"Like all instruments, playing the guitar is an art form. It takes a lot of time and patience to understand and learn. Many try, but few succeed. Those who do succeed have either learned from someone else, or they are simply born with "God-given talent." "Dimebag" or "Diamond" (as he was known then) Darrell Abbott definitely mastered his art due to both of these.
Diamond Darrell and his brother, drummer Vinnie Paul formed a band while they were still in high school. These cowboys from Hell (or Texas, as they'd lead you to believe) were a cover band before anything else; until the early 1980's, when the Abbott brother's dad convinced them to start writing their own music. They formed a band, Pantera, that released their first album when Diamond was only 17. They continued releasing "hair/glam" metal albums until 1990.
"Cowboys from Hell" is the group's major label debut (as well as their second album with vocalist Phil Anselmo and the last album before "Diamond" Darrell changed his nickname to "Dimebag.") Starting with this album, Pantera turbo-charged their sound, making their metal ten times heavier. Some believe they aborted their original sound (in favor of a more vengeful one), because they were signed to a major label. Others believe they did it because the `90's were a new era and hair metal was no longer popular. I, however, only partially believe both of these theses. I think Pantera aborted their `80's style of music because of the influence Diamond/Dimebag Darrell had on the band. In the early days, Dime was influenced by such artists as Ace Frehley of Kiss (thus explaining Pantera's hair metal sound), Eddie Van Halen, and Randy Rhodes. But as Pantera aged and released increasingly heavy albums, he cited influences among his contemporaries such as Kerry King of the extreme metal band Slayer.
Whatever the reason, there's no disputing that Pantera changed its sound for the better. It's a good thing that "Cowboys from Hell" was Pantera's breakthrough album, because if one of their hair/glam metal albums had been a hit, Pantera probably would have been tempted to continue playing that kind of music, and hair metal isn't what Pantera was meant for. Phil Anselmo, Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul Abbott, and bassist Rex Brown were put on this earth to play heavy as f*ck heavy metal. It's like Phil says: "We had to decide where our musical hearts were. After short deliberation, we realized our intention was to be the most devastating 'hardcore-heavy metal' band in the world."
There is also no denying that Pantera were backed by one of the strongest rhythm sections in metal. Sure, Vinnie Paul's drumming and Phil's howling were both top notch, but Dimebag Darrell's unbelievably powerful, talented riffing and wonderful solos were the biggest reason why Pantera were the heavy, influential, famous, and all around great band that they were.
"Cowboys from Hell" has lightning fast, cascading riffs at the beginning and a winding guitar solo near the middle. Not much can be said about this song that hasn't already been said. It's an instant classic that defined Pantera. "Primal Concrete Sledge" is a short, sludgy song with lurching riffs. "Psycho Holiday" has more classic, thumping Pantera riffs and near the end, the guitar changes speeds and turns to a fast chug. The real highlight here though, is the 45 second-long, wailing guitar solo that has three parts to it. These solos would become renowned worldwide and a trademark of Dimebag. I've always really enjoyed how Dimebag could riff fast and hard, pause briefly to lay down a solo, then go back to the great riffs. "Cemetery Gates" is the semi-ballad of the album. Phil sings about his longing for a loved one who has passed away and, even though the song gains momentum and speed, the theme of this one is much slower than the other songs. It begins with light, spacey guitar notes, has a solo in the middle, and ends with really high-pitched falsetto screams, which are matched by high, harmonic guitars. After the album's semi-ballad, Pantera pick up where they left off with maybe the heaviest song on the album. "Domination" has guitars and drums that thud thunderously. The beginning is really fast, similar to another Pantera anthem, "F*cking Hostile," with great back-and-forth work between the guitars and drums. It has another great solo near the end, and the song's last few seconds are slow chugging, booming riffs. Machine gun riffs and drums occupy much of "Shattered", making the song so fast it almost sounds like it's vibrating. When Phil's vocals begin, he lays down some Judas Priest-esque screams that are so high, it almost sounds like he's squealing. "The Sleep" begins slowly, with acoustic guitar licks. The song then turns to a galloping beat, with punching guitars and it's rounded off by not one, but TWO more superb solos.
