Pantera

Excelsis Pantera - Cowboys from Hell (Atco) 1990

1. "Cowboys from Hell" (4:06)
2. "Primal Concrete Sledge" (2:13)
3. "Psycho Holiday" (5:19)
4. "Heresy" (4:45)
5. "Cemetery Gates" (7:03)
6. "Domination" (5:02)
7. "Shattered" (3:21)
8. "Clash with Reality" (5:15)
9. "Medicine Man" (5:15)
10. "Message in Blood" (5:09)
11. "The Sleep" (5:47)
12. "The Art of Shredding" (4:16)

I remember hearing a local band play "Cementary Gates" in a club and being totally impressed with their rendition of it. What an incredible song. So, of course, I had to find out who that song was by. Come to find out it was PANTERA? Wow! I always blew off Pantera as a weak, glammy, power-metal band that my college room mate was into. Obviously I was wrong. So I checked out the album "Cowboys from Hell" and was very impressed with the bands mix of melodic metal and pure aggression. The vocals were so awesome. They were brutal and at times shouted, but at others times the guy could sing. Check out the high pitched vox in "Medicine Man" or the beautifully sung "Cemetary Gates." Phil Anselmo could hold his own with most of the more melodic vocalists of the late 80's and early 90's. The guitar riffs also set this disc apart from what many other bands were doing at the time. Well it seems others agreed with me as this was the band's big breakthrough album, with the songs "Cemetery Gates", "Psycho Holiday" and "Cowboys from Hell" all being put on regular rotation on MTV's Headbanger's Ball and the album went on to sell gold in a relatively short period of time with little or no radio play and has now been confirmed platinum plus. The three albums that preceeded this one are good as well, especially the album "Power Metal". Perhaps someday someone will see fit to properly and officially re-release them on CD.

Vulgar Display of Power Pantera - Vulgar Display of Power (Atco/Atlantic) 1992

1. "Mouth for War" (3:56)
2. "A New Level" (2:57)
3. "Walk" (5:15)
4. "F***ing Hostile" (2:49)
5. "This Love" (6:32)
6. "Rise" (4:36)
7. "No Good (Attack the Radical)" (4:50)
8. "Live in a Hole" (4:59)
9. "Regular People (Conceit)" (5:27)
10. "By Demons Be Driven" (4:39)
11. "Hollow" (5:45)

Hearing this for the first time I thought to myself, "wow, these guys are really ticked off". "Vulgar Display of Power" is an extremely heavy album, far heavier than the album that proceeded it. Dime has such a brutal guitar tone on this CD. Just listen to the riff in "Walk" and see if it doesn't send you into spastic headbanging fits. This album is most certainly driven by Darrell Abbott's simple grooves and that intense guitar tone. Unlike their preceeding album, this CD doesn't seem to have the melody or quality songs like "Cowboys for Hell" or especially "Cemetary Gates". Phillip Anselmo's mix of singing and hardcore yelling was decent on that CD. On this one Phil pretty much drops the singing for the angry yelling that pretty much works hand in hand with the equally angry lyrics. There are some spots where Phil shows that he can still sing such as in "The Love" and album closer "Hollow". I think I am one of the few metalhead alive who thinks that Phil Anselmo is one of the most overrated singers ever. (This was especially proven true to me when I saw him perform with Superjoint Ritual at Ozzfest. The new metal god? Not even.) The lyrics one this album are perfectly summed up by the album title. Anger, anger and more anger. Vulgur for sure! The band's timing was perfect. The tone was changing at the time. Whereas in the 1980's, heavy music was either about good times or was some sort of b-grade horror Satanism, Pantera appealed to an angry generation who were looking for something different and dangerous. Amazingly this album became a huge seller for the band with several singles being generated. A couple cuts from this CD were used as theme music for "Headbanger's Ball" in the 90's. (Thanks Kieran!)

