Cowboys from Hell

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This article is about the album. For the title track of the album, see Cowboys from Hell (song). For the home-video, see Cowboys from Hell: The Videos.
Cowboys from Hell
Studio album by Pantera
Released July 24, 1990 (1990-07-24)
Recorded 1989 at Pantego Sound Studio in Pantego, Texas
Genre Groove metal, thrash metal, heavy metal
Length 57:39
Label Atco
Producer Terry Date
Pantera chronology
Power Metal
Cowboys from Hell
Vulgar Display of Power
Singles from Cowboys from Hell
  1. "Cowboys from Hell"
    Released: 1990
  2. "Cemetery Gates"
    Released: 1990
  3. "Psycho Holiday"
    Released: 1990

Cowboys from Hell is the fifth studio album by American heavy metal band Pantera, released on July 24, 1990 through Atco Records.[1] It was the band's first commercially successful album, exposing their groove metal style to mainstream audiences. Cowboys from Hell is seen as Pantera's "official" debut by most fans, as well as the band itself as they left behind their glam metal past and began to focus on groove metal. After its release, a logo for the band was made featuring the letters 'CFH' (the abbreviation of the album title) in a circular design.

Writing and recording[edit]

After being turned down "28 times by every major label on the face of the Earth", Atco Records representative Mark Ross was asked by his boss, Derek Shulman (who was interested in signing them), to see the band perform after Hurricane Hugo stranded him in Texas. Ross was so impressed by the band's performance that he called his boss that night, suggesting that Pantera be signed to the label.

Ross on the performance:

"By the end of the first song, my jaw was on the floor. The sonic power of it all — the attitude and the musicianship — blew me away. Basically, you had to be an idiot to not think they're amazing. I mean, how could you see these guys and not think, Holy shit!?"[2]

Atco Records accepted, and at the close of 1989, the band began writing and recording its major label debut at Pantego Sound Studio. The band adopted a new sound and attitude, and the writing of what would become Cowboys from Hell saw the band exploring darker subject matters, while the guitar would be notably heavier, despite occasionally reverting to the hair metal formula. The band recorded Cowboys from Hell: The Demos, a self-produced demo album which featured 11 tracks, 10 of which would make the album cut. The last two tracks to be written were "Clash With Reality" and "Primal Concrete Sledge", while a song entitled "The Will to Survive" would be discarded early in the recording sessions.

Recording took place in Pantego, Texas at the Pantego Sound Studio and the band were feeling confident about their material and themselves, finally feeling that they were making the kind of album they believed in. One key track to emerge during the writing was "Cemetery Gates", a seven-minute power ballad that would be the first song to show both their diversity and Anselmo’s vocal range. Although they had already recorded four albums prior to Cowboys from Hell, Pantera felt that this was their true debut, working with a professional producer and a major label for the first time and creating music that was not simply stealing from other similar bands in an attempt to attract attention.[3]

Cover art[edit]

The cover art depicts the band in a quaint western saloon. Dimebag Darrell is pictured in the center playing guitar, while Vinnie Paul is to his left counting money, Rex Brown is leaning against the countertop and Phil Anselmo is shown jumping in the air to Brown's right. Anselmo states that he jumped off a bar stool to get high up in the air. He also said that it took him about ten takes until the cameramen got the shot into the desired style.[4]

Release, reception and legacy[edit]

Commercial performance[edit]

The album was released on July 24, 1990 and was available on tape, CD, vinyl and a Limited Edition version (same album but in a long box). The album would become the band's breakthrough record as it became their first album to chart in 1992, reaching #27 on the Billboard Music Charts Top Heatseekers. In March 1995 the album entered the Swedish Charts for one week managing to peak at #46. The album has since gone on to attain both Gold (500,000 units) and Platinum (1,000,000 units) certifications in the U.S. as well as Gold status in the U.K. for sales of 100,000.[5]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating 4.5/5 stars[6]
AllMusic 4/5 stars[7]
BBC Music favorable[8]
The Daily Vault C+[9]
Exclaim! favorable[10]
Record Collector 4/5 stars[11]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 3.5/5 stars[12]

The album has been praised by most critics as it would prove to be one of the most influential albums in the metal scene in the 1990s and of all time, and would inspire a generation of musicians, particularly guitarists. IGN named Cowboys from Hell the 19th most influential heavy metal album of all-time.[13]

They said about the album:

"Along with Vulgar Display of Power, Pantera's fifth album is not only considered one of the band's best, but is also one of the defining albums of early '90s metal. The band's chemistry really begins to gel with collective symmetry here, as a pre-Dimebag Darrell (he was known as Diamond Darrell back then) rips the strings of his axe like a rabid weasel, frontman Phil Anselmo following in kind with chaotic vocal utterances, and the rhythm section of Vinnie Paul and Rex Brown keeping the rhythms in check and the whole mess glued together with low end prowess."

