotage album as redone by a gang of gnarly Texans cranked on crystal meth. And, while Pantera generally eschew the more subtle musical moments found sprinkled throughout the Sabbath oeuvre, longer tracks here (the psychedelic "It Makes Them Disappear" (RealAudio excerpt), the churning "It'll Cast a Shadow") do show them capable of maintaining interest via more than just volume and attitude.
Metal-wise, then, Pantera are still the hottest thing outta Tejas since early ZZ Top. And while this album serves mainly as a ripping riposte to those aforementioned sports-metalists, if one were to associate Pantera with a sport, it would no doubt be the stick-in-the-face, punch-in-the-mouth, blood-and-guts, game played in the National Hockey League. Simply put, Reinventing the Steel is a thundering bodycheck delivered from behind, sending unwary opponents flying head-first into the boards. Goddamn electric, indeed.