Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Reviews...PANTERA!

Yeah I know, "what the fuck? Why are you talking about Pantera?" Well look man, once upon a time I was 15 or so and I saw this video on MTV by a band called "Pantera," and although the name was kinda weird to me the song was just heavy as fuck and the riff was really memorable. The title was "Cowboys from Hell" and I had to admit that the title was pretty cool too. I mean what the hell, were these guys from Texas? Never heard o' no "Heavy Metal from Texas!" hehe...Anyways, the video looked cheap and people were slamming and at that time I was really into Vio-Lence - who also had a similar video of themselves playing while a crazy pit was sloshing around them. I didn't see a difference as far as what it represented. It was killer, aggressive, underground Metal to my young ears. But kinda different. Kinda new sounding, but not in a bad way - and THAT was exciting to a kid who just barely missed the heyday of thrash by a few years. The singer also had a fucked up haircut. A "long hawk." I never seen that before, and he was all sweaty and, well...Philthy lookin! But at the time, that was actually cool and made me think he must be a badass to be able to own the stage so hard looking like that!

Anyways, it was just another video on the old "Headbanger's Ball" which I thought was cool enough to record on my VHS player - which was always ready to record when they stopped playing glam shit for 5 seconds! Then I saw a 2nd Pantera video, this time with much clearer film quality and all this high budget looking stuff going on. There's this pro sounding acoustic guitar and the singer comes in singing all amazing like it's a Judas Priest ballad or something. I'm like, "wait, the sweaty long hawk guy can sing his ass off?" The song was ballady, but it was worthy of almost "Fade to Black" proportions - and that's not common. That was when I ran to the store and found a cassette tape of the album "Cowboys from Hell."

I was a devout fan from that point until "Far Beyond Driven" came out. I'm not going to explain what happened all in between in detail. But basically, "Vulgar Display of Power" really impressed me (and alot of other people my age and probably older) and my personal feeling is that it is underrated by many "true metal" folks because it was so popular and influenced so much bad music of today. But I don't buy into that shit. If something is great, it's great. I used to listen to "Reign in Blood" on tape all the time around this same period. I had no idea it would become so popular over time. Did that make the music less good? No, I just can't listen to it as often or it'll get played out. Anyways, "Far Beyond Driven" had the same great songs as "Vulgar" for the most part. But something was wrong and I couldn't figure it out. I think the band blew their wad on "Vulgar" and just couldn't quite match it. The tones were more mechanical sounding and overall, just a bit more forced than seemed natural. Kinda like when you are screaming as hard as you can for hours, and grow a bit hoarse. Or should I say, a dead horse? Still, i had some killer songs and I went along for a couple more years based on their awesome caveman inspiring live show. But my interest in the band began to fade as I got more and more into Death Metal.

Now, I have finally decided - for no reason I can quite say, to actually check out the last 2 albums I never listened to. "great southern trendkill" and "Reinventing the Steel." Here's what I though of em. Note - when I refer to "the first album" anywhere here, I'm talking about "Cowboys from Hell," not "Metal Magic."

Pantera "The great Southern Trendkill"

