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“So out of the darkness and into the light”, A lyric taken from the powerhouse opening song, perfectly sums up this whole album.
After four glam-rock albums, although “Power Metal” had some transition elements, something as heavy as “Cowboys from Hell” was highly improbable. Driven by the rhythm section of Rex Brown and Vinnie Paul, and, of course, Diamond Darrell’s (as he was known then) powerful and forceful riffing. Phil Anselmo provides his best vocal performance with the band. Instead of simply grunting or barking the lyrics, he shows off his vocal talents and I must say he is talented. The music is groovy and thrashy, without falling prey to just sounding like any other band which helps this album stand out from the rest.
Also the incredible production of Terry Date is worth mention. He makes the whole thing feel tight, without feeling smothered.
The album starts off with a bang, with the now metal classic, title track “Cowboys from Hell”. “Cowboys from Hell” contains one of the most instantly recognizable riffs ever made, and is hands down the best track on the album.
“Primal Concrete Sledge” follows and is seems to be a showcase for Vinnie Paul’s drumming skills, but also contains one of the best solos on the album. “Psycho Holiday” comes next, which it is my favorite song on the album, has one of the grooviest feels of the whole album.
After “Heresy” and “Cemetery Gates” the album starts to sound bland. Truth be told, the first half really carries this whole album. While the songwriting is solid throughout some of the songs fall suspect to sounding like the one before it and after it. The last track “The Art of Shredding” is a perfect way to the album, showing off the awe-inspiring guitar prowess of Diamond Darrell.
“Cowboys from Hell” is arguably the best thing Pantera ever put to record. This is the band at their songwriting peak, before any rifts or drugs got in the way of the music.
This is Pantera’s breakthrough into the big time and if you could only have one Pantera album this is the one to get.