Review Summary: A good compliation from the pillars of 90's metal, although the polish was left at home.
I do not own this album, nor have I even heard it. I do however have all of the songs contained within its metal laden boundaries. I grew up through the 90’s when Pantera became one of the biggest metal bands in the world and for good reason. The music is centred around Dimebag Darrell Abbott’s astounding (at times) riffing and solos. Vinnie Paul Abbott’s drumming and Rex Brown’s bass seal the deal instrumentally, and Phil Anselmo’s rough as rough shizer voice comes steamrolling over the top. Phil’s inclusion in the band marked a change from spandex infused hair metal to the power/groove/thrash/something else metal. Nothing before the Phil era is included on this album, illustrating how the band also sees the line in the sand between the two sounds. The band split shortly after their fifth and final studio album because of arguments within the band, and the members went on to form and continue with Damage Plan and Down, respectively.
Looking at the track listing I am pleased and disappointed at the same time. Let’s talk about the good side of the album;
There is a good spread of songs from all of their albums. Having said that, there are four songs from Far Beyond Driven (1994) which do not include some of my favourites from that CD, but more on that later. There are three songs from their big breakthrough album Vulgar Display of Power (1992) and also their last album Reinventing The Steel (2000). Only two songs are lifted from their first album in the new style, Cowboys From Hell (1990), and just one from the often forgotten Great Southern Trendkill (1996). To round out the album there are two cover songs which seem to be on here as an incentive for fans to get a hold of some harder to find Pantera and Where You Come From from between their last two albums.
There is plenty of great heavy songs on here which epitomises Pantera’s sound such as Cowboys From Hell, Mouth For War, Walk, and I’ll Cast A Shadow. Cowboys From Hell is less of an anthem for Pantera and more of their persona, as they hail from Texas and they… have demonic cows. Pantera’s anthem is reserved for Walk, being only a handful of well arranged notes for most of the song. It works though, and frames the passion and aggression seen thoughout their music.
There are also some slower songs on here in the form of Cemetery Gates, This Love (well it starts soft), and Planet Caravan which is a Black Sabbath cover. If you haven’t heard Cemetery Gates it is a must listen showcasing Dimebag’s talent on the guitar. The song has some good lyrics too delivered by Phil in a heartfelt manner, well a metal ballad manner at least. I think Planet Caravan in pretty average and a bit of a waste at the end of Far Beyond Driven. The song is not delivered with the same vigour as Cemetery Gates, so it seems to drag after a bit. Having said that, Phil’s vocals sound pretty good though showing another side of his abilities.
And finally there is the porridge which is just right… um… I mean the in between songs which aren’t too heavy but still rock out. The treble from Far Beyond Driven, I’m Broken, Becoming, 5 Minutes Alone, along with Drag the Waters, Where You Come From, and the rest. 5 Minutes Alone was their biggest song commercially. It was their Enter Sandman, being heavy enough for the metal heads and mainstream enough to put on the radio. It is still a good song, and part of the solid first half of Far Beyond Driven, also featuring Becoming and I’m Broken. All three songs are rather similar, being solid, medium tempo, simplistic songs with a hard edge. This group of songs also has the tracks from their last two albums, Great Southern Trendkill and Reinventing The Steel. Drag The Waters sounds ominously like Walk, and I can’t stand Where You Come From as it lacks the rhythm Pantera became famous for. The songs from Reinventing The Steel are nowhere near the quality of the rest. They seem to be uninspired reworks of earlier songs, which may sound harsh, but so is the truth. The other two covers are Cat Scratch Fever from the Detroit Rock City Soundtrack originally by Ted Nugent and Black Sabbath’s Hole In The Sky. Cat Scratch Fever sounds unashamedly identical to the original. I believe if a major band is going to cover a song they should bring something to the table, and this is not done on this track. The same applies to Hole In The Sky, as it sounds like a better produced version without Ozzy and in his place is an uncomfortable Phil.
Ok, so what inclusions do I agree with, and what else should be on here? The two songs from Cowboys From Hell are essentials, and other inclusions from that album should feature Domination and maybe Heresy to give new fans more of a taste of the past, and also inject some much needed speed into the album. Vulgar Display of Power is my favourite album and almost a best of by itself. Once again, the three songs on here probably belong on a best of but what about Regular People (Conceit) or F*cking Hostile? Absolute classics gone begging. Far Beyond Driven is the poor old middle child, some people like him and others can’t stand the little bugger. I’d say keep 5 Minutes Alone and I’m Broken and ditch the other two in favour of maybe Shredding Skin. If Far Beyond Driven is the middle child then Great Southern Trendkill is the red headed accident fourth child. I don’t mind the album, I mean keep Drag The Waters and include Living Though Me (Hell’s Wrath), and if you want to make it a double CD include the Suicide Notes. As far as I’m concerned Reinventing The Steel was horrible, it was the grandchild dumped on you by you first kid who eats all your food and dribbles on the leather seats in your midlife-crisis car, but maybe put Revolution Is My Name to acknowledge its existence. So what’s that, 15 songs. Perfect. 17 with the Suicide Notes plus the covers if you must, and what about some pre-Cowboys to round out the double CD and pull on the spandex for old times sake? Now I would buy that.
Of the music;
-Great guitar work
-Some really good song writing
Of the compilation
-The ones in the conclusion
-Phil’s voice sometimes
-Poor last album
Of the compilation
-Classics gone missing
-Other poor choices