This monster St. Vincent riff was inspired by Pantera’s Cowboys From Hell – so much so that Annie Clark worried she was “going to be sued”

St. Vincent and Pantera's Dimebag Darrell perform live
(Image credit: Suzanne Cordeiro/Corbis / Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

St. Vincent is a 21st century guitar hero, mercurial in her quest to redefine the sound of the electric guitar and take it into electronic, otherworldly realms. All of which betrays her influences, which are, well, the same as most other guitarists who grew up playing in the ’90s.

The young Annie Clark loved nothing more than cranking up the gain and tackling Hendrix, Tool and Pearl Jam. Heck, her first band was a metal outfit covering the likes of Iron Maiden, Megadeth and Metallica, with Clark tearing it up on what she describes as an “iridescent purple Ibanez bass”.

But one guitarist stood out among those early inspirations: fellow Texas guitar hero Dimebag Darrell, whose Pantera riffs Clark used to blast from her car as a teenager.

Clark credits her love of technical guitar playing to Dimebag, telling Guitar World in 2014, “It reminds me of being 13, being in the guitar store and picking up the Dimebag signature guitar and trying to figure out how he gets that crazy sound from Cowboys from Hell. ‘What is that?’ I’d watch tutorials on YouTube.”

Those lessons really lodged into the guitar savant’s brain. So much so that Clark would confess to borrowing from the Pantera classic for the opening salvo of her track Bring Me Your Loves, from 2014’s St. Vincent album.

“There’s a riff on my song Bring Me Your Loves that’s so Cowboys from Hell that I feel like I’m going to be sued… just in my mind,” she joked back in 2014.

On first listen, you might not spot the influence; Clark’s otherworldly tones tend to translate her inspirations into a very different musical language. But hold on one second: those ascending pentatonic shuffles sure do sound familiar. And the pitch dives are undoubtedly a nod to Dimebag’s trademark whammy (and, indeed, Whammy) squeals.

A few years later, Clark named Cowboys From Hell as the riff she wished she’d written in a 2018 interview with BBC Radio 6 Music. After performing the Pantera track on acoustic guitar, she even demonstrated how she appropriated the line for Bring Me Your Loves.

St. Vincent has previously stated that she intended to make a heavy record after 2017’s Masseduction, but ended up delving into ’70s funk for her 2021 effort, Daddy’s Home.

That shelved record is apparently still on the backburner, so we may well hear more Dimebag-inspired riffage from Annie Clark in the not-too-distant future…

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Michael Astley-Brown

Mike is Editor-in-Chief of GuitarWorld.com, in addition to being an offset fiend and recovering pedal addict. He has a master's degree in journalism from Cardiff University, and over a decade's experience writing and editing for guitar publications including MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitarist, as well as 20 years of recording and live experience in original and function bands. During his career, he has interviewed the likes of John Frusciante, Chris Cornell, Tom Morello, Matt Bellamy, Kirk Hammett, Jerry Cantrell, Joe Satriani, Tom DeLonge, Ed O'Brien, Polyphia, Tosin Abasi, Yvette Young and many more. In his free time, you'll find him making progressive instrumental rock under the nom de plume Maebe.