The first true Pantera album (at least the first that they still acknowledge) and the one that catapulted them into heavy metal relevance. It is not quite like the groove metal they would later release, but at the same time a big departure from their former glam metal records, with a thrash metal-ish sound more than anything.
While we were writing the songs for Cowboys from Hell, we were listening to a lot of different kinds of music, a lot of Metallica, Slayer, Mercyful Fate and Minor Threat, and that changed our sound. (…) Since we didn’t have to play six shows a night anymore, we had more time to spend in the Abbotts' studio [Pantego Sound], and we became total perfectionists. Vinnie would lay down all the drums, then Dime would play guitar. We’d put the bass on last. We turned all the drum channels off, and I just played along with Dime’s track. That became known as the microscope. If something was off, we’d get a razorblade and cut and splice the tape. We didn’t have Pro Tools back then. And that’s what created our trademark sound, where the guitar and bass are just spot-on. By that point, Dime had already surpassed all of his influences as a player, (…) But playing with Pantera back then was even better. We were such good friends, and our chemistry was undeniable. Dime would make these riff tapes on his four-track and bring them in, and we’d turn them into songs. One day, Dime came in with this tape loop of a lick he played over and over in a high register. It drove us crazy, because he wouldn’t stop playing it. That’s what became Cowboys from Hell, and it was the start of the power groove every band follows today. As much as you still hear that song, when it came out no radio stations would play it. One of my favorite memories is when we did Cemetery Gates. Dime already had the riff in the song where it starts getting heavy, but we didn’t have an intro. One day, I picked up an acoustic guitar and messed around with a part, which we recorded. We recorded a piano in reverse so that it created this big swell of sound at the end of the section. When we put the acoustic intro together with the heavy part, there it was. That was huge for us, and that’s how all those sessions went. We were all working together with Terry Date, who we liked a lot, even though our first choice was Max Norman. But he canceled at the last minute and we got Terry, who we bonded with from the start.