Pantera
Cowboys from Hell


3.5
great

Review

by Chris Carney USER (6 Reviews)
April 20th, 2007 | 32 replies | 6,196 views


Release Date: 1990 | Tracklist


9 of 9 thought this review was well written

Metal was going through a dark time in the nineties. Hair metal was out of style, thrash bands were being dropped like crazy, and Seattle’s grunge scene was becoming… oh, you’ve heard this story before? Then you’ve definitely heard of Pantera. Either that, or you’ve been living under a rock for the last 15 years. Back at the beginning of the decade, however, the band had just given up on their hair metal days, and most of you probably didn’t even know who they were (me neither!). Though they had experimented with hard rock/thrash metal on 1988’s Power Metal, Cowboys From Hell was grittier, rawer, and decidedly more powerful than anything they had done yet. In addition, this was the second album to feature singer Phil Anselmo, and Pantera’s major label debut. While still being a very good album in its own right, the band would peak two years later with the monumental Vulgar Display Of Power album. Anyways, onto the review.

There is obviously a lot to like here. At this point, every member of the classic Pantera lineup had come into the fold, including Phil Anselmo (vocals), Dimebag Darrel Abbot (guitars), Vinnie Paul Abbot (drums), and Rex Brown (bass). Most noticeable is the superb riffage, courtesy of the legendary Dimebag Darrel (RIP). Though most of the guitars on the album are coated in a dense, destructive distortion, even his few clean passages are brilliant. Take one listen to the riffs in the title track or Shattered, the former of which you all have undoubtedly heard (with good reason), and you’ll know exactly what I mean. Anselmo’s bark is arguably the most criticized aspect of the band, but he is at his peak on Cowboys, as well as the album that would follow. His grunts and growls complement the bands brutal southern-style metal quite well, and he can really sing when he needs to, namely on the album’s two ballads, Cemetary Gates and The Sleep. While both of these are astounding (if unexpected) tracks on an album like this, Cemetary Gates is absolutely breathtaking. It is by far the best song on the album, and is worth buying the entire album for (though, in the age of downloading, this really isn’t necessary!). Rex is, well, your stereotypical metal bassist. Don’t expect a whole lot there. He is by no means bad, but he’s turned down and pushed into the background for pretty much the duration of the album. Vinnie Paul, though most definitely not the quickest or most technical drummer ever, has something about his playing style that amazes me. The drums just groove so well, and they never get in the way of the rest of the song. Surprisingly enough, you’ll actually find yourself air drumming during certain songs (Psycho Holiday comes to mind). And speaking of groove, that’s one of this album’s true selling points. Though it may be used less than on subsequent releases, the southern metal groove Pantera became known for is used to its fullest on this album.

See all those bolded songs up there in the paragraph before this one? They’re all incredible songs. And they’re not the only ones. Heresy is also excellent, as is the bombastic Domination, which features the best vocal work on the album and one hell of a solo. But one of the main drawbacks of Cowboys is the filler. Keep in mind, the songs are still decent, but they sound exactly the same as the rest of the album! One thing that the nineties leading metal band did not excel in was songwriting. Message In Blood, Primal Concrete Sledge, The Art Of Shredding, and especially Clash With Reality add very little, if anything, to this album. Medicine Man is a strange, atmospheric type song that Pantera has never tried to replicate. While its not exactly bad, it doesn’t seem to be welcome in an album like this. Another minor problem would be some of Phil’s vocals. As previously stated, I like his growls and even his clean vocals, but the balls-stuck-in-a-trash-compactor wail that he calls a falsetto is just painful to listen to. These screeches are most evident in the otherwise solid Heresy. Though I’ve heard them compared to the likes of Rob Halford quite often, Anselmo misses that lofty mark by a mile.

Now I’ll lay out a rather controversial opinion, and the main reason I don’t seem to enjoy Pantera as much as others: Dimebag’s solos. While it is obvious that he had an incredible amount of talent and could shred like few others, there are some aspects of his playing that I just don’t care for. First and foremost is his tone. There is no thickness or depth to it, only noisy, squeaky treble. It’s hard to enjoy a solo, even a well written one, when it sounds like that. As for the ballads, he nails the Cemetary Gates solo, but the same cannot be said for The Sleep. Not only is the tone unwanted anywhere near a ballad, but pinch harmonics and whammy bar wankery plague what could have been one of Pantera’s best songs. In fact, similar problems can be found in almost every solo on the album. I’ll be the first one to admit that the shredding on this album fits a lot of the time, but there are very, very few melodic lead licks in the solos, and there are so many places where they could be used to great effect. As I’ve said, his rhythm work is spotless, but the solos are spotty. Even The Art Of Shredding (which, by the way, could have benefited from removing the vocals and making it just that: a song full of what this band did best) could have used a little more melody, but the ferociously fast song at least finishes the album off with a blast.

