The 25 Most Important Metal Bands of the ’90s, #2: Pantera
The ’90s: they were the bomb! That’s why MetalSucks will spend the month of March (and the first week of April) giving snaps to the decade that was all that and a bag of chips by counting down The 25 Most Important Metal Bands of the ’90s. These aren’t bands that necessarily formed in the ’90s, nor are they bands that would turn out to be influential somewhere down the road; these are bands that a) were doing their best work in the ’90s, and b) amassed a devout following during the ’90s. These are the bands that we feel truly defined the decade for extreme music. These are the bands that we feel truly defined the decade for yo mama.
Okay, so let’s just get this out of the way: Phil Anselmo turned out to be a putz, and Vinnie Paul turned out to be whatever you wanna call someone willing to be in Hellno. This does not retroactively change their relevance to the last decade of the twentieth century. Excuse the pun, but in the 1990s, Pantera absolutely dominated metal. I mean they just fuckin’ OWNED that shit.
In fact, the vast majority of Pantera’s career as a non-glam band (i.e., the part everyone cares about) transpired in the ’90s: they put out Cowboys from Hell in 1990 and disbanded in 2001 (they didn’t technically break-up ’til ’03, but it’s not as though they were actually doing anything during those two years). They are forever tied to that time period in a way few bands ever could be. It’s almost as if the ’90s created them to be its heavy metal ambassador.
Pantera were certainly our heavy metal ambassador during these years. In the second half of the decade, when Metallica put out Load and nu-metal was on the rise and Headbanger’s Ball was cancelled, shit felt bleak. Metal had just begun to crawl out of the cultural basement, and now it was being forced back down again.
But through it all, we had Pantera. They wrote amazing albums made up of amazing songs, put on the most insane shows, and consistently got heavier as time went on. They did not make a “Crush ‘Em” or briefly turn into an industrial band, and the only one whose haircut ever changed was Phil Anselmo, and that clearly had nothing to do with chasing trends. So at a time when the world at large associated metal with Limp Bizkit and “Unforgiven II,” we could always point at Pantera and say, “No, you dicks, this is fuckin’ metal!” And remember, Pantera were HUGE. The Great Southern Trendkill is probably still the heaviest album ever to crack the top five of the Billboard 200. No wonder Pantera fans were so zealous.
In fact, it was through those zealous fans that Pantera helped shape metal in the early 21st century. When people talk about the NWOAHM, they always immediately point to the influence of At the Gates. But Pantera impacted that movement every bit as much as that storied Swedish band. It was their fuckin’ groove dude — you can hear it in the music of Lamb of God, God Forbid, Chimaira, Throwdown… the list goes on and on. For about five or six years there, lead guitarists all sounded like Dimebag clones, and roughly 80% of frontment were Anselmo wannabes. And don’t forget — Pantera’s lead vocalist having a shaved head was a big deal at the time… Pantera did a lot to unite the metal and hardcore communities. Previously, those two factions usually hated one another, which seems even crazier now than it did then… but a whole part of the reason it seems crazy is because Pantera helped to normalize the idea. They really did help put the “core” in metalcore.
In other words, for all intents and purposes, Pantera were God: they were all around us, in all things, always, whether we saw them or not. Praise be hallelujah.
THE LIST SO FAR
#25: Morbid Angel
#21: Cave In
#19: Cradle of Filth
#17: Napalm Death
#16: Rage Against the Machine
#15: Type O Negative
#14: Dream Theater
#13: Alice in Chains
#12: Nine Inch Nails
#8: Cannibal Corpse
#7: Fear Factory
#4: Faith No More