1990, Music

Cowboys From Hell (1990) by Pantera

I know the legend of Pantera but I don’t know their early music. Regardless, it’s hard to believe this band was once a glam metal band. I guess you can hear touches of it here and there if you’re really, really paying attention but, if you listened to this first, and then were told their history, I suspect you wouldn’t believe it.

And that’s because this is a pretty heavy record. I don’t know what Darrell did to his guitar but it sounds detuned and the distortion is super thick and meaty. But he hasn’t gone out and layered tons of guitars on top of each other, so that thickness is pretty impressive. His solos are impressive and distinctive – if often very brief – but I am honestly left more in awe of the tone and precision of his rhythm playing, which feels like the defining quality of this record.

The material is pretty good but you can see some remnants of what I assume is an earlier sound, if you squint hard enough. (Can you squint with your ears?) If the record weren’t so hard – thanks to the effects on Darrell’s guitar and some of Anselmo’s singing, you might suspect something else was going on here. In fact Anselmo can be a pretty traditional metal singer at times and the record could easily swing into power metal or glam metal if it weren’t for how the rest of the band is playing.

There’s also a lot of space in the production. Though Darrell’s guitar is loud, it doesn’t flood into everything else. You can hear the drums and the bass (imagine hearing bass on a metal record) really clearly. It’s recorded like a funk album, to my ears, and that helps emphasis the relative groove. (As others have noted, there’s not as much here as on later records. But the production lets you hear it.)

And it’s true: if you listen to this record you can hear a lot of ’90s metal in it. From the sound of the distortion to the low end of Anselmo’s voice, it’s clear this was a really big deal to a lot of people.


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