Dimebag's virtuoso guitar work also makes "Cowboys from Hell," like all landmark metal albums, stand the test of time. At the time, "CfH" was about as heavy as heavy metal got. 15 years later, it's nothing short of a classic. Like Metallica's "Kill `Em All" or Slayer's "Show No Mercy," "Cowboys from Hell" is not the band's best offering. But, it's a great album that's essential for all metalheads. Plus, since this was Pantera's most thrashy-sounding album, it's essential for 1980's thrash fans, too. The bottom line is if you like heavy metal, you should be sinking your teeth into this album.
If you learn from the best, you'll be the best. He has Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhodes to thank for it, but Dimebag was the best of his generation. Thus, as the best, it was his job to influence a new generation of guitarists. Even though Dimebag is now deceased, his legend lives on through younger, aspiring guitarists. There's only one Dimebag Darrell Lance Abbott, but there will surely be many more people coming our way who have mastered the art of guitar shredding...and they'll have Dimebag to thank."
Razor sharp thrash metal at the dawn of the 90s
M. B. Link | USA | 09/07/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Cowboys From Hell(1990). Pantera's breakthrough album (though not the official debut because they had several glam albums in the 80s that the band completely disregards).
Back in the 1980s, Pantera was a completely unknown and different band than the one we know now. They started off as a glam metal act along the likes of Poison and Motley Crue, and released four albums which earned them no success and are now out of print. At the time, only drummer Vinnie Paul, bassist Rex Rocker, and guitarist Diamond "Dimebag" Darrel were in the band. It wasn't until their fourth album that current vocalist Phil Anselmo joined. After making the four glam metal albums without gaining any sort of fame, Pantera decided to pull all the stops and make a complete 180 degree turn on the band's sound and image. Gone were the happy songs about partying and the big hair, and in came the dirty, heavy thrash mayhem that measures up to the likes of older Metallica and Testament. And in 1990, the band pressed forth with their fifth album, Cowboys From Hell and never looked back. This ended up being their riskiest yet smartest move and Pantera instantly met with great success. The band now regards CFH as their first album and refuses to admit that they were once a fully-fledged hair metal band. I've even heard of cases where fans would bring that subject to their attention and the band would attack their fans for even mentioning their past! Yikes.
Nevertheless, CFH is an astounding thrash metal assault and as it stands, a masterpiece. I first picked it up last year when I had the choice of purchasing either this album and Testament's New Order or the then-new St. Anger album by Metallica. Needless to say, I'm EXTREMELY glad I went with the former choice. Phil's singing is at his best on this album, seeing that he was able to hit some blazing high notes before his voice started having problems between this album and the next. "Dimebag" proves right away that he is an absolutely amazing shredder on here in both the rhythm sections and the solos. While CFH is clearly a thrash metal album, you can definitely see how this band was once a glam metal act, especially in some of the song structures. However, it's all done with some of the heaviest guitar distortions, so the songs on here can best be described as "brutally heavy, but fun". In a way it acts as Pantera's transitional album from the older glammy style to the intensely powerful all-out thrash of Vulgar Display Of Power(1992). Other songs are clearly influenced by 80s thrash metal and prove that the band has quite a bit of versatility between the songs. To this day I find CFH to be their best album and future releases would demonstrate to be gradually lesser in quality as time went on.
Onto the songs... The title track sets the pace for the album and kicks things off perfectly, introducing you to the band's in-your-face brand of heavy metal. That, 'Psycho Holiday', and 'Clash With Reality' have the stand-out anthemic party quality that the band might have previously done in the 80s. Then you've got some real shredding scorchers such as the brief machine gun totting 'Primal Concrete Sludge', the Metallica-esque 'Heresey' and 'Domination', and the Judas Priest-on-steroids 'Shattered'. The best track on the disc though has to be the mega-epic thrash ballad and my favorite Pantera song 'Cemetary Gates'. This one doom/gloom ballad is done incredibly well and easily compares to the likes of Metallica's 'Fade To Black', 'Welcome Home Sanitarium' and 'One'. It shows that Phil can do a great job singing in a low-key melodic tone. Other tracks include the pulse-pounding 'Art Of Shredding', the melodic and haunting 'Medicine Man', and the gloomy rocker 'Message In Blood'. The only track that doesn't stand out as much is 'Sleep', which is not bad at all, just forgettable.
