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“The thing about us is that we always stayed on the ground level with the fans,” proclaims Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell in his proud Texas twang. “We never rode above the fans вЂ" I’m a fuckin’ fan myself вЂ" and we always had great interaction with them. They’re us, we’re them, we’re all for one and stronger than all.”

Of course, it took the Dallas-based Pantera time to find their groove, shape their sound, and harness the right mix of combustible personalities. The band emerged in the early Eighties, when drummer Vinnie Paul and his guitarist brother Dimebag Darrell put Pantera together with bassist Rex Brown and vocalist T Lee. After three self-released albums, it was clear that a remarkably different heavier sound was evolving. Enter new frontman and New Orleans native Philip Anselmo, , on a fourth independant release. The collaboration with the heavy trio and explosive singer was about to set the stage for a harder, more damaging, trademark Pantera.

After being turned down “twenty-eight times by every major label on the face of the earth,” an Atco Records A&R rep named Mark Ross saw the band when Hurricane Hugo stranded him in Texas. The long-sought record deal finally arrived, and with it, Pantera’s “official” 1990 debut, titled Cowboys From Hell. Co-produced by the band and Terry Date (Max Norman turned the project down in favor of Lynch Mob), Cowboys From Hell took Pantera’s evolution to the next level. Darrell’s chugging, jagged guitars, Vinnie’s machine-gun, darting drums, and Philip’s collection of harsh screams, clenched-fist roars, and eerie melodies, all fused together into a sound they called “power groove.”

“Cowboys is where everybody came into their own, along with the full-blown Pantera sound,” says Vinnie. “That was actually the first song we wrote for the record. Basically it was about us coming out of Texas and being out of place. People don’t think of Texas as being a hot spot for heavy metal, they think of New York or L.A. or something like that, so it just seemed like an obvious concept for us.”

Cowboys From Hell spawned several other unquestionable classics, including the moody, morbid epic, “Cemetery Gates.” “We’ve always done a bunch of musically diverse things,” says Dime. “I’m a big fan of King’s X and bands like that. I was just showing a broader side of the band, the more melodic stuff we can do.”

Months of solid touring molded the band into an even more lethal live act than they had been before, and two years



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