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Best Pantera Songs: 20 Hard-Hitters From The Groove Metal Pioneer
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List & Guides

Best Pantera Songs: 20 Hard-Hitters From The Groove Metal Pioneer

From the self-referential Cowboys From Hell to the fury of Hellbound, the best Pantera songs set the pace for metal for the coming millennium.

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Texan metallers Pantera are widely regarded among the genre’s greatest bands. As pioneers of the groove metal subgenre, it’s easy to forget that they actually started life as a glam meal outfit in the early 80s. But through the recruitment of New Orleans native Phil Anselmo in the latter half of that decade, the quartet forged a new kind of heaviness. As a frontman, Anselmo brought with him thrash, hardcore punk and extreme metal sensibilities which, when combined with the low-end grooves of bassist Rex Brown, the powerhouse drumming of Vinnie Paul and, of course, the fretboard wizardry of guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott, ushered in a new wave of metal fury. The best Pantera songs – glam outings notwithstanding – demonstrate exactly why the group remain among the most influential bands in heavy metal history.

Listen to the best of Pantera here, and check out our best Pantera songs, below.

20: Hellbound (from ‘Reinventing The Steel’, 2000)

If their previous album, 1996’s The Great Southern Trendkill, had taken dark turn, then Hellbound established Reinventing The Steel as a return to Pantera’s shredding best. It’s an adrenaline shot of mechanistic riffs, underpinned by the rhythm section’s monster grooves and topped off with Anselmo’s hellish screams.

19: Becoming (from ‘Far Beyond Driven’, 1994)

In 2017, Phil Anselmo described Becoming to Rolling Stone magazine as a realisation that “our strong point, once again, was sticking to heavy metal and making it as heavy as our style would allow”. And rhythmic, chest-beating metal was Pantera’s superpower. On the surface it seems rudimentary, but the sheer brute force of the best Pantera songs had the ability to make listeners feel invincible.

18: Primal Concrete Sledge (from ‘Cowboys From Hell’, 1990)

Every bit as brutal as its title suggests, Primal Concrete Sledge hits in a tornado of riffs and double kick drum. Such percussive chaos would serve as an embellishment for most metal bands of that era. Pantera had the gumption to tear up the rule book and turn it into an entire song.

17: Yesterday Don’t Mean Shit (from ‘Reinventing The Steel’, 2000)

Phil Anselmo’s sledgehammer bluntness was never likely to win him a Pulitzer Prize – but subtlety was never part of Pantera’s repertoire. If anyone worried that the Texan metallers had lost their touch at the turn of the millennium, then Yesterday Don’t Mean Shit came galloping in ready to stand toe to toe with any of the best Pantera songs.

16: Suicide Note Pts I and II (from ‘The Great Southern Trendkill’, 1996)

Themes of suicide loomed large in Pantera’s lyrics by the mid-90s, and though listed as two separate tracks, Suicide Note Pts I and II are really two halves of the same coin. The first is the gentle acoustic lament of a man at peace with his own mortality. The second a chaotic blitz of riffs daring him to “do it”.

15: Planet Caravan (from ‘Far Beyond Driven’, 1994)

It was a bold move to release this Black Sabbath cover as the second single from Far Beyond Driven, yet it became Pantera’s most successful, charting in the UK at No.26 and peaking at No.21 on Billboard’s Album Rock Tracks chart. The song’s ethereal acoustic balladry was a far cry from the maelstrom riffery that marked Pantera as one of the most popular metal bands of their era.

14: The Great Southern Trendkill (from ‘The Great Southern Trendkill’, 1996)

A recurring theme throughout the best Pantera songs was staying true to yourself in spite of outside pressures. Nowhere was this more prevalent than on the shredding The Great Southern Trendkill. Pantera weren’t a band who would bend to musical fads. And why would they? This was a rare metal group that could shift a million albums with ease.

13: Rise (from ‘Vulgar Display Of Power’, 1992)

Pantera felt that Metallica abandoned their thrash roots when they released “The Black Album” in 1991, letting down long-time fans in the process. But with it the Texan outfit saw a gaping void to fill, and challenged themselves to release the heaviest album of all time. Rise stands out as one of Vulgar Display Of Power’s most exhilarating tracks, spewing forth in an eruption of turbocharged intensity.

