Hard Reviews
by Martin Popoff

Fresh Metal

Pantera - Reinventing The Steel

Like I've babbled many times before, when you singularly own a sound this good, why abandon it? So Pantera don't, reinventing little, tweaking and recalibrating a fine land-speed record jetster and then taking it out to the salt flats for a knuckle-ripping ride. If an overview be ventured, I'd say this lives up to Vinnie's statements about strength of song, Pantera generally keeping it short, ear to the ground, logical, almost compact and punky, within, that is, the golden-handcuffed confines of the patented tin-foil-on-a-filling Pantera screech. All of this can be viewed within a happy headbanged classic like Yesterday Don't Mean Shit, chorus courtesy of the old days, while what the band doesn't want to return to (sound for noise sake) can be dismayed through You've Got To Belong To It. Phil does a little more singing here too (Revolution Is My Name), a dimension that should surely turn a third of this into anthems given the time necessary for fans to digest this quite note-dense batch of frenetics. A return to old? Not really, although there's a certain immediacy here, a compression of mind that says let's get to it before we lose 'em.
Rating 8.5

Spiritual Beggars - Ad Astra
(Music For Nations)

Man, this band was delivered great and they just get better. Michael Amott has always been a guy that takes quality seriously. Through seminal Carcass material and his top-flight progressive death act Arch Enemy, Amott has built an esteemed reputation, one that has now landed him with Sanctuary Management. Four records in now, and the bones of a stoner rock novelty have grown hard and sturdy, ready to support flesh beyond such dismissive tags. Ad Astra (meaning ãto the starsä) immediately lets you know that we are to gather the image of a long-lost stadium rock act from the '70s, or maybe one that didn't quite make the big leagues because they went over everyone's heads. That's what I get from lead track Left Brain Ambassadors, especially the ending which is one of those big wind-ups you don't see anymore, complete with Hammond organ. On Dark Rivers is also a beauty, sporting the greasiest of retro metal grooves and a great vocal by Spice, who has the perfect rock star roar for this kind of serious head music (even if he sounds a lot like Trouble's Eric Wagner). The touchstone is still Kyuss and Sabbath, although Spiritual Beggars have likely written the catchiest and grooviest Sabbath tunes of all time here, quite a feat when one realizes how many changes or conversely, layers there are lasciviously laced (see Blessed and watch the creativity fly).
Rating 9.5

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