Pantera - Cowboys From Hell
Album Comparisons: Cowboys From Hell
Cowboys From Hell is not Pantera's first album, despite what these (mostly) DFW area natives would have you believe. As any Google or Wikipedia search will reveal, Cowboys was preceded by a total of four independently released albums dating back to the early 1980s, most of them done in a glam metal style with big '80s hair and prominently featured synthesizers. It wasn't until their fourth release, Power Metal, and the addition of new vocalist and Louisiana native Phil Anselmo, that the band's style moved confidently in the direction of the overdriven groove metal for which they are now well known. Since signing with a major label and issuing this 1990 heavy metal classic, the band has worked to close the doors on their previous hair metal and spandex existence, declining to discuss or acknowledge their earlier efforts which nevertheless live on as bootlegs, with actual authentic original copies now commanding premium prices in the second hand market. In 2010, a deluxe, remastered version of this retroactively designated "debut" album was released in celebration of its 20th anniversary. How does it compare to the original 1990 release?

Cowboys From Hell

Original 1990 CD release

Cowboys From Hell

2010 Rhino/Atco 20th anniversary remaster

Cowboys From Hell

Primal Concrete Sledge

Original 1990 CD release

Primal Concrete Sledge

2010 Rhino/Atco 20th anniversary remaster

Primal Concrete Sledge

Psycho Holiday

Original 1990 CD release

Psycho Holiday

2010 Rhino/Atco 20th anniversary remaster

Psycho Holiday

Heresy

Original 1990 CD release

Heresy

2010 Rhino/Atco 20th anniversary remaster

Heresy

Cemetery Gates

Original 1990 CD release

Cemetery Gates

2010 Rhino/Atco 20th anniversary remaster

Cemetery Gates

Domination

Original 1990 CD release

Domination

2010 Rhino/Atco 20th anniversary remaster

Domination

Shattered

Original 1990 CD release

Shattered

2010 Rhino/Atco 20th anniversary remaster

Shattered

Clash With Reality

Original 1990 CD release

Clash With Reality

2010 Rhino/Atco 20th anniversary remaster

Clash With Reality

Medicine Man

Original 1990 CD release

Medicine Man

2010 Rhino/Atco 20th anniversary remaster

Medicine Man

Message in Blood

Original 1990 CD release

Message in Blood

2010 Rhino/Atco 20th anniversary remaster

Message in Blood

The Sleep

Original 1990 CD release

The Sleep

2010 Rhino/Atco 20th anniversary remaster

The Sleep

The Art of Shredding

Original 1990 CD release

The Art of Shredding

2010 Rhino/Atco 20th anniversary remaster

The Art of Shredding
And the winner is: Original 1990 CD release. The levels on the remaster are utterly ridiculous. I find the fact that this was issued by Rhino - a company which has spent decades building a reputation for high quality re-releases of vintage material - to be deeply troubling and a worrying harbinger of possible things to come. Cowboys From Hell is a prime example of an album that didn't need to be remastered. The original still sounds great today, and lacks the added compression of the anniversary release.