Pantera Pantera - Far Beyond Driven (EastWest) 1994

1.      Strength Beyond Strength (3:38)
2.      Becoming (3:05)
3.      5 Minutes Alone (5:48)
4.      I'm Broken (4:25)
5.      Good Friends and a Bottle of Pills (2:52)
6.      Hard Lines, Sunken Cheeks (7:02)
7.      Slaughtered (3:57)
8.      25 Years (6:05)
9.      Shedding Skin (5:37)
10.     Use My Third Arm (4:52)
11.     Throes of Rejection (5:02)
12.     Planet Caravan (4:03)

Pantera were the purveyors of modern heavy metal in the 1990's. With "Far Beyond Driven", the band become angrier and even more aggressive, especially the vocals of Phillip Anselmo. Gone are all signs of singing and melody that were present on "Cowboys from Hell". Instead we have constant yelling, save for the vocals on "Planet Caravan". Frankly, I wish Phil would have continued to mix it up a bit like he did on "Cowboys". On "Far Beyond Driven" he becomes monotonous and annoying.

"Far Beyond Driven" is completely and totally driven by the Darrell Abbott's simple grooves and distinctive, solid-state guitar tone. The standout cut for me is "I'm Broken". This song is simply massive with a heavy, monstrous groove and undeniable hook. Even Anselmo's abrasive screaming is tolerable on this song. It's unfortunate that this song is followed-up by the massively stupid "Good Friends and a Bottle of Pills". The joke song's name makes reference to Ted Nugent's "Good Friends and a Bottle of Wine". My second favorite song on the album would be "5 Minutes Alone", another groove-based song with a simple, chugging riff, pounding drums and surprisingly notable bass. The song starts off very basic before it begins to build to a mid-paced romp. "Throes of Rejection" has a heavy, warped riff that reminds me of Alice in Chains a bit. The CD ends with a cover of Black Sabbath's "Planet Caravan", a song which apparently became a minor hit for the band. "Far Beyond Driven" was Pantera's biggest selling record to date and debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200.

The original idea for the cover of "Far Beyond Driven" featured an explicit image of a drill bit being shoved up a person's anus and was "banned" since the label refused to print it. However, this artwork was used on the version included in the "Driven Downunder" box set.

Trendkill Pantera - The Great Southern Trendkill (East/West) 1996

1.      The Great Southern Trendkill (3:46)
2.      War Nerve (4:53)
3.      Drag the Waters (4:55)
4.      10's (4:49)
5.      13 Steps to Nowhere (3:37)
6.      Suicide Note, Pt. 1 (4:44)
7.      Suicide Note, Pt. 2 (4:19)
8.      Living Through Me (Hell's Wrath) (4:50)
9.      Floods (6:59)
10.     The Underground in America (4:33)
11.     (Reprise) Sandblasted Skin (5:39)

As with every album since "Cowboys from Hell", this album is mostly a solid wall of groove-laden heavy metal. What else would anyone expect from Pantera? They certainly weren't about to change a winning formula in a time when they were ruling the scene. The album opens with a short, full-speed, thrash metal, assault before breaking way into that distinctive Pantera groove. From there it's just one skull pounding moment after another. "War Nerve" will stick in your brain like it's been it's been nailed there. "Drag the Waters" is one of those slow, crushingly heavy songs that Pantera are known for. "Living Through Me" has an insanely catchy groove, that is broken up by an odd industrial breakdown in the middle of the song. The band attempts to add some texture to their music with some melancholic and even bluesy moments, such as in "Suicide Not Pt. 1" and "Floods". Frankly, these experiments drag a bit and aren't all that successful.

Phil Anselmo is as angry and twisted as ever. His incessant ranting is the weak point of most Pantera's CDs in my opinion. The man can sing, but chooses to instead beat us over the head with his constant angry screaming. Anselmo seems to be able to get a rise out of just about anyone, myself included. I've seen him live a few times, and no performer I have seen says more stupid crap from stage than Anselmo. Declaring himself "the new metal god" from stage several times the night I saw him with Superjoint Ritual only cemented my annoyance with the man. Perhaps getting a rise out of people is exactly what he wants, or maybe he is just so drug addled, he has no idea how he comes off. Regardless, considering his popularity, it certainly works in his favor. That angry, pious attitude is what bleeds from every song on "The Great Southern Trend Kill". It should also be noted that Seth Putnam of Anal Cunt recorded some backing vocals on this album.

Pantera are all about power, all about attitude, all about piercing power! What they lack in dynamics, they make up for in sheer energy. After all, I've never heard anyone claim that Pantera were the greatest songwriters. What they did do, however, was create their own unique sound in a time when their brand of heavy metal shouldn't have mattered to anyone. Reaching #4 on the Billboard Top 200 is quite an achievement for any band. However, considering that Pantera are a heavy metal band and "Great Southern Trendkill" was released in 1996, a time when people were declaring that heavy metal was dead, this is monumental. Only Metallica can claim to have been more popular at the time. "The Great Southern Trendkill" was certified Platinum by the RIAA.

