The story of Pantera was well worthy of a hollywood story-line and it ended abruptly, pushing you to call for a sequel, except this was life, were sequels were impossible. Pantera was formed in 1981, consisting of Vinnie Paul, his brother Dimebage Darrell, Tommy Bradford, Terry Glaze and Donnie Hart, doing Kiss and Van Halen covers. They soon started with original material of the glam-rock vein but by the end of the decade they were a totally different group. Some old members left, some new guys came in and they were now churning out thrash metal. In the new age where the world saw legendary releases from Slayer and Metallica (Reign in Blood and Master of Puppets respectively) Vinnie and Dimebag were now joined by bassist Rex Brown and new vocalist Phil Anselmo. Though they had released 4 previous albums, their 1990 release, Cowboys From Hell, was considered their official debut by the fans and the group, and was significant in earning the group its nickname and the legendary status.
So what's the whole deal?
Cowboys From Hell: Having your title track as an opener is a wise and stupid decision at the same time, depending on how you work it out. But here, since Pantera is out to introduce the world to their 'rebirth' of sorts, they go all out, showing us what's to be expected of the album, in the process. Result - Banging. Phil make intentions clear with "You see us comin' And you all together run for cover/ We're taking over this town//"
Primary Concrete Sledge: This is heavy! Like a 24 wheeler running over a beer can. Look out for the guitar and bass competing towards the end.
Psycho Holiday: This one is solo laden. A bit lighter than the previous track, and that means the 24 wheeler down to a 16. So still heavy!
Heresy: 4 tracks into the album and Pantera are so NOT considering giving up their heaviness. Dimebag churns out riff after riff and brother Vinnie smashes up the drums. In between all this people may miss Phil's take on beliefs and religion. "I know what's right or wrong, And my belief is stronger than your advice...My stand is the human race, without a label or a face, so they can lick my sack"
Cemetery Gates: Speaking of Phil, he sets the standard for the 'metal vocalist' with this song. And speaking of the song, this is one of the best metal songs ever recorded if not one of the best in whatever music ever recorded. To me this would be the definition of the complete song. It has excellent vocals where Phil flows emotions as well as his vocal versatility (and somewhat endurance of his vocal chords/pharinx towards the end). The guitar solo and melody is one of the most memorable in the history of both guitar and melody. The bass supports the structure like a greek pillar and drums thump rightfully and keeps everything on track. (This song alone could warrant the purchase of this album or the whole Pantera discography). Trust me, its that good.
Domination: Back to the heavy side of things, the tag word for this song would be groove. I can picture a bunch of front rowers trying to climb the stage and mosh when this song's performed live.
Shattered: This one has Dimebag showing off his amazing prowess with the Washburn. Not to be outdone, Vinnie shatters the drums. Did I mention this album's heavy?
Clash With Reality: Starts with an amazing riff. Groovy. By this point you'd get a feeling of what the essential Pantera sound means.
Medicine Man: Just when we thought we knew what the sound is supposed to be like, Pantera brings a dark, evil-ish sound to the proceedings. As can be guessed the song refers drugs which would later go on to be a more recurring theme on later Pantera albums.
Message In Blood: Back to Pantera-metal. The vocal style is different here, as is the varying tempos and pauses.
The Sleep: As much as Pantera is heavy, their lighter ballads are that exhilarating as well. Phil's back to poetic ways and Dimebag to lighter melodic solos.
The Art of Shredding: So maybe Pantera was sitting together in the studio and thinking, if having 2 ballads would bring the overall heavy factor down. So what they do? If you didn't know it already from the title, they gave a masterclass in riffing, grooving and everything in between for metal heads.
This is one of those albums, that gave the artists a total opposite reputation after its release and as such may give a listener a similar transformation, as in like turning someone into a metalhead etc., like it did for me, to an extent. But what's undeniable is the power and talent presented on this album. Treading a new path has never been as path-breaking as this.