One of the peculiarities of the music biz is how a group can have one or two modestly successful albums and find themselves dropped by their label while other groups release CD after CD as they trip and stumble toward something that clicks. Pantera recorded a handful of trial-and-error albums. But when they nailed the right combination they ditched their indie record company and signed with a major label, Elektra.
You'd think any group whose bass player had the nickname "Rocker" would be off to a good start. But for this Arlington, TX, group formed in '82, that wasn't the case. Though bassist Rex "Rocker" Brown, guitarist "Diamond" (later "Dimebag") Darrell Abbott and his brother drummer Vinnie Paul were in place, there were two major differences between this edition and the later, far better version. First, Paterna had a Glitter and Glam approach and second, Terrence Lee handled vocals. Between '84 and '88, Pantera released four albums, all produced by Vinnie Paul. Near the end of this short and uneventful ride with the indie Metal Magic label, Lee departed and was replaced by the group's trademark vocalist Philip Anselmo.
Exchanging glitter for tattoos, Pantera scored their first success with "Cowboys From Hell" in '90 featuring Dimebag's vicious guitar attacks and Anselmo's blast furnace vocals. Having dialed in a winner, Pantera released "Vulgar Display of Power" ('92), "Far Beyond Driven" ('94), and "The Great Southern Trendkill" ('96).
The frayed edges started to show with the "Official Live" CD. The album has been called self-indulgent but that description fits just about every double live album. Worse, it failed to show, or missed, the key elements that made Pantera a devastating live act: the energy, power and drive. In '00 the group returned with "Reinventing The Steel."
As Anselmo become more involved in outside projects, including Superjoint Ritual, Dimebag and Vinnie Paul launched Damageplan. The group was initially successful but tragically Dimebag was shot to death during a club appearance in Columbus, OH, on December 8th, 2004.
Over a decade later, there was a downright nasty situation. Anselmo, now the frontman for Down, performed at Dimebash, a tribute to Dimebag.
Anselmo shouted "white power" and made the Nazi salute on stage. As a result, Down was pulled from the '16 Netherlands FortaRock amid much controversy and criticism. "Never in my entire lifetime would I drag them down with me, and I've privately suggested to them that they move on without me," stated Anselmo.
1983 Metal Magic
1984 Projects in the Jungle
1985 I Am The Night
1988 Power Metal
1990 Cowboys From Hell
1992 Vulgar Display Of Power
1994 Far Beyond Driven
1996 The Great Southern Trendkill
2000 Reinventing The Steel
For some, the ultimate Pantera CD is "Cowboys From Hell," others claim it's "Vulgar Display of Power." It's not an argument worth engaging in since anyone even mildly attracted to Thrash Metal should have both. "Cowboys" features the killer title track, "Domination" and "Primal Concrete Sledge." "Vulgar" contains "Walk." Next up are "Far Beyond Driven" and "The Great Southern Trendkill." On "Trendkill" there's "Suicide Note Pt. I & II." The lonely, acoustic intro morphs into a genuine Thrash Metal screamer.
"Reinventing The Steel" is a decent effort to re-capture the group's prime. The Pantera '80s recordings, "Metal Magic," "Projects In The Jungle," "I Am The Night" and "Power Metal" are out of print which isn't that great a loss.