Review Summary: Before Pantera were killing trends, they were buying into them.
Imagine a band. Imagine this band existed during the 80s. In this band are a group of teenage guys, in or fresh out of high school. They are dressed in the finest decor of glam metal, complete with long, flowing hair, and makeup most likely stolen from their mothers. Imagine these guys bought into every MTV-popularized trend that the 80s had to offer. Imagine they listened to unhealthy amounts of KISS and worshiped the ground Van Halen walked on. Finally, imagine this band attempting to fit in with the metal scene, but failing miserably at it. Now, what band are you imagining? If it was Pantera you were thinking of this whole time, you have obviously had the displeasure of listening to their 1983 debut, Metal Magic
. If so, I sincerely apologize from the deepest depths of my heart.
For those fortunate few who are not already aware, Cowboys From Hell
is not the first Pantera album, despite how much the band wishes it was. That's right, before they were "taking over your town" and revolutionizing thrash metal, Pantera spent an entire decade trying to be Mötley Crüe. They failed at doing so, however, and at absolute best ended up as Winger. This decade of what is now known as "Glamtera" brought us four albums, each one better than the last but none that can legitimately be considered "good." While Pantera's glam career may have unremarkable, none of their releases hold a candle to Metal Magic
in terms badness. Simply put, the mere fact that Pantera were able to have such a successful career after this album is nothing short of magic.
This album fails on every conceivable level, an impressive feat for a band that would one day rule the 90s metal scene. Where the band falters most on this album is in their astoundingly bad musicianship. A common misconception is that the legendary Dimebag Darrel Abbot performed lead guitar on this album. This is entirely false, as it was in fact Diamond
Darrel Abbot who played on the album. Diamond was the larva that would eventually metamorphose into the Dimebag we know and love. On Metal Magic
, as is characteristic of larva, Diamond is a mere shadow of what he would become. He does show actual potential on the album, with riffs somewhat catchy and shredding guitar solos that are occasionally borderline-interesting. Nevertheless, Diamond's playing is plagued by an inscrutable sense of familiarity. This never ceases over the course of the album, and makes both his riffs and solos seem all the more lackluster. With that being said, Diamond's playing is the only element of the album that does not fall flat on its face, although it does trip every now and then.
While his lead guitar work is actually moderately enjoyable, Diamond is unable to carry the rest of the band. Vinnie Paul (the only band member who didn't alter his name to make it sound more "glam") gives an incredibly subpar performance, playing generic drum patterns that in no way reflect the skill he legitimately possessed. Bassist Rex Rocker (who would later metamorphose into the far superior Rex Brown) is never audible over the course of the album, most likely to make room for Vocalist Terry Glaze's overwhelming blandness. Glaze served as the vocalist for the first three Pantera releases, and without a doubt ranks among the worst to ever grace the stage. His vocal delivery lacks any sort of strength, confidence, or even pitch. He tends to slur words together and give only a minimal amount of effort when it comes to annunciation. The lack of energy and over the top emotion in his delivery often make certain parts of songs unintentionally hilarious, such as when he whispers “Metal magic, magic, magic...” during the title track, or has the weakest fake orgasm in the history of music at the conclusion of the song “I'll be Alright.” Glaze's lyrics don't do his vocals any favors either. The lyrics reek of adolescent horniness and god-awful sexual innuendos, such as “Ride My Rocket” and “Biggest Part of Me” (which, funny enough, is a supposedly serious love ballad). Thankfully, Glaze's painfully weak delivery, coupled with the album's production, occasionally render his vocals unintelligible. This way, the listener only has to suffer through the lyrics he or she actually comprehends, which is a godsend considering the awfulness of the lyrics that are decipherable. The only seemingly intelligent member of Pantera was the keyboardist, who must have realized how worthless his input was and therefore left himself uncredited. We may never know the keyboardist's name as long as we live. Whatever the case may be, he was smart to have his name omitted, as being attached to Metal Magic
and no other Pantera albums would have most likely been career suicide.
Aside from the band's individual performances, Metal Magic
makes for an extremely unpleasant listening experience. The album lacks any sort of production quality, as one might expect from a young group’s first outing. Due to this, the bass has been entirely mixed out and Glaze's already weak vocals are usually shoved into the background. The fuzzy guitar overpowers everything else on the album and blares, often painfully, into the listener's ears if the songs are played at even a moderate volume. Keyboard melodies are made louder than necessary, turning high-pitched notes into the most annoying sound fathomable. During “Tell Me If You Like It,” the keyboard obnoxiously rings over the rest of the band, akin to what one might hear during a medical hearing exam. More than anything else, the abysmal production makes Metal Magic
nearly impossible to get through in one sitting without the fear of permanent injury to one's eardrums. After listening to Glaze's vocals for five minutes, however, you may welcome hearing loss with open arms.
One afternoon not too long ago, I saw the cover of Metal Magic
for the first time and laughed so hard and for so long that I began to feel sharp pains throughout my entire body and I lost all feelings in my lungs. I fell on the ground gasping for air, coughing uncontrollably as my body violently convulsed. My eyes began to burn from all the tears and I lost control of my bowels. Forcing myself to hold back vomit, I crawled across the floor and stared a picture of Vulgar Display of Power
until I became so intimidated, my laughing ceased. Death was so close, mere seconds away perhaps, and having now listened all the way through this album I sincerely wish I died of laughter that day. That way, I would have never listened to this album in the first place. Metal Magic
is the great southern failure, due to a vulgar display of musicianship and songs that are so far beyond uninteresting that they practically reinvent the word “bland.” Although I cannot recommend this album to anyone based off its music, I strongly encourage anyone who enjoys Pantera to check Metal Magic
out for themselves and experience the hilarity. After all, you can't truly
call yourself a Pantera fan until you've listened to the first sixty seconds of “Ride My Rocket.” When doing so, just be sure to monitor your breathing rate every twenty seconds to avoid laughing to death.