Right off the bat I can see why this band got annoying and kind of silly. The opener is obviously trying to prove right away, "we're back and we're more brutal than ever!" with lyrics which are sorta too current to make them real timeless. "Fuck your magazines!" "Fuck yeah, that's right!" I get where Phil is coming from here and he's trying to be all "underground" but at this point in time it seems like he's tryin a little too hard to me. The music is kinda noisy, yet has a few sorta catchy riffs. But overall, it's a pointlessly brutal song, obviously created to prove something they already proved years ago much better. Fortunately, the band can still do MUCH better, and they do as the album moves on..."War Nerve" is a nice return to what Pantera does best - make seriously crushing riffs executed with a tone warmer and closer to the first couple albums. The bluesy riffs and solos that Dimebag is known for are in full effect here. Him and his brother are seriously tight on this album. Seriously. Unfortunately, Phil's vocals haven't really improved. They don't necesarily take away, but they don't match the music as well as they did before. And again, Phil is trying too hard..."Fuck the WOOOOOOOOORRRLLDD!" yeah, ok buddy - you're so angry I get it! This is where the "nu metal" mentality was born. Right here. Now comes "Drag the waters." This is an obvious instant classic. This coulda been on any of the first 2 Pantera albums. Even Phil locks right in here. No brainer. Very cool, and even kinda new sounding for them. Credit due here for this one. And by the way - that's the "bluesy" feeling in there, that ain't no nu metal shite - I don't care what anyone says. Dimebag knew the blues like fukk. So he had a badge to groove out all he wanted and I'm glad he did. "10s" is an interesting song that breaks things up nicely. I'm surprised Phil can still pull off vocals like this. Very similar to "This Love" but also fairly different. Pretty creative I'd say. "13 Steps" has that "jam" feeling that Pantera gets on the first album on a few of the songs. At times it's pretty cool, but doesn't completely work for me. It's a killer jam, but I dunno if it's a killer song. Not bad, but not sure if it really adds to the album either. "Suicide Note pt1" was a surprisingly moving song for me. A very somber ballad that is almost a little scary and believable. Especially having read what Phil was going through over the years when I wasn't really listening to the band. This one caught me off guard. Phil still has lots of talent here. But I feel like he has to reach more to get at it. "Pt II" is, of course extremely brutal. Unfortunately it's kinda stupid. I mean, Dimebag has a few riffs I can only call "sick" in the song. And I hate to use that word, but that's what they are. Fucking "sick." The vocals are "try too hard" for me, and I think it's a bit of a wasted song. In fact, the music is trying too hard to be extreme here as well. Their thing is just wearing thin. However, next song "living through me" brings the band back with some killer Thrash Metal riffing that plainly proves that Dimebag was way up there with the best Thrash rhythm guitarists - and there aren't many of them. Phil? Well again, trying too hard. Succeeding a little actually. "Floods" is a pretty cool experimental songs, mixing their soft side with the harsh drugged out side. In fact, "drugged out" is a pretty good description of this song. It's dark and I buy it for the most part. I do think Dimebag's style hits a wall a little bit here though. I'm not saying creatively, but stylistically, I just think he's not such a "sad" guy - he seems like a party dude to me. And I can almost hear him and Phil struggling to find middle ground. It's not bad - it's pretty cool at times. But something feels not quite right. "The Underground in AMerica" has a very obvious title and it's as stupid as it sounds. I don't care what Phil is talking about here. He sounds too high to realize how silly he's getting. The music is really heavy, and has a killer groove. But it feels forced again. Like Phil's trying to force the band to be "evil" but it just ain't happening. Why? Because these dudes just aren't evil! The band can do better than this. "Sandblasted Skin" has a nice stoned out fucked up Dimebag riff. It sounds like a psychotic opening into Phil's head. It's kinda cool, but to me, this isn't what Pantera does best. It's so effortless for Vinnie and his bro to jam endlessly. This is them jamming with Phil screaming all over. It's awesome at times, it sounds like shit at times. I respect them for experimenting like this - but I also hear where alot of really shitty bands came from! Overall, this album has some great songs, but a few do nothing for me. I give it a 80% rating. I respect it overall and once in a while I will check it out again.

Pantera "Reinventing the Steel"

First song...The band sounds pretty inspired, though I can't say the song is great. It's just kinda like "here Pantera! We're back, ya miss us?" I gotta admit - I kinda fall for the cheese of it. Phil is yelling his head off as usual, but it's less annoying here than on the last album. "goddamn electric" is a fun/cool song. Distinctly Pantera. Phil sounds kinda stupid here and there, but this is near classic. Clearly the band is in synch this time. "Yesterday don't mean shit." Some killer thrash riffs, some really generic nu metal sounding ones. The band sounds really fired up - just a bit too "generic suburb Metal." Next is "You've got to belong to it." In a weird way Phil's old charm really comes through in these song titles. I mean, when you are forced into a grin just reading a song title, you know Phil is on it. This is "type 5" Pantera song. Half fucked up trippy noise and half sick riffs. Yeah, I said "sick" again. I mean, that's the only description for these riffs. Sick. That used to be a compliment, and that is how it is intended here. I remember the Death Metal dudes used to say "sick" alot before the "wiggas" stole it. Pantera is a little silly - I think that's what Phil doesn't quite know how to come to grips with and what Vinnie and Dime still kinda can't shake from the "Metal Magic" days...Vinnie does some cool shit here. Tight as all hell. "Revolution" is almost industrial in it's crushing approach. Shit, I'm hearing newer Danzig here. The scary question is, who influenced who? I think it's clear. Very nu metally. Not totally my thing - but this is a sound they pretty much invented, so they are entitled to it. "Death Rattle" is pure nu Pantera in full effect. It's not for me. Again, they invented it and it is heavy. But..."Axe" is like "Mouth For War" pt II. Very similar. gets real fucked up towards the end and less "Mouth for War" like. "Uplift" is another absolute crusher. The band is on fire, just like the guy on the front of the album. I hate what this music influenced, but I can't deny the power and won't. "Disappear" keeps the krushing going, then the last song "I'll cast a shadow" unleashes probably some of the best Pantera riffs ever heard. These guys must have known what their best songs were, because this album seems to get better as it goes. The last riff was turning in my head hours after I stopped playing it.

Ok, I'm sick of Pantera again. I'll be revisiting these again in like 10 years or something.

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