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This is Pantera’s fifth album, and not their debut which the band used to claim. In this album, they had completely ditched their glam metal past, and went on to a more aggressive style of metal. This style would later be known as groove metal. There’s plenty of thrash here to go around, particularly Heresy, Domination, and especially Shattered. Most of the other songs use a much slower and groovier version of the genre. That said, Phil Anselmo is still using falsetto vocals for this album, but uses them a lot less often then he did in Power Metal, as he is mainly using more aggressive vocals this time. However, his voice would go to shit on their next album. In terms of heaviness, they were certainly at their peak. The drumming is pretty fast and intense, and Dimebag shreds like crazy on this album.
The title track, Cowboys From Hell, starts off with a nice groovy riff that’s bound to get you head banging, or at least tapping your foot. Phil sounds a lot more aggressive here. Dime really starts to shred towards the 2:30 mark with a cool solo. This is one of the better tracks on here. 10/10
Primal Concrete Sledge is mainly a drumming based track, and it’s very aggressive. The drums are fast as shit. That’s pretty much the highlight of this song. Phil and Dime also give a pretty nice performance in this song. However, it’s a little too short as it only last about two minutes. It’s still awesome though. 9/10
Psycho Holiday is one of my favorite songs on here. The guitar work is pretty catchy and has a nice groove to it that’s bound to get stuck in your head after a few listens. Phil sounds cool on this song as well. I especially like when he wails out the chorus. “I’m on a Psycho Holidaaaaay!” That’s cool as shit. The drumming stays consistent too. The solo is pretty cool as well. This song rules! 10/10
Heresy is one of the more thrashier songs on this album, and that proves to be obvious the second you listen to it. It starts off with one hell of a riff that you have o headbang too. Then drumming is pretty aggressive and fast and adds to the song. Phil sounds awesome in this song, especially when he shrieks out the chorus. “Heresyyyyy!” He manages to stay aggressive vocally. The song really gets good though at the 3:30 mark when the riffs and drumming speed up. This song is heavy as shit! 10/10
Cemetery Gates is the only ballad on this song, and it’s the best ballad they’ve done, in my opinion. It’s very emotionally driven, yet still manages to stay heavy in it’s own right. It’s got riffs considering that it’s a ballad. I find it kinda ironic that made this song, considering that it’s about missing someone who passed away and died. Ironically, that person would be Dimebag Darrel himself. Though this is probably very obvious, it’s ironic, because he wouldn’t have been murdered until about 15 years later. Anyway, this song has a nice solo towards the five minute mark that adds to the atmosphere to this song. My favorite part of the song, though, is when Phil wails out “Gaaaaaaates”! I could sing along right to that, and I sometimes do. Awesome song! 10/10
Both Domination and Shattered are heavy thrashers that kick the shit out of anything they would do on their later albums. They have the riffs, drumming, and overall aggressiveness that your typical thrash metal song has. Shattered, in particular, is very fast and Phil is certainly at his peak here vocally. His vocals are almost godly in this song. His singing alone would make the song, but add one awesome solo from Dimebag, and you get one monster of a song. Both of these songs get a 10/10.
Clash With Reality is another groovy thrash song. Phil’s vocals on this song are awesome, he mainly uses his falsetto vocals here. The riffs are pretty heavy as well. The song kinda drags a little though. It’s still good though. 9/10
Medicine Man, Message In Blood, and The Sleep are all decent groove metal songs. They lag a little, and get pretty boring after a while, but they still piss on most of the stuff they would do later. Dimebag gives out a nice performance in all of these songs, which save them a little. All three of these songs get an 8/10.
The Art Of Shredding is a cool song that‘s about shredding. Dimebag does just that in this song, as the riffs are heavy, and there’s a bit of a variety of different riffs in this song, and the solo is cool too. The guitar work in this song is just purely awesome. Phil gives out a nice performance as well. 9/10
Overall, this album is heavy as well as aggressive. However, it was this album that would push Pantera even further into the mainstream, and therefore would encourage them to stick to trends.
Their next album isn’t half as good as this one, and it would go to show that being “tough” and “badass” is more important to them then the music itself.