Pantera
Cowboys from Hell


4.5
superb

Review

by Brendan Schroer USER (179 Reviews)
February 5th, 2013 | 224 replies | 13,348 views


Release Date: 1990 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The best damn Pantera album ever created.

4 of 4 thought this review was well written

It's hard to face the fact that Pantera used to be a glam metal band, and a forgettable one at that. During the 80's, Pantera hadn't fully developed their sound yet and instead played cheesy music that would feel right at home with the Sunset Strip. It's exactly as ridiculous as it sounds, and so when 1988's Power Metal was released, it was easy to hear a change in the band's sound and attitude. Songs were getting faster, the vocals more gruff, the guitars more distorted, and the arrangements more carefully constructed. All of this leads up to the band's first official release with this new sound fully developed, 1990's Cowboys From Hell, which just so turned out to be the band's best record.

What's interesting to note about the album is that it was stuck between the band's classic/glam metal period and their future groove metal sound, so you'll hear elements of both. Essentially, it's the best of both worlds, creating a sound that will have something for everyone. Do you want groove metal? Listen to the title cut and "Psycho Holiday." Want a dose of speed metal? Listen to the power-thrash of "Shattered" and "Heresy." Want some soft acoustic guitar work to help digest the album? Well then, there's the legendary ballad "Cemetary Gates" and the haunting "The Sleep." The variety is pretty remarkable, and Dimebag Darrell's guitar work ensures many memorable riffs to headbang to in the process. On top of all this, the musicianship is machine-gun tight and takes absolutely no prisoners. The rhythm section of bassist Rex Brown and drummer Vinnie Paul is precise as can be, while vocalist Phil Anselmo and guitarist Dimebag Darrell (known as Diamond Darrell back then) take the spotlight with frightening ease. Anselmo switches vocal styles fluidly, going from thrashy Hetfield-style gruffness to soaring wails that many metal vocalists could only dream of hitting (see: the end of "Cemetary Gates"). And what really needs to be said about Dimebag that hasn't been already? He goes f*cking nuts here, mixing Southern grooves with extremely charismatic leads and tasteful shredding. Whether you're a fan of his playing or not, there's no denying the electric energy and presence he has on the record.

Unlike Vulgar Display of Power, which deals more with unity and strength in numbers, Cowboys' lyrical themes mainly illustrate desperation and mental conflicts. There are themes of paranoia, the state of mind when on drugs, and -- of course -- love. It's unclear whether these are personal issues the band was having at the time, but it's interesting to see these topics being explored by a metal band from that time period. It's certainly disappointing to see Vulgar Display of Power and other future releases downplay the lyrical quality that this album had.

The only flaw -- and it's sort of a nitpick -- is that despite the aforementioned variety, a few moments sound like filler in the midst of such high-quality material. "Domination" comes to mind pretty quickly; while the solo is well-done and the chorus is extremely energetic, the portion after said solo is extremely bland and repetitive. The breakdown just goes on for way too long and Darrell's chaotic leads on top of the riff aren't enough to really save it.

Other than the occasional flaw, however, the album as a whole is extremely high in both quality and personality. Thank God these guys left glam metal behind, because otherwise we wouldn't get such great albums as Cowboys From Hell or Vulgar Display of Power. The band deemed this their first "real" release, and that claim makes a lot of sense in hindsight. Even if you're not a fan of Pantera's later material, I'd suggest picking this album up; it sees them in the middle of their style-transformation, and captures the greatest moments of both eras of their sound.



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user ratings (2270)
Chart.
4.1
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
FiveLeavesLeft
February 5th 2013



9838 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

Hellllllllyeah

tempest--
February 5th 2013



13229 Comments


their best album agreed

Digging: Kimbra - The Golden Echo

pissbore
February 5th 2013



9935 Comments


"a few moments sound like filler in the midst of such high-quality material. "Domination" comes to mind pretty quickly; while the solo is well-done and the chorus is extremely energetic, the portion after said solo is extremely bland and repetitive."

neck

ChopSuey
February 5th 2013



2392 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

love this shit

demigod!
February 5th 2013



44176 Comments


never got into pantera

Digging: Failure - Magnified

MeatSalad
February 5th 2013



14492 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this album rocks

Digging: Mr. Bungle - California

FiveLeavesLeft
February 5th 2013



9838 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

This album bludgeons m/

InbredJed
February 5th 2013



5790 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Every subject on a Pantera review should include the word "damn", its simple etiquette. Well done.

Digging: Backyard Mortuary - Lure of the Occult

KILL
February 5th 2013



71566 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

best album ever made dude

Digging: Invisible - El jardin de los presentes

R6Rider
February 5th 2013



4581 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

awesome riffs, awesome solos

Digging: Plebeian Grandstand - How Hate is Hard to Define

InbredJed
February 5th 2013



5790 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

still no match for GSTK

FiveLeavesLeft
February 5th 2013



9838 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

IT'S TIME TO SET MA DEMONS FREEEE

pissbore
February 6th 2013



9935 Comments


I'M STRAPPED IN


FOR LIIIIIIIIIYIYIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIFE


JokineAugustus
February 6th 2013



5902 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Only exceptional Pantera.

YankeeDudel
February 6th 2013



9311 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

nah but it is their best

Digging: Soundtrack - Heavy Metal

JokineAugustus
February 6th 2013



5902 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Jamming hard right now. Here comes the windmill.

FiveLeavesLeft
February 6th 2013



9838 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

I'd call this and Vulgar the only exceptional Pantera

JokineAugustus
February 6th 2013



5902 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I really couldn't get into vulgar. It had a couple alright songs, but none stood out like songs on this album. Medicine Man will always be my favourite Pantera song.

NeoSpaz
February 6th 2013



4518 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Cool stuff

FiveLeavesLeft
February 6th 2013



9838 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

yup



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