It's a big year for Pantera: the 30th anniversary of their major-label debut, Cowboys From Hell, and the 20th of their swan song, Reinventing the Steel. The dual milestones inspired us to put the Texas metal firebrands on not one but five of the limited-edition covers of our new Spring 2020 Issue. It also inspired us to ask you the fans to take on the daunting task of picking Pantera's single greatest song. With a catalog this packed with classics, there were sure to be some surprises in the poll results, and you guys did not disappoint. For one, the band's best-known song, "Walk," didn't even make the top five. What did? See below.
This Far Beyond Driven standout features an immediately gripping and recognizable riff that even Rage Against the Machine's guitar wizard Tom Morello wishes that he wrote, and one of the most perfect and badass music videos ever: Pantera jamming out in a small room, the camera circling around them, capturing a great band at their greatest, stripped down and throwing down like no other.
Eerie, nihilistic and haunting, The Great Southern Trendkill's stunning ninth cut shows Pantera exploring new shades and corners of their sound — and Philip Anselmo getting as dark as he ever has, calling for the apocalypse to wipe out humanity for all its evil. But it's Dimebag Darrell's solo that lands the song here — arguably his most genius solo in a career packed with excellence, it dates back to the late 1980s and nods to his heroes, foremost among them, Randy Rhoads, while still sounding like only one player: the immortal Dime himself.
It was the last song written for Pantera's major-label debut, Cowboys From Hell, and it's the one that provides the clearest link to their follow-up and magnum opus, Vulgar Display of Power — "power groove" in its gnarly incipient form. "Vinnie just hammered this pattern out, and each one of the drums was tuned differently. So we tried to figure out what to play over it," Rex Brown told us in 2014. "[The song] just flew out of the fucking seat of our pants. It was groundbreaking." Indeed.
You could easily fill all five spots here with songs off Vulgar Display of Power and no one would have any right to complain. You guys picked the album's opener to serve as its representative, a somewhat surprising cut to top better-known and more iconic slabs such as "Walk," "A New Level" and "Fucking Hostile." Still, "Mouth for War" is an undeniable ripper. Lyrically inspired by then-middleweight champion boxer James "Lights Out" Toney, it's about channeling your hate into something productive — which Pantera did again and again.
"The first half of the song is very classic heavy metal," Anselmo recently told us of Cowboys From Hell's mosh-driving fan favorite "Domination." "But the ending breakdown, we have to give full credit to Slayer and Reign In Blood." Thank you, Slayer. But most of all, thank you, Pantera. It's that breakdown that clearly catapulted this classic cut to the top spot in this poll. One of the most impossible-not-to-headbang-to moments in musical history, the only thing heavier is when Pantera played it live and mashed it up with the outro to Vulgar's "Hollow" for a breakdown one-two punch that would leave even the most pit-tested of us whip-lashed, exhausted and exhilarated.