The Top 20 Best Pantera Songs (Dimebag Memorial Write Off Part 5)
Apr 15, 2005 (Updated May 5, 2006)
Popular Products in MusicThe Bottom Line Pantera's done countless great songs, but in my opinion these twenty are the best of the best.
Pantera, one of the most revered and iconic metal bands of the 1990s and for good reason, as they are easily one of the best. A band that has survived trends and stuck to their guns, and not to mention seem to revive metal when it seemed to be dead, Pantera have been ripping and roaring throughout the '90s and even when they hit the early 2000s.
Pantera started in Texas in 1982 originally as a glam/hair metal band (!), and released three unsuccessful albums before getting Phil Anselmo to join them on vocals, and after releasing one final glam album in the late '80s, they totally changed their musical style to angry Southern-tinged thrash/speed metal. The band got their career in swing with the release of 1990's Cowboys From Hell, and with the release of their 1992 mega-hit Vulgar Display Of Power (which was really the album that developed their trademark sound), they established themselves as one of metal's key bands.
Mainstream-wise Pantera was not the most successful nor well-received band, with music critics often criticizing the band (like anyway really listens to them), the band not having much help from the mainstream media (not that they wanted it), and Anselmo himself endured quite a number of turbulent events throughout his life and career with the band (including nearly dying of a heroin overdose in 1996 when the band was touring in support of their 1996 album The Great Southern Trendkill, he was actually briefly pronounced dead). In spite of all this, the band thrived and kept metal kicking in an era with so much pop and mainstream music dominating the scene.
In this write off (which is the fifth and final chapter of my tribute to the late, great "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott), which is also my first music write off here on epinions, I will be listing my 20 favorite Pantera songs, as well as some honorable mentions, the best albums, and which band member did their best work on a certain album. Hope you don't have sensitive hearing, because these 20 songs will absolutely shred you apart.
My top 20 list is probably quite unconventional of most Pantera fans, but again this is a site where everyone on it can share their own personal opinion, even if it's not common. It should also be noted that from time to time I may update this list by changing the order slightly, so keep checking back.
Before we begin the countdown, let's examine the band themselves:
1. Phil Anselmo, Vocals - Pantera's famous frontman and one of metal's most brutal vocalists, Anselmo was a driving force for Pantera, not only helping the band to evolve from glam to thrash metal, but also helping them to establish their trademark Southern tone. Say what you will about Anselmo as a person (he's known for being quite arrogant when he isn't performing and has gained less-than-savory recognition for rather vulgar remarks about other bands and musicians, including some of his own, and Anselmo often would not inform fans of Pantera's status due to other projects he had), but while he may not be the most likeable human being around, let's get around that and see him as a singer: he's simply great. With an amazingly angry and unrelenting Southern snarl and raw energy that he channels into most of Pantera's songs, and even widening his range with some ballads where he really can sing with much emotion and affection sometimes, he's a real class-act of metal.
Best Work: The Great Southern Trendkill - His trademark angry Southern snarl never sounded better than on here, and on GSTK his vocals actually sound quite clear, with just the right balance of clarity and rawness to really give his vocals a punch. Plus on GSTK he has by far his best range, on ballads such as Floods and Suicide Note Part 1, and let's not forget his unadulterated anger on tracks like War Nerve, Suicide Note Part II, Living Through Me (Hell's Wraith), and the title track. While all of Phil's work with Pantera is highly impressive, GSTK by far has his best work.
2. "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott, Guitar - Formerly known as "Diamond" before he earned his legendary nickname on 1994's Far Beyond Driven, the late, great guitarist of Pantera was it's heart and soul and a true metal pioneer. His very distinct and recognizable guitar tone helped pave the way for the sounds of many metal artists throughout the 1990s and his influence is still very heavy in many modern metal bands in the 2000s. Dimebag created some of the coolest riffs and solos any band and musician has ever done, as well as creating some very moving and emotional work as well. Dimebag was also known not only for his incredible musical work but also as a very down-to-Earth and friendly person, and when Pantera was in it's darkest days he and his brother Vinnie Paul would inform the fans of what was going on when Phil wasn't. His tragic and senseless shooting death on December 8th, 2004 devastated Pantera fans and the metal community and even months later, is still unbelievable. Dimebag may be gone, but he'll never, ever be forgotten. May your soul rest, Dime.
Best Work: Cowboys From Hell - While all of Dimebag's work is jaw-dropping, I feel CFH has his best work overall, because it has the most range and variety and his work here is simply unbeatable. From the classic scratchy opening riff to the title track and it's galloping main riff, his ultra-thrashy and heavy solo on Heresy, moving and moody work on Cemetery Gates, warpspeed musical skills on Domination and Shattered, not to mention the rocking futuristic guitar riffs of Clash With Reality and creepy work on Medicine Man, Dimebag rips and roars on this album and takes no prisoners. CFH has some of the best guitar work I've ever had the pleasure of listening to.