Pantera - Reinventing The Steel (East West) 2000

1.   Hellbound (2:41)
2.   Goddamn Electric (4:57)
3.   Yesterday Don't Mean Shit (4:20)
4.   You've Got To Belong To It (4:13)
5.   Revolution Is My Name (5:15)
6.   Death Rattle (3:18)
7.   We'll Grind That Axe For A Long Time (3:45)
8.   Up Lift (3:46)
9.   It Makes Them Disappear (6:22)
10. I'll Cast A Shadow (5:22)

What Pantera are genuinely in possession of is their own unique sound. Sure, people have accused them of stealing their sound from Exhorder, but that's besides the point. The fact of the matter is, like them or hate them, they own a sound. Even not having heard a single song off the cleverly titled "Reinventing the Steel", it becomes immediately obvious who this band is from the very first note. Not unlike Motorhead or AC/DC, you know their music when you hear it. While the album title is quite the antithesis of the truth about the album, as the sound really isn't all that different than the bands last four albums, it does represent the fact that Pantera as band reinvented the heavy metal sound for the 1990's. Pantera were one of the few bands to not only survive that musically depressed era, but to thrive in it. As such, I think Pantera are owed some degree of respect.

Unfortunately Pantera, much like Metallica, have become the poster child for bands that the "troo underground metal fans" love to hate. Apparently selling over three hundred copies of an album, let alone over a million, and being on a major record label makes a band unpopular with the kvlt, underground crowd. Whatever! Frankly, I don't give a rip what the narrow-minded "kvlt" fans like and don't like. I listen to what I like and ignore the rest! The fact of the matter is, it is bands like Pantera and Metallica that usually get young, new fans into heavy music. Many fans will then begin to explore more underground bands, whether it be the roots of heavy metal that bands like Pantera so adore, or the more extreme forms of death and black metal.

So what about Pantera's "Reinventing the Steel"? Well, frankly, as with much of the Pantera catalog I find the album to be hard to listen to in one sitting. Much of this is due to the sterile vocal approach of Philip Anselmo who rants, raves and screams like a drunk, lunatic father losing his mind over his kid's bad report card. It's all about rage and anger, with little passion or melody in the delivery. I suppose this sort of ranting appeals to a target audience; a younger generation who need a channel to vent anger and aggression. There are even a couple of songs devoted to the band's fan base ("Goddamn Electric" & "You've Got to Belong To It."). "Your trust is in whiskey, weed and Black Sabbath, it's Goddamn Electric..." This approach obviously worked as the album sold like gangbusters and reached #4 on the Billboard charts. However, for me, it begins to grate on my nerves after the first three or four songs. This is my biggest obstacle with Pantera. On the upside, Anselmo actually takes to singing here and there, though not quite to the point he did on "Cowboys from Hell".

The music, on the other hand, I find quite enjoyable. As a matter of fact, there are a couple songs on "Reinventing the Steel" that very well could be some of Pantera's best. Album opener "Hellbound" is heavy with a mid-paced groove. The aforementioned "Goddamn Electric" chugs along like a steamroller leveling everything in it's path. Probably the biggest highlight of the album is the single "Revolution Is My Name". This song kicks butt, from the screaming, opening guitar squeals to the infectious groove of the main riff of the song. (Kerry King (Slayer) guests in "Goddamn Electric") This is one of those songs that Phil reverts to singing during the chorus, making the song almost  anthemic. I really wish he would have used more of this style of vocals. "It Makes Them Disappear" brings out the band's Black Sabbath inspiration. The song is slow, doomy and heavy. Overall, the songs are simplistic, short and memorable. Not since "Vulgar Display of Power" have the band unleashed so many infectious songs. (Remember how catchy songs like "Walk" and "This Love" were?) As usual, Dimebag Darrell's guitar tone is rigid, heavy and tight. Actually, the recording as a whole is very digital sounding, from the rigid triggered drums to the solid-state guitar sound. This is, of course, part of Pantera's trademark sound and is part of the charm of their music. "Reinventing the Steel" was the final studio album from Pantera.

Related collections:
Damageplan

Back to Index