AllMusic says about the album:

"Pantera's breakthrough album, Cowboys from Hell, is largely driven by the band's powerful rhythm section and guitarist Diamond Darrell(s) unbelievably forceful riffing, which skittered around the downbeats to produce unexpected rhythmic phrases and accents, as well as his inventive soloing."


On September 14, 2010[14] a 20th anniversary edition was released with a remastered mix from the original analog recordings. The expanded edition features a bonus CD of previously unreleased live recordings and the Alive and Hostile E.P. The deluxe edition features an additional third CD[15][16] with the previously unreleased demo track "The Will to Survive" (parts of the song were later used in the song "This Love" from Vulgar Display of Power) along with demo versions of ten songs from the original album.[17]

The third disc of the deluxe set, Cowboys from Hell: The Demos, was released as a separate limited edition vinyl LP at the same time.[15] It was exclusively available at Metal Club record stores.[14][16] The 2010 reissue of the album managed to reach #117 on the Billboard 200 and #8 on Catalog Albums, selling 4,200.[18][19]


The album was ranked #11 on the October 2006 issue of Guitar World magazine's list of the greatest 100 guitar albums of all time.[20] It was ranked the #85 best heavy metal album of all time by[21] IGN named Cowboys from Hell the 19th most influential heavy metal album of all-time. .


Pantera toured alongside thrash acts Exodus and Suicidal Tendencies. In 1991, Rob Halford performed with the band onstage, which led Pantera to open for Judas Priest on its first show in Europe. The band eventually landed a billing for "Monsters in Moscow" with AC/DC, Metallica and The Black Crowes in September 1991, where they played to a crowd of over 500,000 in celebration of the new freedom of performing Western music in the former Soviet Union shortly before its collapse three months later.


  • Spanish thrash metal band Angelus Apatrida also covered "Domination" on their album Evil Unleashed.
  • Texas band Pissing Razors covered "Domination" for a compilation CD.
  • UK thrash band Evile covered "Cemetery Gates" for Metal Hammer's Dimebag tribute CD.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Pantera. 

No. Title Length
1. "Cowboys from Hell"   4:07
2. "Primal Concrete Sledge"   2:13
3. "Psycho Holiday"   5:19
4. "Heresy"   4:46
5. "Cemetery Gates"   7:02
6. "Domination"   5:04
7. "Shattered"   3:21
8. "Clash with Reality"   5:16
9. "Medicine Man"   5:14
10. "Message in Blood"   5:10
11. "The Sleep"   5:47
12. "The Art of Shredding"   4:20
Total length:

Disc 2: Expanded Edition bonus CD[edit]

Live: Foundations Forum (1990)
No. Title Length
1. "Domination" (Live at Foundations Forum, 1990) 4:55
2. "Psycho Holiday" (Live at Foundations Forum, 1990) 5:25
3. "The Art of Shredding" (Live at Foundations Forum, 1990) 5:47
4. "Cowboys from Hell" (Live at Foundations Forum, 1990) 5:01
5. "Cemetery Gates" (Live at Foundations Forum, 1990) 7:05
6. "Primal Concrete Sledge" (Live at Foundations Forum, 1990) 3:51
7. "Heresy" (Live at Foundations Forum, 1990) 5:12
Alive and Hostile EP
No. Title Length
8. "Domination" (Live at Monsters In Moscow, 1991) 7:05
9. "Primal Concrete Sledge" (Live at Monsters In Moscow, 1991) 3:17
10. "Cowboys from Hell" (Live at Monsters In Moscow, 1991) 4:16
11. "Heresy" (Live at Monsters In Moscow, 1991) 4:59
12. "Psycho Holiday" (Live at Monsters In Moscow, 1991) 5:50
Total length:

Disc 3: Cowboys from Hell: The Demos[edit]

Only available on the 'Deluxe' and 'Ultimate' editions of the album[14][16]

No. Title Length
1. "The Will to Survive"   4:14
2. "Shattered" (demo) 4:47
3. "Cowboys from Hell" (demo) 7:03
4. "Heresy" (demo) 4:42
5. "Cemetery Gates" (demo) 5:19
6. "Psycho Holiday" (demo) 5:09
7. "Medicine Man" (demo) 4:52
8. "Message in Blood" (demo) 4:57
9. "Domination" (demo) 4:45
10. "The Sleep" (demo) 6:15
11. "The Art of Shredding" (demo) 4:11
Total length:

Cowboys from Hell: The Demos[edit]

The album contains all the necessary demos for the final recording of their major label debut, Cowboys from Hell. The track listing in the demo differs from the album version. The intro track on the demo does not appear on the final album version, though it has been used as an intro song for many Pantera shows worldwide. The album version also contains the songs "Primal Concrete Sledge" and "Clash with Reality", which do not appear on this demo. Another important note is that the demo has been classed as self produced in the section marked label.

