"Toil without song is like a weary journey without an end."
- H. P. Lovecraft
Sometimes making a top ten list is easy. When making one for an iconic band like Pantera, things get a little bit more complicated. It's especially hard for me with this band, because they literally did not record any songs that I don't like. Sure, I am more fond of some than others, but I can put on any of the records by this band (even the not-so-talked-about glam metal records before their big break) and be happy to listen to any song that plays.
So. Who or what is Pantera?
Walk on home, boy.
These guys hit it big with a heavy, guitar laden "power groove" form of metal and stepped into the shoes that Metallica vacated when they left the heavy metal arena in search of high-dollar music. Comprised of the Abbott brothers, Vinnie Paul (drums) and Dimebag Darrel (guitar), Rex Brown (bass) and Philip Anselmo (vocals), Pantera came roaring out of Texas with their 1990 album Cowboys From Hell and did it again in 1992 with Vulgar Display of Power, one of the albums routinely voted as the most influential in metal. Each album was harder and heavier than the previous and the band brought their unique brand of music to a more mainstream audience.
By 2001, it was all over. Disagreements in the band, specifically between the Abbott brothers and Anselmo caused the breakup. In 2004, Dimebag was shot and killed while on stage with the band Damageplan that he and Vinnie Paul had formed after the fall of Pantera.
What we have left are really five essential studio albums and one live recording from which to draw only ten songs - the best of the best from one of the best bands to ever produce music.
As such, I'm probably going to leave off some songs that some folks might think belong on the list. Remember, every top ten list is subjective and these are my ten favorites. If one of your favorite songs has been left off the list, please comment and tell me about it! Or, better yet, write your own list so we can spread the love.
Note; Normally I would have included both F*&^%ing Hostile and God@%$n Electric, but I find it pretty impossible to write 100+ words about songs I'm not allowed to spell out. ;)
10. Pantera - Cemetery Gates
This is the song that's at the top of a lot of folk's lists when it comes to Pantera. This was the second single from their landmark 1990 album Cowboys From Hell and was released after the title track. It was also the single from this record that got the most airplay and a portent of things to come for not only the band but for a large part of the newly emerging nu-metal scene. And, at 7:03, it's the longest song Pantera ever recorded in the studio.
"Well I guess / you took my youth / I gave it all away like the birth of a new-found joy / this love would end in rage / and when she died / I couldn't cry / the pride within my soul / you left me incomplete / all alone as the / memories now unfold."
Anselmo has said that this song is about the suicide of a friend but what really draws people to Cemetery Gates is his howling vocals perfectly accompanied by Dimebag's riffs. "Clean vocals" for the verses and "dirty vocals" for the chorus (alternately singing then screaming) later became a blueprint for a lot of metal bands.
Pantera - Cemetery Gates Official Video
Domination is one of those songs. Angry, aggressive and that powerful riffing that is part of why Dimebag is still so loved by metal fans even to this day.
"Agony is the price / That you'll pay in the end / Domination consumes you / Then calls you a friend."
But... what is domination?
This song could easily be about a number of things. Some say it's drug addiction. Others think it's Pantera's "don't be sheep" statement that they've made on several other records. An interesting theory that I once read stated that Domination is actually about people who court fame and then have to deal with the unfortunate consequences that they ultimately deserve.
Domination is on the album Cowboys from Hell and some say it's a great workout song. I use it to force me into a rhythm when I'm writing. Works every time.
Pantera Domination Fan Made Music Video
8. 5 Minutes Alone
Word has it that this song came into being because Phil Anselmo was threatened by a fan's dad. He'd gotten into a tiff with the guy at a Pantera show. The dad apparently said that he'd like five minutes alone with that Phil Ansemo guy. Of course, I wouldn't want to spend five minutes alone with Anselmo, well, not for fighting anyway.
"You cry for compensation / I ask you please just give us... / 5 minutes alone / Just give me / 5 minutes alone, yeah!"
Off the album Far Beyond Driven, Anselmo pretty much makes it clear that anyone who messes with him gets what they deserve.
5 Minutes Alone is also featured in the games Rock Revolution and Rock Band 3 and is included in the game Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier as background music.