12: 10’s (from ‘The Great Southern Trendkill’, 1996)

Among the flash pots of riffs and fury, Pantera learned finesse somewhere along the way. 10’s is a haunting symphony of refined riffing and subdued rhythms standing in stark contrast to their typically cacophonous fare. Proof that you don’t have to play at a bajillion miles an hour to be heavy.

11: A New Level (from ‘Vulgar Display Of Power’, 1992)

With Metallica swallowed up by the mainstream and the rock world in a tizzy over grunge, Pantera never lost sight of who they were. And the machine-gun riffing of A New Level was like a rallying call for metal diehards. Fans knew the genre would survive with the Texan metallers leading the way.

10: Cemetery Gates (from ‘Cowboys From Hell’, 1990)

If Cemetery Gates is a power ballad then it’s the most punishing one ever written. Without a barrage of riffs to disappear into, Dimebag had the opportunity to demonstrate his virtuoso talents. In seven minutes, the epic track seamlessly ebbs and flows from haunting acoustic passages, through wailing solos and chugging interludes.

9: Revolution Is My Name (from ‘Reinventing The Steel’, 2000)

Pantera were a band who wore their influences on their sleeves. Among the most prominent of these were Black Sabbath, whose tar-thick riffs and pseudo-psychedelic refrains can be felt throughout Revolution Is My Name. The Texans effortlessly shift tempo and rhythms without ever tying themselves into a muddled mess, and it’s all wrapped up in their glorious metallic punch.

8: Drag The Waters (from ‘The Great Southern Trendkill’, 1996)

Drag The Waters brings in a slow Southern groove emblematic of the scene surrounding Anselmo and his hometown peers. In the hands of Dimebag Darrell it’s given a glistening metal sheen and is proof that the best Pantera songs didn’t always need a barrage of brutal riffs to sound as heavy as a sack of spanners.

7: This Love (from ‘Vulgar Display Of Power’, 1992)

More hate song than love song, This Love remains one of Pantera’s best known and well loved tracks. A spidery guitar arpeggio writhes and crawls into a battering-ram of a chorus before fading away in a crushingly slow and heavy breakdown that any metalcore band of the 2000s would give their right arm to have written.

6: Domination (from ‘Cowboys From Hell’, 1990)

Perhaps one of the reasons Pantera were tagged as the pioneers of groove metal was their rhythm section’s ability to carry a song through Dimebag’s glorious soloing. There are few songs where this is better demonstrated than on the rapid-fire riffing of Domination – a long-time live favourite due to its ability to whip crowds into a frenzy from its sheer intensity.

5: 5 Minutes Alone (from ‘Far Beyond Driven’, 1994)

5 Minutes Alone was inspired by an incident in which a heckler was allegedly beaten up at a Pantera show, resulting in his father requesting five minutes alone with Anselmo. From the grinding, thumping groove that drives this metal behemoth, take it as an indication that any time alone with the band would be a really bad idea…

4: Mouth For War (from ‘Vulgar Display Of Power’, 1992)

Vulgar Display Of Power’s album cover famously depicts a man receiving a punch square to the jaw. Mouth For War is its aural equivalent. Staccato riffs give way to sinewy grooves before climaxing in a barrage of shredding. A brutally bombastic entry among the best Pantera songs.

3: I’m Broken (from ‘Far Beyond Driven’, 1994)

Pantera didn’t always do frenetic and thrashy, and the sluggish, almost blusey I’m Broken was probably a product of its origins. As Dimebag once recalled, “I’m Broken was a soundcheck riff – one of them ones where I’d walk in with a hangover from ripping it up night after night with everyone in every town. That’s where a lot of the best riffs I ever wrote came from.”

2: Cowboys From Hell (from ‘Cowboys From Hell’, 1990)

With a drastic shift in sound in the late 80s came a rebranding and rallying call to arms. Born in the switchblade riffs and pounding grooves of Cowboys From Hell’s title track, this anthem became a war cry so powerful it had its own logo. Dimebag would tag the insignia everywhere; Anselmo even had it tattooed on the side of his head. Pantera’s new incarnation was not to be messed with

1: Walk (from ‘Vulgar Display Of Power’, 1992)

Smells Like Teen Spirit, Smoke On The Water, Sweet Home Alabama, Enter Sandman… the best guitar riffs are so instantly recognisable that they’ve become bigger than the bands who wrote them. Add the warped stomp of Walk to that list. Guaranteed to fill rock dancefloors and have entire crowds chanting “Re. Spect. Walk” even 30 years after its release, it strides to the top of our list of the best Pantera songs with ease.

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