It is truly a shame that the first thing most casual music fans remember about Pantera is that their guitarist was murdered on stage in one of the most tragic events in rock history. While Dimebag Darrell’s passing was indeed shocking and tragic, he should really be remembered for his revolutionary approach to guitar playing, which brought together the brutality of metal with the thump of Southern rock for a swampy, punishing brew that was as thrilling as it was loud. Dimebag’s skills were never on display better than on Pantera’s final studio album Reinventing the Steel, which was released on this day in 2000.
Four years had elapsed between Pantera’s previous album (1996’s The Great Southern Trendkill), a scattered collection of tracks that, while heavy, did not capitalize on the success of 1994’s Far Beyond Driven (which is one of the hardest, loudest albums to ever top the Billboard album chart). The rift between singer Phil Anselmo and the rest of the band continued to grow in the years between The Great Southern Trendkill and Reinventing the Steel, beginning with Anselmo’s trouble with heroin (he was hospitalized for an overdose in 1996). Though the band continued to tour and kept scoring Grammy nominations, Anselmo continued to drift away from Pantera in favor of side projects (like the black metal supergroup Eibon).
The band was clearly on its last legs, but they managed to pull together one last time for Reinventing the Steel, which featured some of Dimebag’s most savage riffs and Anselmo’s most guttural growling. The single “Revolution Is My Name” was a minor hit and one of the band’s lasting anthems.