3. Rex Brown, Bass - A truly underrated bass player, Rex was another major force of Pantera, adding a nice layer of polish to the band's sound but never overdoing anything. His bass was often quite dynamic and aggressive and helped give the band's already rageful sound an even meaner edge and tone. Not much seems to be known about Rex outside of his musicianship, but regardless, he's a great player and one of metal's true greats, right up there with Metallica's Cliff Burton (another great metal artist who's left us but who's work is not forgotten). Rex was a key player in giving Pantera their hard sound, and without him I don't think the band would've had nearly as much impact.
Best Work: Far Beyond Driven - Rex's work on this album simply blows the listener away. Just listen to his work on tracks like Becoming, 5 Minutes Alone, I'm Broken, Slaughtered, Shedding Skin, and Use My Third Arm, and his bass is already evident and very hard-hitting, adding that extra degree of rage and polish to the band's sound, and even on forgettable filler tracks like Good Friends And a Bottle Of Pills and Throes Of Rejection his bass can be felt - and felt hard.
4. Vinnie Paul, Drums - The older brother of Dimebag, Vinnie is easily one of the best drummers out there, incredibly aggressive and relentless and creating some wonderfully angry and catchy drum beats and rhythms that add the final layer of anger and polish to the band's sound. Another true innovator, Vinnie was a key factor in giving the band their trademark sound and without him I don't think Pantera's impact would've been half as hard. Along with Dimebag, Vinnie was known for being very friendly and helped to keep Pantera fans up to date during the band's break-up. I can't imagine the pain he must feel over his brother's death and he, his family and friends, and the rest of Pantera all have my deepest sympathies and best wishes.
Best Work: The Great Southern Trendkill - Vinnie's work on every Pantera album is terrific, but GSTK had arguably his finest work ever, creating some unbeliveably angry drum beats and even experimenting a bit with slower yet still very heavy beats. His tribal drumming on the title track, militaristic drums on War Nerve, and faster-than-fast rhythms on tracks on Suicide Note Part II and Living Through Me (Hell's Wraith) (not to mention a truly amazing drum solo on Suicide Note Part II in the middle of that song), Vinnie on GSTK will absolutely pound your audio senses to nothingness.
The Best Pantera Albums:
6. Vulgar Display Of Power (1992) - I know I'll catch some heat for this, but don't get me wrong, this is a great, great, great album, it just for me lacks the replayability and hook of Pantera's other studio albums, but that being said this is still a true landmark of metal. The album that helped give birth to the band's trademark angry Southern tone and also some of their biggest hits, including the one and only Walk, metal's first ever #1 single Mouth For War, rebellious anthem F**king Hostile, emotional ballads This Love and Hollow, and concert staple A New Level, not to mention helping keep metal at the top of it's game when pop and grunge almost killed metal, this was the perfect call-to-arms album for metalheads and is an absolute Pantera and metal classic.
Five Best Songs In Order: F**king Hostile, Mouth For War, Hollow, A New Level, No Good (Attack The Radical)
5. Reinventing The Steel (2000) - This truly underrated album helped to keep real metal thriving when so much nu-metal and pop/rap music dominated the music scene. Fusing the old-school thrash style of Cowboys From Hell with a Y2K touch, and featuring all four band members in top-form, this album helped rescue metal much like VDOP did nearly a decade before this album. Some songs on here are real gems, such as Hellbound, Godd*mn Electric, I'll Cast a Shadow, We'll Grind That Axe For a Long Time, as well as Uplift (despite the rather nu-metal esque lyrics which are really the album's only faults) and Death Rattle, as well as the hit Revolution Is My Name. Despite not having much originality nor variety, I can't help but like this album and re-listen to it over and over. Maybe it's the old-school '80s thrash influence, but regardless, this album rips and tears through the competition. A great final studio album.
Five Best Songs In Order: I'll Cast a Shadow, Hellbound, Godd*mn Electric, Uplift, We'll Grind That Axe For a Long Time
4. Official Live: 101 Proof (1997) - One of the best live albums ever made, combining material from Pantera's first four epic studio albums into one rageful and relentless live performance that'll pump you full of aggressive energy. Official Live: 101 Proof not only boasts some true Pantera classics like Cowboys From Hell, 5 Minutes Alone, I'm Broken, F**king Hostile, Cemetery Gates, Becoming, and Strength Beyond Strength, which all sound great live and have a new edge to them, it also has great production that's very clear yet also raw and has the crowd noise at a good level, loud enough to be audible but not so much so it drowns out the music, as the music is all loud and clear. Adding to 14 great songs that are awesome live, there are two exclusive studio tracks, Where You Come From and I Can't Hide, which are both superb and only make this great package even greater.
