Neil Daniels is one of the more prolific of metal and hard rock’s chroniclers with a string of books to his name about some of the world’s biggest bands.
Some of his more recent works have been self-published; this one is not. Reinventing Metal (The True Story of Pantera and the Tragically Short Life of Dimebag Darrell, to give its complete title) is an unauthorised biography of the band that kept American metal alive during the early 1990s and set the precedent for the period after that: Pantera. In his easy-to-read style, Daniels relates the history of the band from their formation as a five piece called Pantera’s Metal Magic in 1981 (the book calls them as a six-piece at the time but only names five players) to their eventual break up twenty-two years later. There’s an extended epilogue that focuses on Dimebag’s murder, funeral and some discussion about the bad blood that continues to exist between Pantera’s surviving members, and that’s pretty much it. For a book about a band that had as much of an impact on the metal scene as Pantera, Daniels doesn’t really go into a whole lot of detail. With no input from the group outside of a couple of early vocalists, the writer has to rely mostly on peripheral figures and quotes from interviews to tell his story, and most of the story he builds is fairly well known already.
There’s a little about Phil Anselmo’s personal background and his lifelong passion for hardcore and extreme metal that might be interesting if the singer hadn’t professed this love so often in the past. The lockstep dedication and drive of Dimebag and Vinnie that recalls that of similarly-minded sets of brothers like Malcolm and Angus Young and Alex and Edward Van Halen is also not that surprising. Really, there’s precious little here that the dedicated fan – those to whom this book might appeal – doesn’t already know. It’s an overview of the career of a very successful band, but without much insight. Apart from a couple of times where both Dime and Vinnie are shown to be arseholes and Phil is portrayed as a peacemaker when things with ex-employees and journalists get out of hand, there aren’t any great revelations or any attempts to shatter illusions. It’s almost as if Daniels’ respect for the band’s memory and legacy was simply too great for him to potentially ruin it and in the end he just plays it safe. Reinventing Metal is a decent read, but it does nothing to reinvent a legacy, neither adding to Pantera’s mystique nor detracting from their legend. The definitive biography of Pantera has yet to be written.