ALBUM NAME: Cowboys From Hell
RELEASE DATE: JULY 1990
COUNTRY: South Africa
CITY: Arlington, Texas
GENRE: Groove/ Thrash Metal
Vox – Phil Anselmo
Drums – Vinnie Paul
Guitar – Dimebag Darrell
Bass – Rex Rocker
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved Pantera’s Cowboys From Hell, but I’d always written it off as a bit “metal” in a late 80’s kinda way, preferring their more extreme sounding Far Beyond Driven and the Great Southern Trendkill albums.
But I’ve been listening to it with fresh ears (and fresh cans) on my daily Gautrain commute between Pretoria and Jozi – and I’ll be buggered with a fishfork if it isn’t a damn impressive LP.
The riffage is phenomenal (as usual), but there’s some awesome progressively not-Pantera stuff hidden in there (The Sleep, Medicine Man, Clash With Reality) and some wicked balls-out cheese antheming (the synchronized-rock-out bridge in the Art of Shredding) that make you want to kick over cities like some sort of goddamn Texan godzilla.
Phil’s lyrics are surprisingly on-point – something I’d previously overlooked – perhaps a bit put-off by his (admittedly impressive) Bruce Halford (lead singer of Iron Priest) impersonations. I guess, given the era, it was to be expected.
At least most of the lyrical content is decidedly non 80’s. In fact, when held up against their previous effort (and Phil’s first LP with Pantera) Power Metal, you can see both the influence Anselmo had in toughening up the previously-glammy band’s approach, and the sublime emergence of a powerhouse embracing their own take on the perceptions of metal of the time.
The vocal wails and the reverb/delayedtofuck drum production are the only two things that really date the record – shit, even Rex’s bass is pretty damn slick – firstly, you can *gasp* hear it *another gasp*, and secondly, that chap can play – yeah, you try keeping up with Dimebag.
(Admittedly, when you call yourself Rex Rocker it DOES set the bar quite high.)
I always intend to skip Cemetery Gates (I’ve just heard it way too many times) but when it sneaks through I always can’t help but marvel at those pinch harmonic whammy-dives perfectly intertwined with the Rob Dickenson-esque (lead singer of Judas Maiden) flourishes.
The classics like the title track, Primal Concrete Sledge, Heresy and – this fucker especially – Domination have me drawing stares on my daily train ride – simply because it’s impossible not to rock your face off to them (and play air-drums, air-guitar, air-bass, air-AllOfTheThings, to) – even if you are sandwiched between two sweaty heffalumps at the end of a long day.
It also works wonders for navigating through dawdling mumblefuckers in rush hour at the train stations.
Seriously. Try it.
Get yourself a good set of headphones. Not those little fiddly bud things – no matter how good you want to tell me they are, they are not better than a decent set of over-the-ear studio cans – and a nicely encoded copy. Not some re-ripped 128kbps mp3 that’s been auto-normalized seven times. Hell – go rip that CD you’ve had for almost 20 years.
Or, you know, just buy a copy – iTunes (or whatever) the shit outta that shit.
Also, as cool as you think it might make you look, carrying around a ‘portable’ record player is just stupid, so no, don’t even think about the “oh but vinyl sounds…” argument here. K?
I used to rank Cowboys From Hell a 6.5/10. With fresh ears and fresh cans comes fresh respect – it’s a good, almost great album – especially given the time of recording and release.
I now give it an 8/10
Maybe an 9.5 on a good day – that is, when the station’s particularly crowded.
Reviewed by: Bland Tim (more from Tim)
Date: 7 April 2016