Five Best Songs In Order: Cowboys From Hell, 5 Minutes Alone, F**king Hostile, I'm Broken, Becoming
3. The Great Southern Trendkill (1996) - In 1996 pop music was everywhere and metal seemed to be a dying breed. Pantera changed all that with the release of The Great Southern Trendkill, arguably the band's heaviest and most intense album and with tons of Pantera classics, from the title track, War Nerve, Drag The Waters, Floods, Living Through Me (Hell's Wraith), and the classic two-part Suicide Note, with Part 1 being an incredibly emotional and depressing song and Part 2 being one of the angriest and most unforgiving songs ever recorded. Plus with both Phil & Vinnie at their best and the band's trademark Southern tone sounding better than ever, this album kills the trends and helps metal prevail.
Five Best Songs In Order: The Great Southern Trendkill, Suicide Note Part II, Suicide Note Part 1, Living Through Me (Hell's Wraith), Floods
2. Far Beyond Driven (1994) - Yet another masterpiece of Pantera's and the first metal album to hit the Billboard charts at #1 without any mainstream nor commercial help, this is a true essential of any Pantera collection. With tons of great Pantera songs, such as the one and only 5 Minutes Alone, as well as concert staples I'm Broken and Becoming, and other classic tracks like Strength Beyond Strength and underrated gems like Slaughtered and Shedding Skin, and a great cover of the Black Sabbath song Planet Caravan, this is one heavy and wild album that tears some serious holes. Plus Rex is arguably at his best here, his bass is just jaw-dropping on here.
Five Best Songs In Order: 5 Minutes Alone, I'm Broken, Becoming, Planet Caravan, Slaughtered
1. Cowboys From Hell (1990) - The one and only. Sure Pantera may have gotten their trademark sound on VDOP and may have had greater success throughout the '90s with albums like FBD, Phil's vocals may have improved greatly, and the band's sound heavier, but as it stands, Cowboys From Hell is still their crowning achievement. Sporting some unbeliveable guitar work from Dimebag that is arguably his best, and some fine work from Rex & Vinnie as well as Phil (who may be lacking his Southern snarl and may be quite high-pitched at times but is still very impressive on here), this is one of the most energetic and enjoyable albums you'll ever hear. With the famous title track (still one of the most awesome and exciting songs out there), plus the classic ballad Cemetery Gates, fan favorites like Primal Concrete Sledge, Psycho Holiday, Heresy, and Domination, as well as underrated gems like Shattered, Clash With Reality, and Medicine Man, this album is truly one of the all-time greats and still my favorite. Pantera will take over your senses with this metal masterpiece.
Five Best Songs In Order: Cowboys From Hell, Psycho Holiday, Clash With Reality, Cemetery Gates, Domination
And finally, the top 20 best Pantera songs:
20. I Can't Hide (Official Live: 101 Proof) - This piledriver of a track is one of Official Live's two exclusive studio tracks (the other being Where You Come From) and is amongst Pantera's most underrated tracks, with an incredibly fast main riff that's not only fast but also quite angry and despairful sounding, and Phil's vocals are full of despair. Plus there's a short but sweet solo and some fine bass and drum work on here. Truly an underrated gem.
19. Hole In The Sky (Far Beyond The Great Southern Cowboys Vulgar Hits) - This awesome cover of the Black Sabbath song on their greatest hits compilation (which has a very tacky and silly title IMO, why not just title it something like Greatest Hits From Hell?) sounds very true to the original version but at the same time Pantera puts their own stamp on it. Featuring a very catchy and upbeat bluesy main riff, great bluesy verses, and well-written lyrics about war-torn nations, this is a highly enjoyable song to listen to, and while it may just be a cover, what a great cover it is.
18. Godd*mn Electric (Reinventing The Steel) - This song was a big hit off RTS and for good reason, as it's a truly great track that boasts a grinding main riff, some mean vocals and cool bluesy choruses, and an incredible solo in the middle backed by great bass work. Plus the lyrics (about famous musicians who use their egos to make themselves out to be something their not) are very well-written and thoughtful.
