Thursday, March 6, 2014

Pantera, "Cowboys from Hell"

"I love heavy metal. Are you serious? I fucking love it," indie-pop songwriter St. Vincent recently told an interviewer while promoting her new album. "I love Pantera. I fucking love Dimebag Darrell, love his guitar playing. There’s a song on the record called 'Bring Me Your Loves,' that--I probably shouldn’t reveal it--but I was listening to a lot of Turkish folk music and Pantera, and there’s a riff in there that is a little tip of the hat to 'Cowboys From Hell.'"

It's a riff that would stand out anywhere, even when a dynamic artist re-imagines it as much as St. Vincent does. As much as I enjoy the exclusivity of metal, sharing a cult brother/sisterhood with a community that enjoys music at its most extreme, I'm even more awestruck by how far it can reach. For all the brutality of "Cowboys from Hell," there's no denying that Pantera could write a killer melody.

Not since the days of the World's Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band had a musical group treated themselves to such a badass honorific nickname and earned it on record. "Cowboys from Hell" must've blown every mind it touched in 1990--the conventional hard rock of Pantera's self-released '80s records had vanished. They weren't even calling it "thrash metal," or "extreme metal." This was just Metal all the way through, purer and heavier than the rest. It took years for most of the world to catch up, which is why nobody gives "Cowboys from Hell" credit for stomping hair metal out of the mainstream a year before Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Metallica. But in any context Pantera stands tall. Nobody touches them at all.

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