Metal Magic Pantera - Metal Magic (Metal Magic) 1983

1. Ride My Rocket (4:52)
2. I'll Be Alright (3:13)
3. Tell Me If You Want It (3:44)
4. Latest Lover (2:54)
5. Biggest Part of Me (4:49)
6. Metal Magic (4:17)
7. Widowmaker (3:04)
8. Nothin' On (3:31)
9. Sad Lover (3:24)
10. Rock Out (5:46)

"Metal Magic" is the debut album from Pantera and is far and away different from what Pantera would become popular for a decade later. The sound here is geared to a more commercial, pop-metal style with some big Kiss influences. In fact "Ride My Rocket" could have been a Kiss song. The title track, "Sad Lover" and "Widowmaker" are rockin' old-school heavy metal romps without the keyboard infecting the mix and soaring vocals from Terry Glaze. "Latest Lover" is a good rocker with a catchy chorus and some nice soloing from Darrell Abbott. Other songs such as "I'll Be Alright" and "Biggest Part of Me" sound like they would have been at home on Whitesnake's 1987 album, as opposed to Pantera. The guitar riffs are there on these tracks but are mixed heavily with keyboards, which robs the songs of their heaviness. However, that's not to say this stuff is bad, in fact "Metal Magic" is quite good for what it is. This is especially true if you take into account that Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul, who were only seventeen and nineteen years old, respectively, at the time of release. 

Projects in the Jungle Pantera - Projects in the Jungle (Metal Magic) 1984

1. All Over Tonight (3:39)
2. Out For Blood (3:13)
3. Blue Light Turnin' Red [instrumental] (1:40)
4. Like Fire (4:04)
5. In Over My Head (4:03)
6. Projects In The Jungle (3:07)
7. Heavy Metal Rules (4:20)
8. Only A Heartbeat Away (4:03)
9. Killers (3:32)
10. Takin' My Life (4:33)

Sophomore release for Texas-based glam metallers Pantera. Many people dismiss this era of the band as some sort of weak Def Leppard pop-garbage. To the contrary, if this can be compared to Def Leppard at all, it's a riff-heavy version of "On Through the Night", not the sappy, over-produced "Hysteria". Much like the band's debut, "Projects in the Night"demonstrates a band that knows how to arrange a song, and a guitarist that knows how to write a heavy riff and some fiery guitar solos. Songs like "All Over Tonight", "Like Fire", "Heavy Metal Rules", "Killers" and "Out for Blood" are pure American heavy metal. In fact, "Out for Blood" pushes the boundaries of speed metal, with those fast licks and high soaring vocals of Terrence Lee. Had Def Leppard recorded this song in 1984 it would have been a big hit. "Blue Light Turnin' Red" is Diamond Darrell's answer to Eddie Van Halen and "Eruption". There are a few moments that aren't quite so metal. "Only a Heartbeat Away" definitely falls on the more poppy side of metal with it's big hooks and melodic tone. Album closer "Takin' My Life" is about as close to AOR as you can get with the keyboards being out in the front along with the guitars. Those couple of songs aside, "Projects in the Jungle" is a solid 80's American heavy metal album. It's a shame that this band no longer exists. Once the band hit their popularity stride with "Cowboys from Hell" this era of the band was basically ignored, buried and discounted. Frankly I think this version of the band was better than the band after "Cowboys from Hell". 

I Am the Night Pantera - I Am the Night (Metal Magic) 1985

1. Hot And Heavy (4:08)
2. I Am The Night (4:29)
3. Onward We Rock (3:58)
4. D*G*T*T*M [instrumental] (1:45)
5. Daughters Of The Queen (4:20)
6. Down Below (2:41)
7. Come-On Eyes (4:15)
8. Right On The Edge (4:08)
9. Valhalla (4:07)
10. Forever Tonight (4:09)

Pantera 1985
Pantera 1985

"I Am the Night" is over-the-top glam metal. How Pantera didn't score a major label deal in the heart of the 80's with this stuff is a big mystery. Songs like "Hot and Heavy" could have fit well on one of the first two Vinnie Vincent Invasion albums, or perhaps even Nitro. Here's the thing about those comparison, both VVI and Nitro came after "I Am the Night". This album has all the elements of great glam metal; fiery guitar shredding, heavy riffs, high-octane vocals, big drums and super catchy hooks. Some of Pantera's faster and heavier heavy metal influences become more apparent on "I Am the Night", especially on the title track, "Valhalla" and "Down Below". Subsequently, "Down Below" was re-recorded for their "Power Metal" album.

It's a shame that Pantera completely abandoned and ignored this album in the 1990's when "heavy metal" became a dirty word. Yes, the sound is deeply routed in the 1980's, but it's still a highly enjoyable album especially for those of us who enjoy this style of music over the repetitiveness and macho pasturing of the groove metal days. 

"I Am the Night" would be the last album for singer Terry Glaze who would be replaced by Phil Anslemo. 

Power Metal Pantera - Power Metal (Metal Magic) 1988

1. Rock the World (3:36)
2. Power Metal (3:54)
3. We'll Meet Again (3:56)
4. Over and Out (5:08)
5. Proud to Be Loud (4:04)
6. Down Below (2:51)
7. Death Trap (4:09)
8. Hard Ride (4:18)
9. Burnnn! (3:37)
10. P*S*T*88 (2:41)

"Power Metal" was Pantera's fourth album, and their last before being picked up by a major label. I absolutely love this Pantera record! In fact, contrary to popular opinion, this is my favorite Pantera record. Why they didn't continue with this style is a mystery to me, though it's pretty obvious that their change in style worked to their advantage as they were extremely popular in the 1990's doing the groove based metal that they are known for. For whatever reason this album is despised by many a Pantera enthusiast and often mislabeled as "glam metal" by some. In fact it is as the title suggests, just balls-to-the-wall heavy, American, power metal. File alongside Metal Church and Vicious Rumors. "Power Metal" is packed full of chunky heavy metal riffs, fast licks and dirty kicks! Songs like "Rock the World", "Down Below" and the metal-anthem "Proud to be Loud" are just straight-forward heavy metal. "Proud to be Loud" was co-written with Mike Ferrari of Keel fame. Dime's riffs on this album are absolutely ferocious and he shreds with the best of them as well. "Power Metal" was the first album to feature Phil Anselmo on vocals. Phil actually sings like he's fronting Judas Priest, or at times, Exciter. There's none of that macho-man-posturing that would become his calling card in the 1990's. "Power Metal" is the most underrated record in the Pantera catalog. 

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 "Cemetery 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 "Cemetery 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 proceeded 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 preceding album, this CD doesn't seem to have the melody or quality songs like "Cowboys for Hell" or especially "Cemetery Gates". Phil 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. Vulgar 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.

The Japanese pressing of "Vulgar Display of Power" contains a bonus tracks titled "The Badge", a song originally by a punk band called Poison Idea. (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 Note, 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 Trendkill". 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.

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