Cowboys From HellLABEL:
1990CD REISSUE: Reissue ListCOUNTRY OF ORIGIN: LINEUP:
Phil Anselmo - vocals * Diamond Darrell - guitar * Rex - bass * Vinnie Paul - drumsTRACK LISTING:
01 Cowboys From Hell * 02 Primal Concrete Sledge * 03 Psycho Holiday * 04 Heresy * 05 Cemetery Gates * 06 Domination * 07 Shattered * 08 Clash With Reality * 09 Medicine Man * 10 Message In Blood * 11 The Sleep * 12 The Art Of ShreddingWEBLINKS: www.pantera.com
The album that finally broke Pantera into the heavy metal mainstream wasn't the radical departure from 'Power Metal' many would have you think. Granted the subject matter was more extreme and the music veered towards a thrash/speed metal hybrid, but the style captured in 1988 was still evident to some degree. The band of course had been toiling for years on the Texas independent scene, releasing some of the best albums of the 80's by an unsigned major label act. Pantera caught a break in 1989 when Atco signed them, following one of their representative's being stranded in Texas and seeing a Pantera gig at the behest of A&R man Derek Shulman. Catapulted into the major label ranks led to a critical rethink of their direction and image, shedding the standard 80's hard rock garb and adopting a grittier thrash look, fitting in with their peers of the day, e.g. Metallica
et al. This consequently reinvented the band to the point they seemed like a new act overnight, all traces of their past dispensed with, seemingly to this day sadly. When the album was released it was an instant hit, thrusting Pantera into the limelight as one of the biggest metal acts of the 90's and subsequently of all time.
For me 'Cowboys' is far from my favorite Pantera album, but it's impossible to deny its significance as a milestone of 90's metal. Indeed that year was littered with classic releases, including the aforementioned likes of Megadeth
, with this fitting in nicely. The title track displays all the changes, the downtuned, shredding riffs from Darrell and harder edged vocals from Anselmo. It feels like a natural progression from 'Power Metal,' which was heavy in its own right. 'Primal Concrete Sledge' is a ferocious two minute dirge, the riffs simply brutal and showing the bands growing penchant for displaying speed at the onset, before an inevitable grinding slower section. Classics and fan favorites are everywhere, 'Psycho Holiday' 'Cemetery Gates' 'Domination' and 'The Art Of Shredding' all showcasing the 'new' Pantera handily, the subject matter and sound more grounded in gritty realism. 'Clash With Reality' builds up to a thrash climax, while epics like 'The Sleep' and 'Message In Blood' are almost agonizing in their labored 'groove' metal procedures. These songs let the album down to an extent for me, lacking the melodic dynamics of the early years, plodding for extended periods of time. Don't be fooled, the early Pantera albums were just as heavy as what's offered here, just in a vastly different traditional metal style. Anselmo still has the Rob Halford
inspired vocals, which gives this the 80's dynamic, although by 1992 they were well and truly buried.
A metal classic by all means however, 'Cowboys From Hell' would eventually end up platinum and turn the band into headliners and one of the only genuinely superstar metal bands of the decade. Where most of their contemporaries would suffer the fallout from the grunge revolution, Pantera went from strength to strength, never relinquishing their status as a premier act until their sad demise.
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