Ever sit back and look at your record collection of a favorite artist and consider which albums are the best? So do we! Rank & File is our way of telling you which albums are great and which ones are garbage (at least in our opinion). There are really no correct answers here, it’s all just a matter of taste, but inevitably, there will be parts of the list that you will completely disagree with, so make sure to let us know how you would rank the albums. Of course, when compiling a ranking system such as this, there have to be some guidelines in place. For Rank & File, they are:
- No E.P.’s (with rare exception)
- No Singles
- No live albums
- No remix albums
- If an artists discography is huge (i.e. Rolling Stones, Prince) only the top 5 will make the cut.
Twenty years ago this week, Pantera released the classic record Far Beyond Driven. Not only was the album an instant success for Pantera, but for heavy metal music as a whole, with Far Beyond Driven being the first metal record to achieve the number #1 position on the Billboard charts the week of its release. Pantera was not only one of the heaviest bands to come out of America, but also one of the most successful and Far Beyond Driven proved just that to all of the naysayers. In celebration of their landmark album, we’re counting down our favorite Pantera albums and washing it down with a goddamned black tooth grin!
5. Cowboys From Hell (1990):
Although Cowboys From Hell was Pantera’s fifth album as a band, this is the first album that really displayed their full power and potential as a group. They largely abandoned the glam metal bent of their earlier records in favor of a more groove-oriented thrash sound (save a few high-pitched shrieks from Phil) and with that, the Pantera sound was born. The album contained numerous cuts that remained crowd favorites and live staples for the duration of the band’s career. Really, the only thing that keeps Cowboys From Hell from ranking higher on the list is that the album is pretty severely front loaded. That being said, the albums final song, “The Art of Shredding” is one of the highlights of the bands entire discography, specifically the guitar work from Dimebag Darrell. Fucking classic!
4. Reinventing The Steel (2000):
By the end of the Pantera’s tenure as a group, it was widely reported that things got pretty ugly between members. While that unfortunately proved to be the case, you would never know it from listening to Reinventing The Steel. Pantera’s swan song was a fucking sledgehammer from beginning to end, crushing anyone that stood in its way. Lyrically, the album seemed aimed towards the outside world and wasn’t as introspective as fans had become accustomed to, but that didn’t make the subject matter any less intense. On top of that, the guitar and bass interplay on Reinventing The Steel was top-notch, with Rex matching Dime note for note. I’ve always felt that this album is one of the finest performances by a bassist in all of metal. Just fucking solid. Again, like Cowboys, the only thing that holds Reinventing The Steel back from ranking higher on the list is the inequality of side A to side B. That aside, this was the last word from Pantera and they went out on a pretty high note.
3. Far Beyond Driven (1994):
Bet you didn’t really see that coming did you? Understand that coming in at third place is in no way an indictment of the quality of Far Beyond Driven, cause truth be told, any of the top three albums could easily trade spots with one another. Shit, just the first four songs on this record alone are better than 90% of metal albums that have come out since it. Seriously, they are damn near flawless. Check out Vinnie Paul’s drum take on “Becoming” if you need any proof just how badass this record is. Far Beyond Driven also contains (in my opinion) one of the heaviest songs that Pantera ever laid to tape in “Slaughtered” which is about as subtle as a brick to the face. To finish off such an amazing record, the band recorded a version of Black Sabbath’s “Planet Caravan” that, unlike most covers, wasn’t a complete disaster. Pantera’s version was actually pretty great. So why did Far Beyond Driven get ranked at number 3 if it’s so great? Honestly, it comes down to the production. Like the majority of Pantera’s other records, Terry Date helmed the production, but for whatever reason, it’s always sounded a little flat. Good thing there’s a remaster coming out…
2. Vulgar Display of Power (1992):
Goddamn this was a killer fucking album! Like most other people in my generation, this was my first real introduction to Pantera. I had heard other metal bands prior to this, namely bands like Metallica and Megadeth, but when I heard this record I remember being transfixed with just how….powerful it sounded. At the time, I knew that music could be heavy but I never knew that heavy music could posses as much strength as this did. Songs like “New Level” and “Rise” made me feel like I could tear a house down with my bare hands and not even flinch in the process. In addition to that, Phil’s lyrics caught my attention in a way that James Hetfield or Tom Araya never could. “This Love” tackled heartbreak while songs like “Fucking Hostile” confronted a life of monotonous aggression (at least to me). It was light years ahead of anything that other metal bands were singing about because it was actually something that was understandable and easy to relate too. Really, that made all the difference in the world. Listening to Vulgar Display of Power wasn’t like listening to just any other metal album, it was like listening to THE metal album.
1. The Great Southern Trendkill (1996):
Probably a little bit unexpected for The Great Southern Trendkill to take the top spot, but it’s not without reason. First and foremost, this is the heaviest album from beginning to end that Pantera ever recorded, both musically and lyrically. Hell, this may be one of the most intense albums ever recorded. Period. Lyrically, the album touches on everything from drug addiction to suicide to the end of the world. Not exactly what would be characterized as an “easy” listen, but without a doubt some of the most honest and poignant pieces of songwriting to be found in popular American heavy metal. But Phil’s graphic yet honest lyrics aren’t the only thing that sets The Great Southern Trendkill apart from the other Pantera albums. The rest of the band really stepped up every aspect of their performance for this album. From Vinnie Paul’s forceful groove on “(Reprise) Sandblasted Skin” to Rex’s backbone like bass track “Suicide Note pt. II”, the rhythm section was fucking locked-in. Also, Dimebag turned in some of his finest guitar work on Trendkill, be it the blistering napalm blast of “War Nerve” or the mind-blowing solo of “Floods” Dime really took the art of the guitar to a whole new level, so much so that he made it look and sound effortless. It’s a level that will likely never be matched, left to live in infamy on the tracks of The Great Southern Trendkill.
Just missed the cut: Metal Magic (1983), Projects in the Jungle (1984), I Am the Night (1985), Power Metal (1988)
What do you think? How would you rate Pantera’s albums? Let us know in the comment section below and make sure to follow Gutter Bubbles on Facebook and Twitter!