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As one of the greatest metal bands of all time, Pantera have an abundance of killer cuts, fan favorites and stone-cold classics. You know all the obvious set-list jams: "Walk," "This Love," "Cowboys From Hell," "I'm Broken," "Domination," et cetera. (In case you need a refresher, read our examination of Pantera's 25 best songs here.)
But dig just a little deeper and you'll find early bangers from their pre–major label days, overlooked soundtrack one-offs and a grip of unheralded rippers from their biggest albums. The 10 tracks below are Pantera at their most criminally underrated.
As the first song on Philip Anselmo's first album with Pantera, "Rock the World" marked the dawn of a new era for the Texas titans. After three previous records with singer Terry Glaze, Rex "Rocker" Brown and the Abbott brothers, Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul, and were ready to go nationwide with their new vocalist and 1988's Power Metal. "Rock the World" is the anthem that announced that intent. And though the track has much more in common with mid-Eighties Judas Priest than anything Pantera would do in the Nineties, it's still an undeniable ripper.
When seasoned headbangers and devoted guitar nerds first heard Dimebag's serrated-edge intro to "Heresy," they knew that a unique new talent had hit the national stage. When they heard his maniacal harmonizer solo kick in at 3:13, they witnessed the birth of a new guitar god. As with other songs on Cowboys From Hell, Anselmo occasionally invokes his best Rob Halford impression — it's a good one — but this underdog cut is all about Dime. (Still, we gotta give Phil some bonus points for his exhortation to "Lick my sack!")
In their self-professed quest "to make the heaviest record of all time," Pantera stuffed Vulgar Display of Power with wall-to-wall bangers. While confrontational tracks like "Mouth for War" and "Walk" haunted Headbangers Ball, "Regular People (Conceit)" expressed a similar sentiment without the benefit of a music video. Propelled by Dime's stutter-step gallop and Phil's warning to would-be-haters — "Don't fuck with this!" — the song remains one of the band's unheralded masterpieces.
"A fake god rests dead inside you," Anselmo announces on this screed against organized religion from Far Beyond Driven. Between our man's heavily distorted vocals, Dime's dizzying hammer-smash-face riffery and the downright Voivod-ian bridge, "Slaughtered" offers a preview of the caustic blitzkrieg to come on The Great Southern Trendkill.
Possibly the most hypnotic song in Pantera's entire catalog, "10's" is also one of the few Pantera tracks that — minus Dime's deliriously woozy solo — wouldn't sound out of place on a Down record. Which makes sense chronologically, seeing as how Down's debut, NOLA, was released less than a year before The Great Southern Trendkill. You can hear the similarity in Dime's doomed-out riffs and Anselmo's delivery, which recalls parts of NOLA's "Rehab" and "Bury Me in Smoke." Part power dirge, part acoustic ballad, "10's" is as unique as it is underappreciated.
Another parenthetical song title, another monster Trendkill deep cut. Dime's galloping riff is almost a Cowboys throwback, but Phil's menacing roll call of "swollen hole, empty bag" and "oral lust, alley fuck" pulls back the sordid curtain on the junkie crawl he'd fallen into by the mid-Nineties. By turns intoxicating and excoriating, "Living Through Me (Hell's Wrath)" is a rip-roaring banger.
Though it's never credited as such, Reinventing the Steel is practically a concept album about heavy metal itself — and Pantera's place in it. On "We'll Grind That Ax for a Long Time," Anselmo calls out weak bands that kowtow to shitty trends and record label whims while Pantera stay true blue: "Never turned our backs on why we're here." Sadly, the album proved to be the band's last, so they never fulfilled the song's prophecy as a unit.
Originally included as a bonus track on the Japanese edition of Reinventing the Steel — and later on the 2020 expanded reissue — Pantera's version of "Hole in the Sky" is easily one of the best Sabbath covers ever recorded. Of course, it's not the first time Pantera paid tribute to the Drab Four — that'd be their cover of "Planet Caravan" on Far Beyond Driven. But where "Caravan" was a weeded-out chill session, their blistering take on the Sabotage opener clarifies the direct influence Sabbath had on Pantera's aggressive edge.
Recorded during the Reinventing the Steel sessions, "Immortally Insane" ended up on not one but two movie soundtracks: 2000's animated Heavy Metal sequel and the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Anselmo kicks off the proceedings with a nod to Norwegian black metal by name-checking Deathlike Silence, the label founded by Mayhem guitarist Euronymous. Meanwhile, Dime unleashes a towering doom riff that weaves in and out of Rex and Vinnie's deep power groove. If you haven't heard it yet, don't sleep.
Had it appeared on one of their major-label albums, "P.S.T. 88" would be Pantera's most infamous song. But as the closer of self-released Power Metal, it's likely that many casual fans aren't even aware of it. A decidedly un-PC ode to the wonders of the female anatomy, the track is a deliriously beer-soaked party jam that features Dime (credited as "Diamond Darrell" back then) at the mic channeling Kill 'Em All-era Hetfield—on guitar and vocals. It all collapses into backwards-masked munchkin speak and uncontrollable laughter, proving that even the band weren't taking this one seriously.