17. Planet Caravan (Far Beyond Driven) - Another Black Sabbath cover, and another great one. I have yet to hear the original version, but I'm very impressed with this cover and it's gone on to become one of my favorite Pantera tracks, with some very nice and peaceful acoustic guitar work and a very nice vocal performance, plus fun yet emotional lyrics about traveling through the universe and a great set of bluesy guitar notes at the end. Considering how heavy and brutal most of Pantera's work is, this is a nice and welcome bit of variety.
16. Hellbound (Reinventing The Steel) - Reinventing The Steel gets off to a very strong start with this ripping track, starting off with a very cool distorted riff that sounds a lot like the opening riff to Cowboys From Hell, some moody guitar work that gets heavier as the song progresses, and some intense choruses and drum beats. While a short song it sure is a blast.
15. I'll Cast a Shadow (Reinventing The Steel) - The final track off RTS is also it's best, thanks to it's awesome main riff which is very heavy and grinding yet catchy, and also sports a series of neat little riffs throughout and some great bass work around the middle and end, as well as very catchy choruses. Pantera casts a long-lasting shadow with this track which already ranks amongst their best.
14. Domination (Cowboys From Hell) - This warpspeed thrasher was one of the biggest hits of CFH and rightfully so as it's truly one of Pantera's best and most exciting and pulse-pounding songs to listen to. Incredibly fast and unrelenting with some truly outstanding drumming from Vinnie Paul and an awesome set of riffs during the first half, and the second half full of heavy guitar and bass work with angry gutteral breathing, this track packs a punch and really makes you feel like you're a conquering warrior.
13. Floods (The Great Southern Trendkill) - This incredibly bleak and dark yet moody and moving ballad is one of Pantera's most famous and revered songs and deservedly so. Though long, it's amazingly eerie to listen to, with it's creepy yet relaxing acoustic main riff and lyrics about a massive apocalyptic flood that wipes out an entire village and it's population that are sung with haunting vocals by Phil, plus a GREAT guitar solo at the end that plays simultaneously with falling raindrops (as well as another great solo around the middle), this song is an essential Pantera classic.
12. Cemetery Gates (Cowboys From Hell) - The one and only classic ballad was one of CFH's biggest hits and remains a heavy favorite amongst fans. One of the most emotional and moving songs Pantera has ever done that boasts some eerie yet also quite tranquil acoustic guitar work, some great soloing, and a very heartfelt performance from Phil singing lyrics about suicide. This is one very haunting track, and also highly enjoyable and replayable. No "Best Of Pantera" list is complete without this.
11. Clash With Reality (Cowboys From Hell) - One of Pantera's most underrated and forgotten songs and one that sadly is not that well-received by fans, but I personally don't care, this song blew me away when I first heard it and it still remains a favorite of mine. With some very well-written lyrics about a man who clashes with law enforcement and has to bear the consequences of his actions, combining these lyrics with a solid vocal performance and some very good bass and drumming, but the real highlight is Dimebag's amazing guitar work which has a somewhat futuristic sound to it, but it's just awesome (just listen to the riff around the 00:54 mark, pure awesomeness). The main riff is quite good too with a nice grinding beat. An underrated masterpiece.
10. Psycho Holiday (Cowboys From Hell) - This track was another hit off CFH and though over the years it's been overshadowed by other Pantera songs, it's still revered amongst fans. Starting off with some heavy machine gun drumming and a grinding Southern main riff, as well as some fine bass and drumming and a great Southern solo in the middle that has a somewhat deranged touch to it, and Phil sounding like a madman (the lyrics are about a man who gets drunk and goes on a rampage). This classic song will make you want to go psychotic.
9. Suicide Note Part 1 (The Great Southern Trendkill) - Another incredible ballad and one that's bleak, dark, depressing, and moody yet also very heartfelt and soulful. The lyrics are pretty self-explanatory, about a suicidal man who's seriously on the verge of killing himself, and Phil really sings these lyrics with much soul. It helps that the song is backed by haunting and emotional acoustic guitar and keyboard work, and it's very moving to listen to.
8. Suicide Note Part II (The Great Southern Trendkill) - Suicide Note Part 1 is great, but doesn't fell truly complete without it's second part which is also it's total polar opposite. One of the angriest and most brutal tracks you'll ever hear, with an furiously fast main riff, an unbelieveable drum solo in the middle that really adds to the angry feel of the song, good bass, and great vocals from Phil who sounds incredibly angry and like he's really going to kill himself. I love both Suicide Notes but I personally prefer Part 2 as it always pumps me up.
7. Becoming (Far Beyond Driven) - This song was a hit off Far Beyond Driven and remains one of Pantera's very best as well as being a major concert staple. It has an incredibly heavy and grinding yet also very catchy main riff, a great solo in the middle as well as the main riff being performed on the bass, excellent drumming, and an outstanding vocal performance from Phil which is very clear yet also very raw and angry, plus some fun lyrics about a man who grows to be the most powerful who ever lived. This song will make you feel, as the chorus puts it, "God-sized".
