Cowboys from Hell

Cowboys from Hell is the fifth studio album by American heavy metal band Pantera, released on July 24, 1990 by Atco Records. It marked the band’s major label debut and their first collaboration with producer Terry Date. It is considered one of the first ever groove metal albums.[6]

This article is about the album. For the title track of the album, see Cowboys from Hell (song). For the home-video, see Cowboys from Hell: The Videos.

1990 studio album by Pantera
Cowboys from Hell
Studio album by

Released July 24, 1990 (1990-07-24)
Recorded 1989[1][2] – April 1990[3]
Studio Pantego Sound Studio in Pantego, Texas
Genre
Length 57:44
Label Atco
Producer Terry Date
Pantera chronology
Power Metal
(1988)
Cowboys from Hell
(1990)
Vulgar Display of Power
(1992)
Singles from Cowboys from Hell
  1. Cowboys from Hell
    Released: 1990
  2. Cemetery Gates
    Released: 1990
  3. Psycho Holiday
    Released: 1990

. . . Cowboys from Hell . . .

Writing sessions for Cowboys from Hell took place throughout 1988 and 1989. 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 Pantera), 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.[3]

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!’?”[7]

Atco Records accepted but the band had to wait a six month period before they commenced recording at Pantego Sound Studio in Pantego, Texas. Accounts vary as to how long the recording sessions of Cowboys from Hell lasted; bassist Rex Brown stated in a 2010 interview with Metal Hammer that the recording sessions took place from February to April 1990,[3] however vocalist Phil Anselmo has also claimed that the album was recorded in 1989.[1][2] Pantera’s initial choice as the producer for Cowboys from Hell was Max Norman based on his work with Ozzy Osbourne. Norman, who flew to Houston to watch the band perform, initially agreed to work on the album, but right before the recording sessions started, he was offered to produce Lynch Mob‘s debut album Wicked Sensation instead.[8] Pantera then proposed Terry Date to produce the album on the strength of his work with Soundgarden, Metal Church and Overkill, the latter of whose latest album at the time The Years of Decay had influenced Diamond Darrell‘s guitar tone, as well as the band’s transition away from glam/traditional heavy metal to thrash/groove metal.[9][10][11][12][13]

Pantera 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 a self-produced demo album in 1989 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.[3][14]

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.[15]

. . . Cowboys from Hell . . .

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. . . Cowboys from Hell . . .

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