The demos were released on the band's 20th anniversary edition of their major label debut. The demos of the deluxe version, however, feature the same tracklist as the original demos, although the "Intro" has been replaced by a previously unreleased track, "The Will To Survive", that was written during the same sessions but resembles a sound closer to their previous album effort Power Metal (1988) than the groove metal sound evident on the other demos. The demos were re-released on Black Friday 2010 and were limited to 3,000 180-gram pressings, with the vinyl including the custom cover and demos of the original tracks, as well as the previously unreleased demo cut, “The Will To Survive”.[22]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Pantera. 

No. Title Length
1. "Intro"   1:33
2. "Shattered"   3:28
3. "Cowboys from Hell"   4:18
4. "Heresy"   4:51
5. "Cemetery Gates"   5:35
6. "Psycho Holiday"   5:24
7. "Medicine Man"   5:08
8. "Message In Blood"   5:06
9. "Domination"   5:00
10. "The Sleep"   6:01
11. "Art of Shredding"   4:24
Total length:

NOTE: Demos of the album's tracks were also released in 2010, in the 20th anniversary edition of Cowboys from Hell, but with a different tracklisting.


Technical personnel

Charts and certifications[edit]

Charts (Album)
Year Chart Peak
1992 Top Heatseekers 27
1995 Swedish Albums Chart[23] 46
2010 Billboard 200[24] 117
Catalog Albums Chart[24] 8
Country Certification Date Sales certified
U.S.[25] Gold September 14, 1993 500,000
U.S.[25] Platinum July 16, 1997 1,000,000
U.K.[26] Silver September 1, 2006 60,000
U.K.[26] Gold September 1, 2006 100,000


  • Philip Anselmo has the "CFH" logo tattooed on the side of his head with a ring of barbed wire surrounding it. The late Dimebag Darrell also had the "CFH" logo tattooed on his shoulder.


  1. ^ "". Retrieved 30 May 2013. 
  2. ^ BLABBERMOUTH.NET - PANTERA: 'Cowboys From Hell: The Demos' To Be Released On Limited-Edition Vinyl
  3. ^ MAKING OF THE ALBUM: Pantera - Cowboys from Hell |
  4. ^ Pantera's Cowboys From Hell Turns 20: An Interview with Philip Anselmo | News | Down
  5. ^
  6. ^ Bowar, Chad. "Pantera - 'Cowboys From Hell' 20th Anniversary Edition". Retrieved 2012-08-14. 
  7. ^ Rivadavia, Eduardo. "Cowboys from Hell - Pantera". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-02-28. 
  8. ^ Moffitt, Greg (2010-09-01). "Cowboys from Hell - Pantera Review". BBC Music. Retrieved 2012-02-28. 
  9. ^ Thelen, Christopher (1998-09-01). "Cowboys from Hell - Pantera". The Daily Vault. Retrieved 2012-02-28. 
  10. ^ Carman, Keith. "Pantera - Cowboys From Hell 20th Anniversary Edition". Exclaim!. Retrieved 2012-08-14. 
  11. ^ "Pantera - Cowboys from Hell CD Album". CD Universe. Retrieved 2012-12-23. 
  12. ^ Brackett, Nathan; Christian Hoard (2004). The Rolling Stone Album Guide. New York City, New York: Simon and Schuster. p. 615. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. 
  13. ^ IGN: Top 25 Metal Albums
  14. ^ a b c "PANTERA: 'Cowboys From Hell: The Demos' To Be Released On Limited-Edition Vinyl - Nov. 11, 2010". Retrieved 2011-01-17. 
  15. ^ a b "Pantera reissue Cowboys from Hell: The Demos for Black Friday". Consequences of Retrieved 2011-01-17. 
  16. ^ a b c "PANTERA ‘Cowboys From Hell: The Demos’ To Be Released On Limited-Edition Vinyl". Retrieved 2011-01-17. 
  17. ^ Pantera's Cowboys From Hell To Receive Deluxe, 20th Anniversary Edition Re-Issue - Dallas Music - DC9 At Night
  18. ^ BLABBERMOUTH.NET - PANTERA: 20th-Anniversary Reissue Of 'Cowboys From Hell' Lands On BILLBOARD Chart
  19. ^
  20. ^ BROADCAST NEWS Discussion
  21. ^ "The Top 100 Heavy Metal Albums". 
  22. ^ Staples, Derek (November 26th, 2010). "Pantera reissue Cowboys from Hell: The Demos for Black Friday". Consequence of Sound.
  23. ^ "Pantera - Cowboys From Hell". 
  24. ^ a b "Cowboys from Hell - Pantera". Billboard. 
  25. ^ a b U.S. certifications (Retrieved December 22, 2009)
  26. ^ a b