Pantera Five Minutes Alone Official Music Video
7. Drag the Waters
"Your father is rich / He's the judge, he's the man / He's the God that got your sentence reduced / But in the back of his mind / He well knows what he'd find / If he looked a little deeper in you."
Drag the Waters, from the album The Great Southern Trendkill (and the only track from this record to have an official video), is an aggressive explosion of heavy guitar, screaming, drums and bass.
From the outside, it looks like yet another "people aren't what they seem" song, but it goes a little deeper than that. It tells us we have to drag the waters to see what they're really all about.
Eventually, pretending to be something you're not will come back to haunt you and, essentially, people will see through your lies.
Pantera Drag the Waters Official Video
6. Cowboys From Hell
Off their first really heavy album of the same name, Cowboys From Hell kind of bridged the gap between hair metal and what Pantera would become. CFH has also shown up in tattoos everywhere, from the side of Phil Anselmo's head to my little brother's forearm. And with good reason.
"We're gonna take what's ours to have / Spread the word throughout the land / They say the bad guys wear black / We're tagged and can't turn back."
Cowboys from Hell is Pantera's anthem and putting the world on notice, pretty much saying "We'll get what we came for whether you give it to us or not."
It's definitely a fan favorite, and is #25 on the list VH1 made of the greatest metal songs of all time. This was also the first song the band recorded for this album.
Pantera Cowboys from Hell Official Video
5. This Love
This Love is basically Pantera's idea of a ballad. Not that I could ever have seen them making a love song. On the Wikipedia page for the song, Vinnie Paul talks about how the tune's lyrics came about because of a personal relationship of Phil Anselmo's went sour in a pretty bad way.
"If ever words were spoken / Painful and untrue / I said I loved but I lied."
The Love follows the new "formula" with sung verses and screamed choruses although Vulgar Display of Power was released way before these kinds of things became so commonplace and overdone.
Note: There is existing video of the band Staind performing This Love in concert on YouTube and I think it's fantastic despite the crappy quality. Also, in my opinion, skip the version that the band Kiaus did for Metal Hammer Magizine's Dimebag tribute album called Getcha Pull. As far as I'm concerned, that thing is just noise!
Pantera - This Love Official Music Video
4. Revolution Is My Name
Revolution Is My Name is another powerful song, this one from Pantera's last studio album, Reinventing the Steel.The song begins with distorted guitar work that sets the ominous tone for the rest of the record.
"From now on, can't look the other way / Keep in mind and listen to what I say / Take under wing all the ones who are lost / Build up around them an infinite wall / Don't you know just who I am? / Take the hand of wisdom's friend / What is my name?"
My favorite line in this song is "I can't help the way I am." In a sense, it is true but, as the song says we can change.
Maybe, however, it's not always for the better.
The video for this one is awesome. If you only watch one of the videos I've listed here, make it this one!
Pantera - Revolution Is My Name Official Video
Though I love this song, I really don't dig Anselmo's vocals. In his defense, I believe this was part of the era in which he was heavily under the influence, so maybe that's why this seemingly confusing lyrical content alternates between Henry Rollins-esque spoken word and agonizing screaming.
It's on this list because I believe the solo is one of the best Dimebag ever recorded.
"The nervous, the drifting, the heaving / Wash away us all, take us with the floods / Then throughout the day mankind played with grenades / Cold hearted world / And at night they might bait the pentagram / Extinguishing the sun / Wash away man, take him with the floods."
Floods is about a flood that destroys all mankind. One has to wonder though, is Anselmo worried about it or hoping for it?
Regardless, it is the guitar work that lands this song on my list.
Pantera Floods Fan Made Music Video
Another hit record from Vulgar Display of Power, Walk became an aggressive anthem of sorts. The song itself is all about respect and what you should do if you don't give it: "Walk on home, boy."
"Is there no standard anymore? / What it takes, who I am, where I've been / Belong / You can't be something you're not / Be yourself, by yourself / Stay away from me."
Apparently, folks had been treating the guys in the band differently after the success of Vulgar Display of Power. Although success and money do often change people, the lyics are telling us that, Anselmo at least, doesn't understand why people now want to treat him differently. He is, after all, the same old guy.
Interestingly enough, my favorite live cover of this song is by a band that I really can't stand. There is a video on YouTube (unfortunately audio only) of Disturbed playing Walk live and I believe it's worth a listen though nothing will ever compare to the original.
