Pantera - Cowboys From Hell

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Posted on Thu, 09/25/2014 - 9:01am
by John MacMillan

Member since: Tue, 01/07/2014

Release Type

Studio Album

Release Year


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ATCO Records


Album Overview

Cowboys from Hell is the fifth studio album by American heavy metal band Pantera, released on July 24, 1990 through Atco Records.


1Cowboys From Hell4:07
2Primal Concrete Sledge2:13
3Psycho Holiday5:19
5Cemetary Gates7:02
8Clash With Reality5:16
9Medicine Man5:14
10Message In Blood5:10
11The Sleep5:47
12The Art Of Shredding4:20

Writing and recording

After being turned down "28 times by every major label on the face of the Earth", Atco Records representative Mark Ross was asked by his boss, Derek Shulman (who was interested in signing them), to see the band perform after Hurricane Hugo stranded him in Texas. Ross was so impressed by the band's performance that he called his boss that night, suggesting that Pantera be signed to the label.

Ross on the performance:

"By the end of the first song, my jaw was on the floor. The sonic power of it all — the attitude and the musicianship — blew me away. Basically, you had to be an idiot to not think they're amazing. I mean, how could you see these guys and not think, Holy shit!?"

Atco Records accepted, and at the close of 1989, the band began writing and recording its major label debut at Pantego Sound Studio. The band adopted a new sound and attitude, and the writing of what would become Cowboys from Hell saw the band exploring darker subject matters, while the guitar would be notably heavier, despite occasionally reverting to the hair metal formula. The band recorded Cowboys from Hell: The Demos, a self-produced demo album which featured 11 tracks, 10 of which would make the album cut. The last two tracks to be written were "Clash With Reality" and "Primal Concrete Sledge", while a song entitled "The Will to Survive" would be discarded early in the recording sessions.

Recording took place in Pantego, Texas at the Pantego Sound Studio and the band were feeling confident about their material and themselves, finally feeling that they were making the kind of album they believed in. One key track to emerge during the writing was "Cemetery Gates", a seven-minute power ballad that would be the first song to show both their diversity and Anselmo’s vocal range. Although they had already recorded four albums prior to Cowboys from Hell, Pantera felt that this was their true debut, working with a professional producer and a major label for the first time and creating music that was not simply stealing from other similar bands in an attempt to attract attention.

Cover art

The cover art depicts the band in a quaint western saloon. Dimebag Darrell is pictured in the center playing guitar, while Vinnie Paul is to his left counting money, Rex Brown is leaning against the countertop and Phil Anselmo is shown jumping in the air to Brown's right. Anselmo states that he jumped off a bar stool to get high up in the air. He also said that it took him about ten takes until the cameramen got the shot into the desired style.

Release, reception and legacy

Commercial performance

The album was released on July 24, 1990 and was 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.

Critical reception

The album has been praised by most critics as it would prove to be one of the most influential albums in the metal scene in the 1990s and of all time, and would inspire a generation of musicians, particularly guitarists. IGN named Cowboys from Hell the 19th most influential heavy metal album of all-time.

They said about 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."

AllMusic says about the album:

"Pantera's breakthrough album, Cowboys from Hell, is largely driven by the band's powerful rhythm section and guitarist Diamond Darrell(s) unbelievably forceful riffing, which skittered around the downbeats to produce unexpected rhythmic phrases and accents, as well as his inventive soloing."


On September 14, 2010 a 20th anniversary edition was released with a remastered mix from the original analog recordings. The expanded edition features a bonus CD of previously unreleased live recordings and the Alive and Hostile E.P. The deluxe edition features an additional third CD with the previously unreleased demo track "The Will to Survive" (parts of the song were later used in the song "This Love" from Vulgar Display of Power) along with demo versions of ten songs from the original album.

The third disc of the deluxe set, Cowboys from Hell: The Demos, was released as a separate limited edition vinyl LP at the same time. It was exclusively available at Metal Club record stores. The 2010 reissue of the album managed to reach #117 on the Billboard 200 and #8 on Catalog Albums, selling 4,200.


The album was ranked #11 on the October 2006 issue of Guitar World magazine's list of the greatest 100 guitar albums of all time. It was ranked the #85 best heavy metal album of all time by IGN named Cowboys from Hell the 19th most influential heavy metal album of all-time. It is also credited as "defining" groove metal.


Pantera toured alongside thrash acts Exodus and Suicidal Tendencies. In 1991, Rob Halford performed with the band onstage, which led Pantera to open for Judas Priest on its first show in Europe. The band eventually landed a billing for "Monsters in Moscow" with AC/DC, Metallica and The Black Crowes in September 1991, where they played to a crowd of over 500,000 in celebration of the new freedom of performing Western music in the former Soviet Union shortly before its collapse three months later.

Cowboys from Hell: The Demos

The demos were re-released on Black Friday 2010 and were limited to 3,000 180-gram pressings, with the vinyl including the custom cover and demos of the original tracks, as well as the previously unreleased demo cut, “The Will To Survive”.



  • Phil Anselmo – lead vocals
  • Diamond Darrell – electric lead and rhythm guitars, backing vocals
  • Rex Rocker – bass, acoustic guitar, piano (5)
  • Vinnie Paul – drums


A&R: Mark Ross
Art Direction: Bob Defrin
Management [Worldwide Representation]: Walter O'Brien
Mixed By: Pantera
Photography By [Front Cover Background]: Bettman Archive
Photography By [Live]: Joe Giron
Songwriter [Songs Written By], Arranged By: Pantera
  • Terry Date – producer, engineer, mixing
  • Pantera – producer, engineer, mixing, musician
  • Matt Lane – assistant engineer
  • Matt Gililland - assistant engineer
  • Howie Weinberg – audio mastering


Demos of the album's tracks were also released in 2010, in the 20th anniversary edition of Cowboys from Hell, but with a different tracklisting.

Printed/Made in U.S.A. Recorded at Pantego Sound Studio, Pantego, Texas Mixed at The Carriage House, Stamford, Connecticut Mastered at Masterdisk, New York City All lyrics © 1990 Power Metal Music/Cota Music. Administered by Warner Tamerlane Music Publishing Originally issued in a longbox.



Cowboys from Hell - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia : taken from -