Cowboys From Hell by Pantera may be my favorite album ever. It has always sounded magical, fresh and strange, both when I heard it in 2012, today in 2024, and back in 1990 when it was released. Everyone knows about the songs Domination, Cowboys From Hell and Cemetery Gates, but it's the less known songs like Psycho Holiday, Clash with Reality and Message in Blood that make the album what it is. They sound unlike all other Pantera songs and all other songs in general, in the rhythm, in the composition, in everything. They don't sound like the later 90s "groove metal" Pantera we all know, and they don't sound like remains from the earlier 80s "glam(?)" metal Pantera either. They're just some stuff that happened 1990 and got recorded on this album, and because of this they're probably the most "Cowboys From Hell":y songs on the album, even if people think about the title track and "Domination" before they think of these. "Domination" is what Pantera wanted to sound like and what they eventually evolved into, it's one of those definitive Pantera songs, but that's also why I love the other more unclear songs that don't fit into the narrative timeline. "Vulgar Display of Power" - the album Pantera released after Cowboys From Hell - is amazing, but it's also so focused that you can explain it in one sentence, which you can't with Cowboys From Hell. Cowboys From Hell is a chaos of styles and ideas, mixed in a way that could never have been planned for on a record label meeting. It feels like Pantera themselves maybe didn't understand what they tried to do on this album. On Vulgar Display of Power everything just fits, and you immediately hear what they're going for: Hardhitting high-octane beer-ooze:ing (etc, etc) heavy metal hits, with no unnecessary riffs or any other bullshit in between. But on Cowboys From Hell so many things feel out of place. But since nothing is "in place" either, it feels right.
Some parts of the album sound like their old 80s metal style, and other parts sound like their super-heavy 90s metal style, and on some places, like on Message in Blood and Clash with Reality, it sounds like it only does on Cowboys From Hell. But most of all it sounds like all these styles at the same time throughout the whole album, and this is why I'm still obsessed with this album all these years later: Because I don't understand it.
Maybe I'm getting too philosophical here (if that's even possible on kbrecordzz.com??). It's an album that sounds good, enough said. Maybe there's no point trying to explain what this album is by writing about it, maybe it's better to consume it yourself by taking in the combination of the album cover's colors, the band's treble:y 80s-like sound, Phil Anselmo's mix of vocal styles and the super messy AND super focused songwriting, and see if you also get obsessed with Cowboys From Hell for the next 10 years.