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Songs For War
on 5 October 2003
Arguments and musical disagreements are something you may come to expect from Pantera, a band who after-all are one of the most downright angry and purely vile metal bands out there. They seem to have survived a lot of things over the last 13 years, but it seems this time, with front man Phil Anselmo's rapidly increasing obsessions with black and death metal, and his decision to make a second album with his apparent side-project, and much more extreme musical assault, Superjoint Ritual, finally ditching his other more accessible side-project, Down, and now a 'Best Of Pantera' emerging from seemingly nowhere, that Pantera a finally over, and have finally stalled their 6 litre All-American engines.
Upon first hearing, 'Reinventing Hell: The Best Of Pantera', several emotions will come through several people. There may be a slight sense of disappointment that they are seemingly finished, but as you listen through pummelling riffs, screaming choruses and ripping solos, that Pantera's muscular musical onslaught still contains all the power it ever did, perhaps more, and it always will. Behind Slayer, Pantera are the thrash metal equivalent of pure rage and insanity mixed into a pummelling mix, including some huge southern-fried riffage to blow your senses off to, and for those who have grown up with such ear-blistering intensity, and for those about to discover this terrific and highly influential band, you can't help but think that Pantera really were kings among men. They might not have been the thrash band with the most initiative and creativity, but Pantera were the greatest thing to ever happen to thrash metal...
They may have been one of the most disgusting and turgid bands to deal with throughout the 90's, but it wasn't always like that. On their first album with vocalist Phillip Anselmo (before this, they were an 80's hair metal band), 'Cowboys From Hell', which although was some of their best material, the mix and the winning production wasn't quite there. You can hear throughout the slow-burning, eventual assault of 'Cemetery Gates', and even during the chorus, that Pantera were still unsure of whether to become fully fledged into thrash or stick with a little bit of poodle rock, so they combined it. The song 'Cowboys From Hell' itself, where it is one of Pantera's more accessible tracks, is also one of their best, which would also become their theme tune. The pummelling, 'Domination' was the first real sign that Pantera could rock and rock hard, combining head banging riffs and shout-along choruses. As 'Cemetery gates' fades from your speakers, you'll find that an altogether different beast’ll assault you. On 'Mouth For War', Anselmo seems to spit blood and bones, while those huge riffs can now be heard more clearly and it finally seems as that stage that Pantera had finally found the right sound. In places a unique sound, songs 'Walk', 'This Love', 'F***ing Hostile' and 'Mouth For War' itself, combine Texan/Southern influences and screeching vocals heard for the first time. 'Walk' itself became a hit in its own right, with it's simple, but effective one riff styling with chant-a-long choruses, and the Vulgar Display Of Power equivalent of 'Cemetery Gates', 'This Love' just shows how much they'd come along in just a year and a half. This may have been some of Pantera's finest work, but it wasn't the music that truly made them just as they seemed. Throughout each Pantera album, they seemed to become heavier and seemed to be just trying to outdo the last for sheer intensity and overwhelming sound. 'Becoming', 'I'm Broken' and '5 Minutes Alone' were all taken from their much more ear blistering, third album, 'Far Beyond Driven', and although this album did top the charts in the US, it wasn't really meant for a pop audience. A note to those with sensitive ears; just try your luck with those three I just mentioned on top volume and you'll learn a real lesson in how turgid and powerfully shattering Pantera really could be. And believe it or not, it gets heavier...
Their fourth album, 'The Great Southern Trendkill' was like Metallica's '...And Justice For All' in the respect that both records were heavily underrated, and heavily different and slightly more experimental. It also began to show Anselmo's increasing influence by heavier bands, with his screams becoming more frequent and stronger, it's a shame that they didn't add more tracks from that album onto 'Reinventing Hell', but the one they did, 'Drag The Waters', containing what could be Pantera's best riff, was the wisest choice. But be warned, this is not music for the faint hearted. Other than the out of control, 'Revolution Is My Name', taken from the 'Reinventing The Steel' album, the remainder of the tracks have been taken from soundtracks, or were rare tracks, such as 'Where You Come From', taken off the end of their Live album, they are less quality tracks, but being Pantera songs, they all add to one or another. They are of very similar backgrounds but often sound very different from the last. Also included is their cover of Black Sabbath's, 'Planet Caravan', which is probably, believe it or not, Pantera's slowest effort, not once sending up a heavy riff, but just splendering in the slower pace, which provides a nice change and a rest from the heart-pumping heavy riffage surrounding it.
So while Pantera may sound Neanderthal, and as perhaps 'stupidly over the top' as Pantera sound, with an almost immature attitude (apparently they were immature people) and nothing but hate for everything in the world, they were also pioneers and were also very good and very intelligent at what they did. They always remained faithful to what they did, they never compromised and most importantly stayed loyal and always on the same level as their fans, other than when they were on a stage performing their strong live act, where they were in a total world of their own. For some reason I never truly appreciated Pantera throughout each and all of their albums I slowly collected and eventually wore out, but it took a record like 'Reinventing Hell' to truly see, as you will too, in their time, how powerful Pantera truly were.