Sound — 9
Before making this major label debut, Pantera had released 4 hair metal albums on their own independent label. Fortunately, after being "shot down 28 times by every major label ever", Atco made sure they were able to make their debut a new, harder-hitting version of metal. This mixture of power metal and groove metal would be described by the band as "power groove." However, despite the new and harder sound readily apparent on the riff-driven (later Dallas Stars theme song music) title track "Cowboys From Hell" and the groove elements of "Pscycho Holiday," some hair metal elements are still shone in some of Phil Anselmo's vocals and Diamond Dimebag Darrel's solos. Luckily, aside from the ridiculously and annoying high notes, retarded "demonic" vocals in the verses and good but pointless solos of "Medicine Man" and "Message In Blood," most of the hair-metal element is found in Dime's faster than light solos in songs like the ridiculously speedy and definitely thrashy "Shattered" and power groove or thrash metal most accurately defines most tracks aside from the two foremost mentioned. Pantera hints at just how heavy they would become by giving even ballad-esque tracks like "Cemetery Gates" and "The Sleep" hard chugging riffs in certain parts, and even though the chorus riff in "Cemetery Gates" may sound akward at first, it's undeniably cool and the song as a whole rivals "Fade to Black" by Metallica in terms of great ballads. Other songs simply have extremely cool riffs throughout, namely "Clash With Reality" and "The Art Of Shredding," and Dime's amazing solos don't hurt much either.
Lyrics — 7
The lyrics on thisalbum can sometimes be inciteful and deep (Cemetery Gates), rebellious yet somewhat intelligent(Heresy), party-favor bragging rights (Cowboys From Hell), or retarted trying to be scary but failing songs about hell (Medicine Man, Message In Blood). Mostly though, it doesn't matter since the chugging riffs, excellent solos, speedy drum playing and bass lines are what carry the songs. Singer Phil Anselmo takes the lyrics and either belts them out in an all out yell which fits the music for the most part or tries to break glass with an annoying high-pitched voice. Sometimes though a mixture of the two may even end up sounding better, as proven by "Pscycho Holiday." But, to be honest the lyrics are'nt very memorable outside of "Cowboys From Hell" and "Cemetery Gates," but they also mostly don't bring the songs down.
Overall Impression — 9
Despite some annoying vocals inspired by hair metal on occassion, this cd was an even better debut album than "Kill 'Em All" by Metallica. And like that album, which sounded closer to punk rock than metal, this album sounds more "hair" than "heavy" but both manage to bring excellent speed, memorable riffs, and crazy solos to their first effort. Pantera even has slower but cool riffs like in "Pscycho Holiday" and "Cemetery Gates" choruses. They also manage to be faster than most thrash metal bands I've heard with songs like "Heresy" and "Shattered." I love the heaviness of the album, especially the cool riffs and inhumanly fast solos but it's probably a good thing the hair-metal vocals on some tracks were done away with by the time "Vulgar Display Of Power" hit. Technically this is my brother's cd, but if someone steals this when I buy it they'll definitely get the crap kicked out of them.