Highlights: 'Cowboys From Hell', 'Psycho Holiday', 'Cemetary Gates', and 'Medicine Man'
Overall, CFH is an album that all thrash metal lovers need to own. With as many great songs and skilled musicianship that it has, it's no wonder I'm giving the album 5 stars. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED TO ALL METAL FANS.
Other similar albums: -'Vulgar Display Of Power' by Pantera -'Master Of Puppets' by Metallica -'Legacy' by Testament -'Dead Heart In A Dead World' by Nevermore"
RIP Dimebag. Long live the King.
Pantera Fan | 12/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I just heard that Dimebag was murdered at a Damageplan concert tonight, and I wanted to come and pay my respects. Dimebag was an amazing musician, and a really cool guy. It makes me so sick that stuff like this has to happen. Rest in peace, man. We'll miss you, and we'll never forget you. :("
"We're taking over this town..."
Eggplant | state of denial | 12/16/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Could these Texas boys have ever predicted, way back in 1990, what a lasting impact this album would have on the metal scene? So many current guitarists have listed Dimebag Darrell Abbott (RIP) as an influence, and so many other classic metal bands were great friends with Pantera. It's not hard to understand why on this album... from the killer intro title track, to the groove of "Psycho Holiday", to the hard-hitting "Domination", and even the Iron Maiden-ish "Shattered". This album is metal with a capital M.
However, the album's biggest curveball is the beautiful ballad, "Cemetary Gates". Starts off soft and amazing... who knew Pantera could pull it off? Then it gets harder, with an amazing solo, and great, haunting vocals... this is Pantera's "Stairway To Heaven".
Anyway, if you like hard-hitting, fist-in-your-face metal, this one's for you.
However, I also am using this space to pay respect to one of metal's best guitarists ever, Dimebag Darrell. A week later, I still can't believe what happened...
On the morning of December 8, I was walking back to my bedroom for some reason when I overheard on the news about how a tragedy struck at a rock concert. That caught my ear. The newscaster mentioned that it was at a Damageplan concert. I knew that was Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul's new band, so I went back out to hear more. The newscaster said that they killed two and injured three, and one of them was guitarist Dimebag Darrell. Of course, she then went right into some other stuff, not telling what happened to him, as if it didn't matter. I frantically went back to my computer, to go on the internet, hoping like crazy that I would read something saying he was allright, in the hospital and expected to make a full recovery... but my stomach dropped when I saw the awful news on the internet... Dimebag Darrell was dead at 38. Truly it was a sad day for metal.
I was about 15 or 16 when I first got into Pantera. Being angry and loving hard music, it was a natural choice for me. I think I was 16ish when I first heard "Rise", and it blew me away. I knew I had to have that album (Vulgar Display Of Power)!! So I soon got it, and to this day, it remains one of my favorites. Damn, Dimebag was an awesome guitarist. He soloed and shredded like NO ONE's business. I still get that same awesome adrenaline rush listening to VDOP, and I always will. Not to mention this one, FBD, Live 101 Proof, et cetera. If those albums don't make you wanna go punch somebody in the face, ain't nuthin' gonna!
I know I can't possibly imagine the intense devastation that Vinnie Paul, Phil Anselmo, Rex Brown, and the Abbott family must be going through. Me and every other Pantera/Damageplan fan in the world has their backs 150%. My heart and condolences are with them, along with the families of the security guard that was killed, and the innocent fans that were killed. I was relieved to hear that Vinnie was okay, though.
So, the metal world mourns a big loss. Rest in peace, Dimebag Darrell, and thanks for the music, memories, and everything in between.
"Believe the word I will unlock my door And pass the cemetary gates...""
The best release they made.
joe shmoe | San Francisco, CA | 12/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm making this review at 6 AM....I too just realized of what happened to Dimebag, RIP dude, you and Pantera helped me transition through some tough phases in my life, thank you. This was the album that has influenced my life the most."