While this album isn’t as instantly accessible as Vulgar Display Of Power or as Zeitgeist-grabbingly important to its time as Far Beyond Driven it is still my honest opinion that any serious Pantera fan should own a copy of Reinventing The Steel.
Reinventing The Steel is certainly a grower of an album; the more that you listen to it, the more that you can get out of it. The standard of musicianship on the album is so high, which should bypass any other problems people may imagine the album to have. Sure, the artwork is silly and off-putting and there aren’t as many big hit singles on it as on other Pantera records but the album is tight, well written and consistent which is a lot more important than these superficial issues.
It could be said, whilst trying not to sound pretentious, that Reinventing The Steel is the musician’s Pantera album. The record may be pretty challenging for casual listeners, as tracks like ‘You’ve Got To Belong To It’ and ‘Uplifting’ twist in and out of each other, turning backwards away from momentum in the blink of an eye and are full of unusual guitar noises and little runs that take four or five listens to even understand. This may be off-putting at first, but really adds to the listening experience on repeat listens, picking out all the little touches and enjoying how the tracks defy expectations.
For people who enjoy Dimebag Darrell’s unique guitar style; Reinventing The Steel is perhaps the album on which he was at his most “Dimebag,” farthest away from sounding like his influences or any specific subgenre and just laying down tracks that were uniquely his and solos that sound utterly specific to him.
Highlights include the very catchy singles ‘Revolution Is My Name,’ and ‘Goddamn Electric,’ as well as the spiteful ‘We’ll Grind That Axe For A Long Time,’ and the astounding a emotionally powerful album closer ‘ I’ll Cast A Shadow,’ which features some of Phil’s best ever vocal performances.
That being said I have come to love each and every song on this record, every individual riff, vocal and beat permanently cast in my memory. Each track fits perfectly beside each other, the running order itself is great as is the song structuring and the majority of the lyrics are strong (although some can be a little cheesy as usual)
The production too is great, you can really hear every single note on the Bass Guitar throughout the whole record, every drum beat is clear and distinct with a good mix on the kit overall and Phil’s multi-layered vocals, while an acquired taste, do sound very good.
Overall; While Reinventing The Steel may be the least popular of the five main Pantera studio albums, it is by no means a write-off and I urge listeners to give it an open-minded second chance and for new listeners to give it a try and not be put off by its comparative lack of praise.