Pantera - Cowboys From Hell
ATCO Records
Thrash Metal!!!
12 songs (57.43)
Release year: 1990
Reviewed by Aleksie
Archive review
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 or Master Of Puppets without taking a breath. The remaining 15 percent would most likely debate between Megadeths Peace Sells, Exodus´ Bonded By Blood and Anthrax´s Spreding The Disease. 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 From Hell 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 can.
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!!!

Killing Songs :
Every single damn one of ┬┤em!
Aleksie quoted 99 / 100
Jeff quoted 90 / 100
Shane quoted 81 / 100
Other albums by Pantera that we have reviewed:
Pantera - Official Live 101 Proof reviewed by Aleksie and quoted no quote
Pantera - The Great Southern Trendkill reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 87 / 100
Pantera - Far Beyond Driven reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 77 / 100
Pantera - Vulgar Display Of Power reviewed by Aleksie and quoted CLASSIC
Pantera - Reinventing The Steel reviewed by Kris and quoted 75 / 100
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