Wednesday, April 21, 2010

PANTERA "I AM THE NIGHT" (Metal Magic Records)

Holy shit is this terrible. Pantera's third album overall, and the last to feature vocalist Terrence Lee. It's obvious at this point that the band was out of ideas and had taken this style as far as it could go. A change needed to occur. Whereas "Projects in the Jungle" was a flawed but promising effort with a number of good songs and riffs, and one absolutely amazing track, "I Am The Night" is unequivocally terrible. Everything here sucks, with the lone exception of "Come On Eyes" which actually rocks pretty hard for glam. More than likely it was a "Projects..." outtake.
So what went wrong? Probably Pantera's intense desire for crossover success. The most off-putting aspect of this record, for me, is the ZZ Top style mechanized drums which appear in every song, leading me to believe that Pantera were following the charts (a few years too late) and wondering what they could do to achieve that level of marketability. What they failed to realize was that along with the robot drums ZZ Top were writing great songs like "Sleeping Bag," "Give Me All Your Lovin'" and "Legs" (never mind that "Sleeping Bag" was never a single-it's a song called fucking "Sleeping Bag" and that should be enough.) It wasn't just cold mechanical beats making stars back then-you had to have something that people could remember.
Pantera at this point, and working in this style, didn't have that. They were too heavy for mainstream radio but not heavy enough for underground success. The arrival of Phil Anselmo would rectify that but at the time it must have been dire for the boys. What to do with the talent? "I Am The Night" boasts plenty of pure uninspired techinical shit riffing and even has yet another Van Halen styled guitar exposition but nothing in the way of quality songs-what's a band to do? Blame the singer, of course.
Terrence Lee did his best here. His performance is the only one that actually shows improvement and progression from "Projects." He works in different ranges here and tries a number of varied approaches, all admirable and acceptable and laudable within the terrible frameworks given but not enough to escape the inevitable sandbagging overall. I'd like to know more about this guy just to see if he knew what was going wrong at this point and if he had any inkling that he'd get the axe. Obviously Anselmo came in and took things to the the next level but it'd still be interesting to hear Lee's side of the story.
On "Power Metal" Pantera were totally different. Every vestige of accessibility was gone, replaced by a "harder faster louder" mentality that fueled the band for years to come. Perhaps the memory of "I Am The Night" prompted them to do better all the time. It made for some great records, certainly. For fans and musicologists, "I Am The Night" is priceless. If you don't laugh a little listening to these songs then i'm not sure what this blog could do for you. Likewise, if "Come On Eyes" doesn't blow your mind then i wonder the same. Better things were on the horizon for Pantera, but history is forever inescapable.

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