Texas’ finest metal export Pantera have left an endearing and enormous legacy on the metal scene. Their groove, energy, swagger and power has influenced legions of acts, and they rightly filled arenas across the world and had a slew of platinum and gold records through out the 90’s. This is no small feat, considering metal’s relative commercial decline throughout the decade – and for a period of time they were the kings of the heavy music scene.
One of the worst kept secrets in metal was the fact that Pantera released four full length’s prior to their commercial and critical breakthrough Cowboys From Hell. Heavily influenced by the metal and hard rock trends of the time, our list could have easily been made up of tracks from those first records. However, for the sake of diversity we’ve gone with our usual route of old material, album songs, soundtrack appearances and more. So with that all said, let’s dig for some Pantera deep cuts…
Although Pantera were mostly known for their chest beating anthems, the band were equally adept at writing more dynamic-focused tunes when they wanted to. The Great Southern Trendkill‘s “10’s” is a prime example of this, moving at a slow pace with droning guitars and restrained drumming. Frontman Phil Anselmo sounds great, with his vocals shifting between painted crows and a rumbling baritone, and it, unsurprisingly, packs a tremendous Dimebag Darrell guitar solo behind the melodic bridge. While a decent chunk of the …Trendkill was performed on Pantera‘s subsequent and future tours, “10’s” never saw the stage – and perhaps has been overshadowed by it’s album-mate, the equally restrained and brilliant “Floods”.
As we alluded to before, it’s basically common knowledge that Pantera turned their back on their early material when Cowboys From Hell dropped, but their 80’s output really does have it’s moments. 1984’s Projects in the Jungle definitely has a strong Def Leppard Influence running throughout, but there is still a tonne of obvious potential on display, especially Dime‘s incredible guitar work on raucous album opening “All Over Tonight”. Original vocalist Terry Glaze suits this incarnation of the band fine, but it’s really worth checking out to hear Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul playing their teenaged asses off. Maybe if they were from LA or New York they might have blown up from this sophomore release, but it wasn’t meant to be – I’d say Pantera‘s career ended up panning out just fine though.
Recorded for the soundtrack of the awful Dracula 2000 film, “Avoid The Light” is quite an interesting Pantera original – certainly better than the movie it was made for. The melodic acoustic guitar intro and chorus sounds very Eastern European and cinematic, before it moves into the more regular thumping Pantera territory for the verse sections. The OST, aptly released in the year 2000, makes the tune something of a stopgap between The Great Southern Trendkill and Reinventing The Steel albums. The rest of the LP is made up of a big array of the top heavy acts at the turn of the millennium – including Disturbed, Slayer, System of a Down, Static-X – however the oft-mentioned “Avoid The Light” is definitely one of the highlights.
The first album with Phil Anselmo on vocals, Power Metal at times sounds like Pantera beat Judas Priest to make Painkiller. Though not quite as heavy as the material they’d become household names for, the Texan’s sound was certainly getting tougher and more powerful. There are few really great songs on this record, like “Over and Out” and the precursor to “Cemetery Gates,” “We’ll Meet Again”. Of course, there are a couple of duds too – the awful “Proud To Be Loud” being amongst the worse. Our pick of the release is “Death Trap,” as it really does sound like it could have come off Cowboys From Hell, released just two years later. The track has so many of the classic Pantera elements nailed down – the driving pace, heavy guitar work, an understated groove, Anselmo‘s histrionic vocals and a ripping solo to boot. A very under appreciated tune indeed.
Maybe due to the strength of the records preceding it, Pantera‘s final studio outing, Reinventing the Steel, is something of an neglected commodity in the group’s catalog. There is definitely some absolute gold on here, especially big singles “Goddamn Electric” and “Revolution Is My Name,” but one of the tunes that never gets talked about is “It Makes Them Disappear”. Everything about this track – from the effect driven intro, the verses, the immediately memorable chorus – is excellent, though it was sadly never performed live by the band. While the original album sounds good, the recent remixes from Terry Datereleased on the Reinventing…’s 20th anniversary editions, breathe a bit more life and energy into the LP.
Throughout their career Pantera performed every track from their major label debut Cowboys From Hell, expect one – “Medicine Man”. Why the band ignored it in the live setting is a little baffling; the tom-driven restrained verses would definitely work on stage and it’s jammed packed with great instrumentation and vocals. Plus it’s got a chorus that is so catchy that it’ll be rattling around your head for days after hearing it once. Sure, by the time the mid-90s hit Anselmo wasn’t really doing the high notes of the past, but still surprising that Pantera never pulled this out during the album’s original tour. Perhaps it’s only sin was being on a record with so much other great material that it was outshone from day one.
Technically an instrumental demo version of “Death Rattle”, from 2000’s Reinventing The Steel album – it’s still mind-blowing to think that a Pantera track was used in a Nickelodeon cartoon. The minute and half “Pre-Hibernation”, used in the Spongebob Squarepants episode of the same name, is features all of the band’s signature traits shoved into a 90 second blast – screaming guitars, galloping drums and a big thick grooving riff at the end. It’s wild to think how many kids first exposure to Pantera and metal in genre may have come from this, and worthy for inclusion on this fact alone.
Suffering the fate of being on the same album with some of the biggest metal songs ever, “Regular People (Conceit)” is one of the two tracks from the all-time classic A Vulgar Display of Power never to be performed live. It’s got all of the classic Pantera hallmarks; tons of great guitar, bass and drums, and some of Phil Anselmo‘s most pissed off lyrics and vocals – this time tackling fake bravado and machoism. And of course it features yet another great guitar solo from Dimebag. An overshadowed, yet criminally underrated Pantera classic.
Yet another track never played in it’s entirety live, the closest “Throes of Rejection” got to hitting the stage is when Pantera tacked on the killer ending riff onto the outro “Becoming,” also lifted from the Far Beyond Driven LP. As absolutely brilliant as that closing passage is, the whole song is great and pretty overlooked – that chorus is like getting hit with a hammer. And lord when that final riff comes in at the end, it could level buildings. Pantera‘s problem by the mid-90s is that they were starting to rack up a serious amount of classic tunes, so there was never going to be room for them all in the set list.
One of the two new studio recordings that the band included with the Official Live: 101 Proof album in 1997, “Where You Come From” is classic groove-heavy Pantera. While fellow new number “I Can’t Hide” is a to-the-throat punk song, “Where You Come From” is a five-minute epic, built around a volley of thick riffs and pissed off vocals, with it’s raging ending passage a big highlight. The tune was also used in the soundtrack for Dee Snider‘s horror film Stranglandbut for the most part “Where You Come From” has been forgotten by a fair chunk of the Pantera fanbase.
For a group that still commands so much respect and reverence, we know that there are more than a few diehards out there that worship everything the band has done. So whats you’re favorite Pantera deep cut track? Do you think their first four albums deserve more recognition? Let us know below!