A lot of Pantera fans don’t even know about those obscured ‘glam years’ influenced by Kiss, Black Sabbath, Van Hallen etc.
In this article you will learn that the history of the band doesn’t begin at ‘Cowboys from Hell’ – it begins at…
Metal Magic (1983)
Pantera is a Spanish word for ‘Panther’. Maybe such a name was chosen because it sounded cool, especially with this brutal Spanish ‘r’. Anyway, that was a good idea, way better than previously proposed ‘Gemini’ or ‘Eternity’, which were too abstract, while ‘Pantera’ was much more suitable both for the band’s early glam period, and for their later aggressive style.
Back in the early 80-s, Terry Lee Glaze (vocals), the two brothers, Dimebag Darrell (guitar) and Vinnie Paul Abbott (drums), and Rex Brown (bass) performed cover sets of their favorite bands, especially Kiss and Van Halen.
While not extraordinary, their first studio album, Metal Magic, is interesting to listen to from a historic point of view. You can hear various influences on that album: Van Hallen, Kiss, Motley Crue, and some hints on a new wave of British heavy metal. Yes, the style of Pantera metal was conventional for the genre, because that was the trend – and long before Pantera were killing trends, they had to work for them. And they worked quite well for their ages – on this album you can hear Dimebag’s huge potential, and he was only seventeen years old at the time of release.
Speaking about the album art… well, the cover definitely isn’t the best. But though it looks like a generic work of some street artist, this is no less than the first appearance of the Pantera – a humanlike beast wearing only a leather belt, wielding a weird harpoon dagger, and staring at some point above your head... In other words, we have a good visual metaphor of the band, which will unleash the power of its feral totem some years later…
Projects In The Jungle (1984)
Pantera quickly became favorites on the underground metal scene. They supported other glam metal bands such as Stryper and Quiet Riot. The music improved greatly, and, besides another crazy album art, we’ve got more thrash metal-oriented sound. In search of its identity, Pantera draw some of their inspiration from Def Leppard.
The musicians try to find their specific way, but they still need to follow the scene… Or maybe they don’t need to? Some believe that playing all those too standard guitar parts on that album was an obstacle for musicians’ talents, especially for the Dimebag’s one. Anyway, his true potential would be discovered later.
Though the musicians play not to their full skill, some tracks are the evidences that Pantera are on their way to becoming a true metal band: e. g. ‘All Over Tonight’, and the title track ‘Projects in the Jungle’
Many claim Terry Glaze to be a bad vocalist and songwriter, especially in comparison with Phil Anselmo. That’s not correct. Glaze’s vocals and lyrics were just too generic, they weren’t anything special, yet he did his best, even though sometimes it just seemed cartoonish. But that was alright for the glam-Pantera, because the transformation time hadn’t come yet.
I Am The Night (1985)
Pantera now are miles ahead of where they were back in the 1983, and they keep going in a heavier direction. But they are still suffering from poor distribution, and this is the reason of their low sells rating (about 25.000 copies), and exorbitant prices for the album.
But, aside from marketing issues, the only thing that was holding them from a major shift was their own image as a glam band. The vocalist and songwriter Terry Glaze was far too into that style, while other band members didn’t feel comfortable to be stuck in it.
They wanted changes, and you can see how different this album looks like in comparison with the previous ones, with all of those Judas Priest and Iron Maiden influences, and still this is a quality, over-the-top glam metal.
But the musicians were trying to break through the genre conventions. They felt that something different was coming, something harder and faster. Something had to go away to allow the band to develop further. Glaze’s favorite glam style didn’t fit the band anymore.
Among the most prominent albums that would prove influential to their style after ‘I am the night’ were the new Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer albums. The glam era was over, and Terrence Glaze and the other members parted ways.
Their next album, Power Metal, 1988 (UG Score 8.5) was recorded featuring a new singer Phil Anselmo. After that album had been released they were at last picked by a major label. That was a different music, that was a landmark, and the band at last was able to eventually evolve into something we know and love – Pantera.