NOTE: I do not believe these to be the best Pantera songs in existence. I do, however, feel that they are my favorite Pantera songs in existence. I’m sure that I’ll leave out some of your favorites, but it’s not your list, is it?
1. Strength Beyond Strength – When I first heard this song, it scalped me. I wasn’t ready for such a somatic, skull-trouncing concussion. If the scorching first half doesn’t impel you to drive your fist (or perhaps a person) through a wall, wait for the breakdown that divides this track in half. It may be one of the heaviest riffs that Dime ever committed to tape. Phil’s throat-rending shrieks make “Strength” all the more intense.
2. Floods – Use the words “Pantera” and “ballad” in the same sentence, and two iconic monodies come to mind. I’m referring to “This Love” and “Cemetery Gates.” “Floods” isn’t an instantly recognizable title if you’re not a pious metalhead, but it’s just as majestic as any other tearjerker in the Pantera catalogue. Dime’s playing is sternly articulate. The initial hook is haunting and the solo sends chills down my esophagus. Phil opts for a minimalistic vocal approach, but it suits the song. “Floods” is one of the most underrated Pantera ditties of all time. Try listening to the dolorous outro without wanting to curl up in a ball and die.
3. Mouth For War – Do I really need to explain myself here? The riffs are monstrous, the rhythm section is watertight, and the vocals are far beyond authoritative. For a lot of us (in my age bracket), this was the song that introduced us to the Cowboys From Hell.
4. Cemetery Gates – A signature ballad that is signature for a reason. The melodies perforate my soul like a stake being thrusted into the heart of a vampire, and no, I’m not trying to reach out to emo kids with that simile. Everything is perfect here. Phil will never sound this good again, and even if I don’t know exactly what the song is about, I can feel the emotion gushing from his delivery. This one never gets old.
5. The Great
– For the most part, Pantera knew how to start an album. This title track is no exception. It scintillates as soon as you press play and drives home the point that these marl-squenched Texans never had any intentions of following pop culture’s fickle fascinations. The southern-fried latter half showboats Dime’s versatility. He didn’t limit himself to one or even three soloing styles, which is more than I can say for his contemporaries.
6. 5 Minutes Alone – Yet another song with yet another memorable riff and yet another organ-goring breakdown. It’s hard not to listen to this without doing something illegal.
7. By Demons Be Driven – The second half of “Vulgar Display of Power” is fairly one-dimensional, but this decibel splitter breaks up the monotony. Again, it all boils down to the main riff. I know that I’ve used the word “riff” 487 times, but how can I not? “Demons” circumnavigates the conventions of thrash but retains a primal irascibility. The closing stages of this romantic number are too metal for this font. That’s how metal it is. You know what I’m talking about, especially if you normally type in Arial. That’s the least metal font out there!
8. Revolution is My Name – “Reinventing the Steel” was a missed opportunity, but it does contain a few winners. On this ardent anthem, it feels like everyone is on the same page. The song has enough space for each member to have a sybaritic moment of badassery. The leads, the riffs, the geminate roaring, the fluid drummingÃ¢Â?Â¦it’s all here.
9. Suicide Note Pt. 2 – You probably weren’t expecting to find three songs off of “Trendkill” on this list, but I treasure that album. It contains Pantera’s most extreme exploits. If I could, I’d put both parts of “Suicide Note” in this slot. They demonstrate the record’s Jekyll/Hyde sensibilities. This sequel of sorts is a blistering din of desperation and fury. It’s a riotous experiment in turbid noise. Scream along, if you can manage without your head exploding.
10. I Can’t Hide – The two studio tracks on “Official Live: 101 Proof” are a peek at what things might have sounded like if Pantera had entered the studio directly after touring for “Trendkill.” The boys attack the listener with precision and exactitude. “I Can’t Hide” sums up this legendary band in two minutes. We get speed, melody, aggression, bluesy swagger, and a pounding breakdown. Try as they might, no metalcore outfit will ever measure up to these unscarred gods(ize).