Many people – not least Pantera themselves – prefer to forget about the band’s glam-metal 80s era. Fortunately, towards the end of that decade, the Texan group began to draw from more influences than they could reasonably cram into their tiger-striped spandex and made a conscious decision to forge a less traditional path. If 1988’s Power Metal album – the first with new vocalist Phil Anselmo – stood as a bridge into a new era, then 1990’s Cowboys From Hell signified a full-blown rebirth. And, from the start, the band and the people around them knew something magical was about to happen.
Listen to ‘Cowboys From Hell’ here.
“We saw what our new songs were doing to people”
Terry Date was metal’s producer du jour, having worked with thrash mainstays Overkill and an upcoming band from his native Seattle called Soundgarden. As he recalled to Revolver magazine in 2014, “Pantera’s manager, Walter O’Brien, called me up and goes, ‘I’ve got this band. They could be the next Metallica.’ And I was like, ‘OK, that’s the 12th time I’ve heard that this week…’ I heard the demo, and it was really good, but it wasn’t until I met them that I realised that this was something special.”
Pantera themselves noticed the tides changing among their own fans, too. “We saw what our new songs were doing to people, to our crowd,” late drummer Vinnie Paul told Metal Hammer magazine in 2010. “It was driving people crazy. They couldn’t wait to hear us play Cowboys From Hell or anything off that record, even before we recorded it, so we knew we were onto something special.”