In the wake of the shocking death of drummer, Vinnie Paul, it’s bittersweet hearing that Pantera’s “Cowboys From Hell” turns 28 years old today. The album was released under the radar on July 24, 1990 and started a heavy metal legacy that still ignites fans worldwide.
I was 13 years old at the time of the album’s release. Not that it matters to anyone, but it’s just amazing to me just how old I’m getting and just how old these classic albums have become.
It seems like yesterday—as all these stories go—that I was a pimple-faced teenage metal kid, staying up late watching “MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball” on my little 17-inch TV in my bedroom. One by one, a new Pantera music video seemingly aired every couple of months on the show off of the album, from “Cowboys From Hell” and “Psycho Holiday” to “Domination” and “Primal Concrete Sledge,” and then ultimately, “Cemetery Gates.” I can still envision vocalist Phil Anselmo onstage, swinging his hair alongside Dimebag and Rex, while Vinne laid down his punishing groove in a sweaty club amongst a stage-diving-frenzy. At the time this was the coolest shit I had ever seen.
Revolver magazine is currently promoting a 2014 feature in which Phil Anselmo, Rex Brown, Vinnie Paul and producer Terry Date look back at the groundbreaking album. This is my favorite part:
Date flew down to Texas to meet the band, and drove with them in their van to a gig in the Dallas area. “In their words, they were a little tentative [about me]. Because they were Southerners and here’s this Northerner coming down,” Date remembers. “We drove up to where the show was, and they had a hotel room there. When we pulled into that hotel, Phil grabbed me, and he said, ‘Come into the bathroom.’ I was a little concerned at first. [Laughs] But he sits down in a chair, and he gives me a razor and some shaving cream, and he says, ‘Shave my head.'”
The head shaving went off without incident, and Date was quickly accepted into the band’s inner circle. – Revolver
Read the full feature at Revolver here.
Like most metalheads my age, “Cowboys From Hell” and Pantera carried me into the ’90’s and cemented me as a lifelong fan with the classics that followed, “Vulgar Display of Power” and “Far Beyond Driven.”
Upon it’s release and Pantera’s rise in popularity, I don’t think anyone had any clue that “Cowboys From Hell” was actually the band’s fifth album—I still don’t believe it! The band had previously released four albums in a glam/power metal style with a different vocalist. It wasn’t until these former band photos later surfaced that anyone even spoke of it. (Remember, this was pre-internet and things took awhile back then.) But it didn’t matter—”Cowboys From Hell” had already staked it’s claim for Pantera as being the new kings of hardcore metal and a legion of fans were rising.
Music and gaming website, IGN named “Cowboys from Hell” the 19th most influential heavy metal album of all-time.
They said of the album:
Along with “Vulgar Display of Power,” Pantera’s fifth album is not only considered one of the band’s best, but is also one of the defining albums of early ’90s metal. The band’s chemistry really begins to gel with collective symmetry here, as a pre-Dimebag Darrell (he was known as Diamond Darrell back then) rips the strings of his axe like a rabid weasel, frontman Phil Anselmo following in kind with chaotic vocal utterances, and the rhythm section of Vinnie Paul and Rex Brown keeping the rhythms in check and the whole mess glued together with low end prowess.
The album was originally available on tape, CD, vinyl and a Limited Edition version (same album but in a long box). The album would become the band’s breakthrough record as it became their first album to chart in 1992, reaching #27 on the Billboard Music Charts Top Heatseekers. In March 1995 the album entered the Swedish Charts for one week managing to peak at #46. The album has since gone on to attain both Gold (500,000 units) and Platinum (1,000,000 units) certifications in the U.S. as well as Gold status in the U.K. for sales of 100,000.
RIP Vinnie Paul
RIP Dimebag Darrell