Review Summary: Pantera’s first major label release is a quite good, focusing more on a lot of amazing songs than a consistent album. A few tracks go nowhere, but most are destructive cuts that are reason enough to buy an album on their own. The band is vicious, and Phil is not only fitting, but oftentimes spectacular (except when he tries that poor excuse for a falsetto). Dimebag turns in a flawless rhythm performance, and a few awesome solos. Unfortunately, these solos are bogged down by extremely poor tone and lack of diversity, the latter of which could be said of the whole album. Despite it shortcomings, however, Cowboys is still a solid album from one of the biggest bands in metal’s long history.

Recommended Tracks:
Cowboys From Hell
Psycho Holiday
Cemetary Gates
Domination



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user ratings (2268)
Chart.
4.1
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
carney3110
April 20th 2007



310 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

So, there we go. Hope its better than the last one. Added some bolds and stuffs... nothin too spectacular.

Duckhysteria
April 20th 2007



40 Comments


Realy nice review there! I don't know a whole lot about Pantera but you sure did a good job of introuducing them.This Message Edited On 04.20.07

carney3110
April 20th 2007



310 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

two comments. oh yay.


Tarantino's Tarantulas
April 21st 2007



819 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great review, very informative and well balanced, you justified the rating well. Haven't listened to this album in a while.

Dethtrasher
April 21st 2007



2211 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good review, I really agree with your rating. Cemetary Gates and Cowboys From Hell are my favourites here. A friend of mine has a crush for Primal Concrete Sledge, I always laugh when he tries to sing it. :D

Altmer
April 21st 2007



5652 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Pantera's best album imo, tied with VDOP.

Mikesn
Emeritus
April 21st 2007



3709 Comments


Lots of great things happened in the 90's for metal.

But anyways great review. I just can't get into this.

Altmer
April 21st 2007



5652 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Not in this genre, it was quite on the decline.

carney3110
April 21st 2007



310 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good things were going on, yes, but not near as many as the eighties and now, and almost all good things were completely underground, not to be heard of until after the nineties had actually passed.

renegadestrings
April 21st 2007



1438 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

i completely agree with your opinion on "the sleep"

great review

AlienEater
April 21st 2007



716 Comments


pantera rock m/

Meatplow
April 21st 2007



5524 Comments


Minor complaints. Besides that good review.

This album has NO filler on it in my opinion. Straight balls up rock.

Primal Concrete Sledge is a thrash classic, short and straight to the point. Every song on here is very different i don't get this "every song sounds the same" thing.

Vinnie Paul not the quickest or most technical drummer ever? Well thats a massive title to live up to, i think it's irrelevant. He's pretty f*cking tight and good at what he does that's all that counts. I love Phil's voice on this album,

I also disagree with Dimebag's solos. His cuts here are some of the best lead parts i can name in early 90s thrash. Psycho Holiday, Heresy, Domination, Shattered, its all gold. His tone is awesome in my opinion too.

This is a rare album that is a tick in every box for me. I listen to it and it's pure nostalgia no matter how many times i play it, the old school production and classic songs gives it a timeless feel that has never been equaled for me. It just plain rocks.

Slaapkamers
April 21st 2007



596 Comments


Thanks for the review, Meatplow.

raggedragamuffin
April 21st 2007



689 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

yeah, good review dude sr meatplow. and the pogues are awesome. as is faith no more, where i think your dog is from?

carney3110
April 21st 2007



310 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Alright, which one of yous negged this?


Meatplow
April 22nd 2007



5524 Comments


It was me, only because i disagreed with a few points and some of your descriptions didn't cut it for me. Beside that good job don't get offended its all constructive.

Sure is, ragged. more accurately artist Eric Drookers original print, on www.drooker.com

Stalusk
April 22nd 2007



90 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good review, strong album but everyone stood up to the plate on VDOP. The riffage is great on this.

rattlehead42147
April 22nd 2007



1345 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

good review, i love this album, but it is hard for a lot of people to give it the respect it deserves because it is the band still has minor hair metal influences (Phil's vocals) and the songs focus on solos more than later albums

carney3110
April 22nd 2007



310 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Disagreeing with me is no reason to neg a review. At all. Ever. But if you don't think I backed up my opinions well enough, that's fine. As for Primal Concrete Sledge, I find Phil's rap-like verses and the boringly simple two note guitar riff that makes up most of the song to be, well, boring. I mentioned Vinnie Paul not being the most technical to follow it up with a compliment, his drumming suits the music perfectly. As for being irrelevent, mentioning the technical proficency of a musician in the band I'm reviewing seems necessary to me. Phil's voice is quite good, except for the falsetto, which I make my dislike of quite apparent. And I could argue for days about Dimebag's solos and never change anybody's mind. Just my opinion. This Message Edited On 04.22.07This Message Edited On 04.22.07

Jom
Staff Reviewer
April 22nd 2007



2658 Comments


Yeah, I agree... disagreeing with the reviewer's opinion is not an acceptable reason to neg a review, but whatever. It just seems like it makes little sense to neg a review that's easy to read and descriptive but you disagree with the writer's opinion, compared to a review that has a slew of words spelled wrong and is horribly vague but you agree with it. That's just my interpretation of it, because I always encourage people to write well, even if I disagree with the opinion.
That said, real good review, although I don't care for Pantera. "Cowboys From Hell" and "Cemetery Gates" are great stuff, though.



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