Yell! Magazine’s Holy Trinity Series: Three Iconic Pantera Albums


Credit: Anton Crowley

Twenty years ago, Vulgar Display of Power debuted on Billboard Top 200 at Number 44. The 20th anniversary edition of the album hit Number 48. Here’s our tribute.

Christian doctrine teaches that God exists in three beings (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), creating a trinity otherwise known as “Godhead.” Basically, all are one and none exist without the other. This is somewhat the basis for Yell! Magazine’s Holy Trinity series. What we present here are three elements from a particular medium and/or genre (be it three albums from a band, a musical genre, a film director, a genre or sub-genre of film, video game franchise or developer/publisher, etc.) that must be owned, heard, viewed, or played in order for a “fan” to achieve completion. For example, if someone is a heavy metal fan, their album collection is incomplete without the eponymous Paranoid, from Black Sabbath. However, owning the latest Justin Bieber album trumps everything, making you a true fan of everything and the messiah.

Holy Trinity: Pantera

For the casual fan, it would be easy to assume that Pantera rode onto the scene and found instant success with Cowboys from Hell – no dues paid, no hard-fought battles, no dirty clubs or playing to the man. In fact, it may look like they took Easy Street, being groomed for the big stage since day one, like Nickelback or some other generic-sounding corporate rock band. That casual fan couldn’t be further from the truth.

Pantera ripped through the ‘80s as a power/glam metal band honing their skills while emulating their inspiring heroes, such as Eddie Van Halen. (Bonus trivia for reading this: Dimebag Darrell is buried with the EVH guitar that appeared on the cover of Women and Children First.)

Pantera – All Over Tonight

As important as the first four albums were to Pantera’s sound evolution, each one becoming progressively heavier and further away from glam metal than the last, it wasn’t until Phil Anselmo joined for the fourth album that the future of these would-be metal icons was reconciled. For the most part, these first four Pantera albums are unknown, which is by no accident; just like when you get hammered at a house party in college and screw the fat, ugly, and abrasive chick with self-esteem issues, Pantera has put these four secrets in a locked box under the bed.


It wasn’t until the pre-grunge year of 1990 that all that hard work, weed, whiskey, spandex, and embarrassing sex paid off with a definitive shift in their focus as a band.

Enter the first album on our Pantera Holy Trinity:

Cowboys From Hell (1990)

Pantera-Cowboys-From-Hell With the band’s near denial and the general fan’s ignorance of the first four albums, and the hard-core fan’s nonacceptance that these heavy metal legends could be anything but, Cowboys From Hell is widely considered Pantera’s official debut. The album is nowhere near a masterpiece with roughly half the songs still in the vein of power metal and Phil still delivering some vocals like a NWOBHM singer, but it definitely showed Pantera’s intention.

The other half of the album delivers sludgy riffs, heavy grooves, and the aggressive vocals that would be seen on subsequent albums and that Pantera became known for. A number of the tracks, such as “Cowboys from Hell,” “Cemetery Gates,” and “Domination” became concert staples until the end.

Can you guess what the other two albums are on our Pantera Holy Trinity list?

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