What is your favourite thrash metal album? I am willing to bet that at least 85
percent of the metalheads would say either Reign In Blood
without taking a breath. The remaining 15 percent would most likely
debate between Megadeth
s Peace Sells
Bonded By Blood
´s Spreding The
. Or at least some band from the Bay Area or the East Coast, or maybe even Germany. While these bands and albums are all very good, I would not resort
to any of them when presented the question up above. I would answer Cowboys
without taking a breath.
Pantera, the lean mean, riffing machine from Texas, USA. Considering
that they played mostly glam-infected and very trendy rock in the mid-80s while
touring with Bon Jovi and the like, it is hard to believe that
this band of rednecks became one of the heaviest and to me, greatest bands ever.
Because after Phil Anselmo entered the fold as the new lead vocalist, and recorded
a “warm-up album”, Power Metal with them in 1988, Pantera ditched
the hairspray and cock rock, and took on a whole new, much heavier and nastier
direction and – fortunately – never looked back.
I can´t say much about the opening title track of the album. I just would
not do it justice. Cowboys From Hell is one of the best metal songs
ever. The ripping riffs, The solos, the drumming, the thumping bass, the seething
vocals, the “my-fist-in-your-face” lyrics, everything is just so
damn perfect. This song is a microcosm of the entire album. Primal Concrete
Sledge, Psycho Holiday and Heresy don´t give in one bit
in the heaviness and intensity, and smack some more power out like few others
Even after four songs I have to start sucking up to every individual member
of the band. First, we have Dimebag Darrell, the riff-machine. Many people say
Tony Iommi, many say James Hefield, many say Dave Mustaine, etc. But I say,
the greatest riff-maker in history is Dimebag. The riffing on this album does not pale in comparison to
anyone in my ears. The solos don´t drop behind one bit. Every song has
a solo that blazes harder than a rocketships afterburner. His brother Vinnie
Paul is about the ballsiest drummer ever to tread the face of the earth. Some
may play em faster, some may play em with more technical prowess, but none beats
the skins with the heaviness, groove and sheer style of Vinnie. He is the greatest
drummer in the world, I say. And especially, especially, no one beats him at
the double-bass drum game. He is unbeatable with those stompers. Rex Brown is
keeping the groove even more terrific with his crushing bass. The production
of this album is perfect, as the bass is given its rightful due. And then we
have Phil Anselmo. I have seen that he is a singer that divides peoples opinions
pretty well. Some think that he can belt out anger, feeling and aggression with
ways and abilities that few on this planet posess. Some others think that
he is another “bullshit-tough-guy-image”-singer that come a dime
a dozen. I am definitely in the first group, and frankly I have never understood
anyone who is in the latter group. To me Anselmo is one of the greatest vocalists
on the planet, from beautiful clean singing to rage-induced shouts to Halford-esque
screams, this guy does it all. Granted, on his latest project, Superjoint
Ritual, he does not really let out his true abilities. Which is a shame
to me. But on Cowboys, you can hear the near-perfect vocalist that
resides inside Anselmos tatted-up body.
Cemetary Gates is hands down one of the greatest metal ballads ever
made. Well, an extremely heavy ballad at that, but on the Pantera scale a “ballad”.
Very powerful and emotional vocal performance from Anselmo abounds especially
on this track. Just listen to Anselmos window-shattering screams at the end of the song, where he matches Dimebags insanely high guitar harmonics to an S and be amazed. Domination and Shattered are two more neckbreakers
that I would really lift from this album to a class of their own. The first
one demonstrates what it means when a song has groove that is impossible not
to mosh to, and the latter showcases Dimebags and Vinnies talents to the extreme.
Clash With Reality is another groove-monster that grinds every uncooperative
(non-moshing) body part to dust. Medicine Man is a more dark, ominous
tune with a very evil and sinister vibe. Message In Blood gives another
left-hook punch to the proverbial musical face with the power of a simple, straight-out rocker. The Sleep again gives a text book example of how to do
a truly emotional, uncheesy ballad. The Art Of Shredding closes the
album with one hell of a nasty riff and – you guessed it – one hell
of a groove.
What can I say, Pantera is one of my favourite bands ever,
and this is one of their best albums. You want to now what is GROOVE? That feeling
of unrelenting power that makes you mosh insanely even though you have no idea
how is that happening. If you do, then Get to know Pantera.
What the hell, get to know them any way, it is worth it. This album is a good
place to start. No other band grooves as unbelievably as Pantera.
NO OTHER. I will not even discuss that. It is a fact of life to me. Hey, TO
ME, wise guy. Watch it before going off to rant about how I present my opinions
as general facts.
Some may be wondering that why am I not presenting this album as a classic after all this praising?
That question is answered with four words: Vulgar Display Of Power.
For as great of an album Cowboys is, the one thing that it lacks a
bit is originality. That minor flaw was repaired in a devastating way on their
next album, which I will present as the classic and trendsetter that it was
and still is. But until then: Deed is done, again we´ve won, ain´t
talking no tall tales, friend. ´Cause high noon, your doom, Comin´
for YOU, we´re the COWBOYS FROM HEEELLLLL!!!