6. Hollow (Vulgar Display Of Power) - In my opinion, this song is Pantera's best ballad, even surpassing Cemetery Gates and Suicide Note Part 1. The first half is incredibly emotional and depressing (about a man who loses his best friend to drug addiction), with wailing guitar work and a slow but steady drum beat, and Phil really putting a lot of his heart into the vocals. The first half of this track is a tear-jerker, but the second half really rips you apart once it explodes into a rage with Phil suddenly becoming angry and the music becoming very rageful and heavy. An excellent track and one that has even more meaning with the tragic passing of Dimebag.
5. I'm Broken (Far Beyond Driven) - A hit of FBD and one that was a massive concert staple, boasting an awesome Surf Rock-esque main riff that though angry in tone also sounds quite upbeat and a fine solo towards the end as well as great bass and drumming, and Phil giving a mean yet catchy vocal performance. The lyrics are about child abuse but despite the dark and disturbing lyrical theme, the song is quite upbeat with an angry tone, indicating the child overcoming his/her abuse and finding the courage to confront their abusers. The song's subject will disturb many but listening to this song will get you feeling tough and bulletproof and like you've overcome you're worst adversaries.
4. Mouth For War (Vulgar Display Of Power) - A major hit off VDOP and the first single to ever hit #1 on the metal charts, this remains one of Pantera's finest songs, with it's incredibly fast, heavy and grinding main riff which is also very catchy, a great vocal performance from Phil who sings about how much people who abuse freedom of speech and incite violence in other people, and a terrific end with the tempo changing speed and the drums picking up some serious speed. This song simply shreds.
3. F**king Hostile (Vulgar Display Of Power) - This rebellious song became an instant hit and concert staple and still remains a very popular Pantera track. Though a short song, it's quite a ride, with it's inhumanly fast speed and uber-aggressive drumming and Phil screaming and shouting like never before. While the lyrical subject may seem nu-metal esque to some, the lyrics are actually genuine, easy to relate to and not forced; forget Slipknot and Papa Roach, this is real angst metal. Still one of Pantera's angriest yet also most fun songs.
2. 5 Minutes Alone (Far Beyond Driven) - A total Pantera classic that is amongst the band's most famous tracks. It has IMO the best main riff of any Pantera song, extremely heavy and angry-sounding, yet also highly catchy, some wonderfully heavy and steady drumming and solid bass work, plus one of Phil's best vocal performances, he sounds angry and rageful as always and singing in a growling matter that's actually quite understandable but also very raw. This is one angry, mean, and pounding track that's a masterpiece and one of Pantera's absolute best ever, and it'll make you feel invincible.
And number one is *drum roll*...
1. Cowboys From Hell (Cowboys From Hell) - The one and only. Pantera has done classic song after classic song throughout their highly memorable and commendable career, but this (for me anyway) is the best of the best. Starting with a very cool distorted guitar riff that's brief but amazingly catchy, before exploding into a Wild West-style main riff and with a great Western solo in the middle, combined with solid bass and drumming and a great vocal performance from Phil, as well as fun lyrics about Western outlaws terrorizing a Western town. This song still remains, to me, Pantera's most fun, enjoyable, and engaging song, and it has everything I love in a good metal song: good lyrics, great musical work, a very memorable vocal performance, and with tons of replayability. A song Jesse James would've probably had as his theme song had it been around during his time, this remains one of the coolest metal songs of all-time and the crown jewel of Pantera's work. I cannot praise and enjoy this song enough.
Cowboys From Hell
Vulgar Display Of Power
-A New Level
-No Good (Attack The Radical)
-Live In a Hole
-Regular People (Conceit)
-By Demons Be Driven
Far Beyond Driven
The Great Southern Trendkill
-Drag The Waters
-Living Through Me (Hell's Wraith)
Reinventing The Steel
-Yesterday Don't Mean S**t
-You've Got To Belong To It
-We'll Grind That Axe For a Long Time
Here's to hoping all who've read this enjoyed this write off. I spent a long time writing this but enjoyed it greatly. I know not everyone will agree with my choices and some will probably even balk at me (no Walk amongst the top 20?!), but remember: this is only an individual opinion and doesn't represent what you or others believe, only myself. I just hope you've all enjoyed this write off as much as I liked writing it. It's been fun (and time-consuming) writing all these Pantera reviews.
Rest in peace Dimebag, your legacy is forever.
Dimebag Darrell Abbott
August 20th, 1966 - December 8th, 2004