“Dime and Vinnie were very close to her and she was a big part of my life and Rex’s life as well,” Anselmo says. “When somebody’s mother passes it’s a big, big thing. I was a pallbearer at the funeral. In a weird way, that brought Dime and I closer together.”
Instead of wallowing in self-pity, Vinnie and Dime became even more motivated, spending every hour in the studio, focusing single-mindedly on crafting an endless series of fist-in-mouth riffs and gut-busting beats. Anselmo and Brown, as well, were integral parts of the process. “We were very determined and we were all getting along well,” Anselmo says. “So in a way, it was very laid back. I remember discussing with Dimebag what he liked and what he didn’t like. We went back and forth and made sure the songs were great.”
The process worked. Reinventing the Steel, trumped the caustic vitriol of The Great Southern Trendkill and rivaled the band’s best albums. Not only does the music hold up, it’s classic. The riffs are bludgeoning and memorable, the vocals multifaceted and corrosive and the mix laden with mindblowing guitar effects and Dime’s unparalleled leads. Highlights include the flanged “Cowboys From Hell”-esque guitar opening and harrowing whispers of “Hellbound,” the mid-paced, blues-inflected rhythm and stuttering beats of “Goddamn Electric,” the skin-peeling wah-wah intro and Sabbathy, railroad chug of “Revolution is My Name” and the rapid-fire, D-beat-fueled demolition of “Death Rattle”; though every song is memorable, featuring the band’s trademark blend of raw brutality and scathing melody.
“If you put Reinventing the Steel next to Far Beyond and Vulgar, I think you come out with something very close,” Brown says. “Take a song like ‘Revolution is my Name.’ That’s a great track that could have ended up on Far Beyond Driven. Dime really came out of his hole and delivered.”
Adding to the impact of Reinventing the Steel was Slayer guitarist Kerry King, who added a guest solo for “Goddamn Electric.” “[In 1999,] Dime went down to Ozzfest, [which featured Slayer], and brought a four-track recorder with him,” Brown recalls. “One day he put Kerry inside of the fucking bathroom, set up the recorder and said, ‘Play this lead real quick.’ And Kerry let fly.”
Sadly, While Pantera was touring for Reinventing the Steel, the band went on a downward slide. Anselmo’s back pain got worse and he started medicating more frequently, using booze, pills, methadone and heroin. He distanced himself from his band mates when he wasn’t onstage and often rambled incoherently during performances. The Abbott’s started traveling in their own bus and Brown, who was a full-blown alcoholic, and Anselmo would take the other. Despite the setbacks, Anselmo still delivered in concert. In the end, however, Pantera burned too bright for too long. The band took very few breaks between their rise in 1990 and their final tour in 2001, a factor which no doubt contributed to Anselmo’s continued back pain and the members’ growing enmity towards one another.
“We should have stopped to all go into rehab, but that wasn’t our style,” Brown says. “We were red hot and we didn’t want to stop playing no matter how badly we were getting along. That eventually took its toll.”