Pantera Cowboys From Hell Review: Done by Rancel
Cowboys From Hell is the fifth album by American Heavy Metal Band Pantera that came out in 1990. It is a departure from their previous albums; 1983’s “Metal Magic”, 1984’s “Projects in the Jungle”, 1985’s “I am the Night” and 1988’s “Power Metal”. Those albums are considered Hard Rock/Hair Metal. Cowboys From Hell is Pantera’s first album to take on a groove metal sound. It was their first commercially successful album. Cowboys From Hell is also their first album for Atco Records.
Pantera’s Cowboys From Hell 20th anniversary deluxe edition is a 3 disc set that includes the remastered version of the original album, a live bonus disc, and the Cowboys from Hell Demo disc. The remastered Cowboys From Hell album kicks off with a bang with the title track “Cowboys From Hell”. Pantera band members; Phil Anselmo, Dimebag Darrell, Vinnie Paul, and Rex Brown come at your hard on the opening title track.
The guitarist, Dimebag Darrell pulls off some amazing groove metal riffs. The title track has some half-thrash riffing going on. It primarily features a down-tuned start-stop rhythm guitar type riff that plays throughout. The majority of the Cowboys From Hell album songs feature a mixture of half-thrash and chugga-chugga style riffing. The Cowboys From Hell song is a perfect way for Pantera to start off their new style. Pantera comes at you with an aggressive, energetic, and macho attitude that defines the Cowboys From Hell album. The opening song is most definitely the grooviest and catchiest track on the album. Vocalist, Phil Anselmo struts around like a bad ass on this song.
Excerpt from the Cowboys From Hell song:
Under the lights where we stand tall
Nobody touches us at all
Showdown, shootout, spread fear within, without
We’re gonna take what’s ours to have
Spread the word throughout the land
They say the bad guys wear black
We’re tagged and can’t turn back
You see us comin’
And you all together run for cover
We’re takin over this town
The next track, Primal Concrete Sledge comes at you with hardcore influenced ferocity. Despite being the shortest track on the album at 2:13, it is a decent groove metal song. Psycho Holiday is another strong track. Phil Anselmo uses some Rob Halford style vocals when he isn’t doing his tough guy hardcore vocals. Dimebag Darrell pulls out some great solos on Psycho Holiday. Track number 4 , “Heresy” is a thrashing and heavy song that hits you hard like some 80’s thrash bands; Anthrax, Megadeth, and Metallica. Phil Anselmo pulls off some cool falsetto vocals on Heresy. The drumming by Vinnie Paul is another highlight of this well put together song..
“Cemetery Gates”, is a ballad that turned out to be a big hit for Pantera. It is a beautiful song with great melodic singing by Phil Anselmo. Cemetery Gates opens with an acoustic guitar intro. The riffing by Dimebag Darrell is out of this world.. His wailing guitar solos that closes out the Cemetery Gates song is something to behold. Dimebag Darrell is the star of this song, even though Phil Anselmo does an amazing performance too. Cemetery Gates is the longest track on the album at 7:03. The lyrics for it have to do with some of Phil Anselmo’s friends who have committed suicide.
Phil Anselmo wrote the lyrics for Cemetery Gates. “Shattered” is a typical thrash metal song with in your face riffing, drumming, and an aggressive style. It is a very fast song almost like Painkiller, the title track for the Judas Priest album, Painkiller. Phil Anselmo’s shows off some of his best singing on Shattered. He does a great job emulating Rob Halford, which on later albums for some reason he can no longer pull off.
“Medicine Man” is awesome and is my favorite song on the Cowboys From Hell album. It features some of Dimebag Darrell’s best riffs. He came to shred on the Medicine Man track with some badass groove and half-thrash metal riffs. Phil Anselmo and Dimebag Darrell battle for the spotlight on Medicine Man. They both come out as the stars on this perfect song. The Halford worshipping vocals and the unbelievable riffs make it instantly likeable. It’s a very cool song. Dimebag Darrell pulls off an amazing long solo starting at the 3:18 mark.
Click here to buy Cowboys From Hell (Deluxe Edition 3CD)
Lyrics to Medicine Man:
Many distant miles away
Past the shores of ever dark
There stays a magic man
Who bears an evil mark
He helps all concerned
Those who come again return
Injecting lies while fires burn
The devil’s heart
With angel’s words
Have you wondered
What heaven’s like?
He can show you in one night
Overwhelming with euphoric lift
To lure you to steal your gift
Seeping down to the bone
And there’s no question
Where you have to go
Understand just take his hand
He’s the medicine man
The final track, “The Art of Shredding” is exactly about kick ass guitar riffs. It’s a riff heavy based song and Dimebag Darrell pulls off amazing shred style riffs that only he can do. There’s a variety of riffs in this song with a nice solo. Phil Anselmo performs well on this album closer.
The second disc is the Bonus Live CD, which starts off with a 7 song set. The recording is from a September 1990 show. It doesn’t sound like many people were at this concert. It is understandable though since Pantera needed a couple of years to become world famous. The quality of the sound is a bit muddy, since it was from long ago and recovered from a cassette tape. Pantera is in good form at the concert with their energetic performance. The next five songs on the live disc are from the Alive and Hostile EP, from 1994. It was recorded at the 1991 Monsters of Rock Festival in Moscow, Russia.
The last disc is the Cowboys From Hell Demo disc. It is a never released 1989 pre-production version of the Cowboys From Hell album. These songs sound very different than the ones in the final form. The demo versions still have the aesthetics from their Hard Rock/Hair Metal days. I wasn’t impressed with them for the most part, except for Domination, which is surprisingly angrier sounding. The demo versions are just generic hair metal. Phil Anselmo’s vocals are more glam rock on the demos. I would describe the recording of the demo’s for Cowboys From Hell as a transition from 1988’s “Power Metal album (first album to feature Phil Anselmo on vocals) to the 1990 official release of this history making album.
Pantera Cowboys From Hell: Closing thoughts
Cowboys From Hell is the album that started the legend of Pantera, the bad boys from Texas. New Orleans, Louisiana born, Phil Anselmo would shortly establish his role as one of the great frontmen in heavy metal music. Dimebag Darrell’s guitar talents would be widely respected in the years that followed. Pantera does not disappoint with this great groove metal album. The deluxe reissue of the Cowboys From Hell album came out in 2010 and was distributed by Rhino Entertainment with improved production over the original release. The original issue of the Cowboys From Hell CD was a bit thin in sound. Now it’s meatier or has more depth to it. The remastered version has a louder mix as well. You can’t go wrong by picking up this Heavy Metal classic.
(R.I.P. 2004) Dimebag Darrell
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