Walk scored #16 on VH1's list of 40 Greatest Heavy Metal Songs of All Time and is still one of the band's best known songs.
Pantera Walk Official Music Video
1. I'm Broken
"Look at me now. I'm broken / Inherit my life I'm broken / One day we all will die / a cliched fact of life."
I'm Broken was the lead single for the 1994 album Far Beyond Driven. While the lyrics are heavy, Anselmo is here talking about possibly a myriad of things, including a friend who was in a coma, but they are life's lessons. People are force-fed opinions and never develop their own.
We're all broken in one way or another, and this song is encouraging us to own our own lives.
The reason this song is number one on my list, however, is the guitar riff. Dimebag had said that this started off as a sound check and turned into one of the most memorable guitar parts in all of metal. In fact, according to Wikipedia, Kerry King of the iconic metal band Slayer, has said that this riff is is favorite.
Riffs, lyrics, drums and bass lines aside, this is definitely an aggressive song. Good driving music, even better workout music and, in my opinion, one of the greatest songs of all time.
Pantera - I'm Broken Official Music Video
© 2013 Georgie Lowery
Ara Vahanian from LOS ANGELES on February 09, 2017:
Georgie Lowery: thank you for this list of Pantera songs and it is a nice way to pay tribute to this band. However, I would have added two songs that you don't have on this list in place of 5 Minutes Alone and I'm Broken. I would have added Heresy and The Sleep. The Sleep is terrific because of the creative leads and the guitar work. I totally agree with most of these choices. Cemetery Gates, Walk, and This Love Should be on there. Good work! I like this list also as a longtime fan of heavy metal!
Rachael Ryhn from Forest Lake, MN on May 12, 2015:
Great article and list! As a lifetime Pantera fan - I somehow found my favorites easy to select. Here's my top 10:
Drag the Waters
A New Level
By Demons Be Driven
Suicide Note Pt. I and II
Primal Concrete Sledge
Thank you for bringing me back to a good time with your article!
Sean McGavin from Bowling Green, Ohio on July 05, 2013:
I must applaud you sir, as making this list would be one of the hardest things I could do. Pantera is my favorite metal band without question and while "Cowboys From Hell" is definitely my favorite of their songs, it would be painful to assign positions to the rest.
Georgie Lowery (author) from North Florida on June 02, 2013:
I can believe it. CFH makes for very fast driving, too.
Nope. Too damn many good songs to pick from! Sorry. I really only consdered songs from CFH upwards, for some reason I love their heavier stuff, even though I loved glam/hair metal.
I did read a bunch of other Top Ten lists of Pantera songs, and it seemed as if either Walk or Cemetery Gates was almost always the number one. I love them both, but I'm Broken is my favorite.
You obviously have great taste! Their whole catalog is awesome!
Thank you for the comments. I always love seeing what your favorites are, too!
AJ Rodriguez from San Diego on June 01, 2013:
Im broken and walk are my 2 favorite Pantera songs
Shinkicker from Scotland on June 01, 2013:
AHA!! A twist in the tail.
Great selection of amazing music and I fully expected to scroll down and see 'Walk' at No.1. Good that you avoided the obvious choice and as you say it's hard to choose from so many fantastic metal tunes.
Cheers Georgie!!! Rock on.
Keith Abt from The Garden State on May 30, 2013:
What, no "Rock the World" or "Power Metal?" :(
Lorne Hemmerling from Oshawa on May 30, 2013:
Cowboys From Hell....with the riff from hell....every time I taught this to a student, it was, PLAY IT SLOW, first, get it right. Did they listen? No.
Georgie Lowery (author) from North Florida on May 30, 2013:
It definitely wasn't easy. At all. In the end, I had to just pick my ten favorites... LOL.
I've always thought that War Nerve would be either a great song to battle to, or to fight the crowds at Walmart on Black Friday.
Anyway, thank you for stopping by. I always appreciate it. :)
cryptid from USA on May 30, 2013:
Love it but I sure can't see how you narrowed it down to only 10. Tough job! Of those you listed I'd have to go with Cemetery Gates, but my fav Pantera song is War Nerve. There are some days that song just says it all.