Sunday Old School: Pantera
It’s very close to that time of year again when metal fans all over the world pay their tributes to Dimebag Darrell Abbott, the legendary guitarist from Pantera who was murdered on stage on December 8th, 2004 while performing with his post-Pantera band, Damageplan. To understand why his death is so important to metal fans, it’s best to start, as all legends do, at the beginning. Darrell formed Pantera thirty years ago with his brother Vinnie Paul, along with guitarist Terry Glaze, vocalist Donnie Hart and bass player Tommy Bradford. Hart and Bradford left the group the same year, with the latter being replaced by Rex Brown, while the rest of the group decided that Darrell would be the bands sole guitar player. They soon became an underground favorite, touring throughout their native Texas, as well as Oklahoma and Louisiana, and supporting the likes of Quiet Riot and Dokken.
In 1983, the band released debut album, "Metal Magic" through its own record label of the same name with a second album, "Projects In The Jungle" following the next year. Both albums were very much in the glam metal vein but the second demonstrated the first hint of thrash metal influences, a style which was embellished on the third album, "I Am The Night."
Thrash metal soon crept its way into Pantera's sound permanently however, leading the group to part ways with Glaze and search for a more aggressive vocalist, which was found in New Orleans native, Phil Anselmo. With Anselmo, Pantera recorded the fourth album, "Power Metal," a hybrid of thrash metal and the popular hard rock style of the time. Following this release, Pantera decided to radically reinvent itself, shedding the big hair and make up the group had previously adorned and soon gained itself a manager in Walter O’ Brien, with a record deal coming shortly afterwards with Atco Records.
Despite now being considered something of a debut album for the band, the fifth album, "Cowboys From Hell" was released in 1990 and was instantly a hit with fans of the heavier side of metal, as well as some of their heroes such as Judas Priest and Slayer. It was certainly a breath of fresh air at the time, varied in sound but fluent, songs like the pummeling title track were just as much a part of the band's sound as the haunting epic, "Cemetery Gates." The band toured heavily to support the album, taking to the road with such respected acts as Exodus and Suicidal Tendencies and even earning a slot on the Monsters In Moscow festival with the likes of AC/DC and Metallica, in what was still the Soviet Union.
Pantera enhanced and embellished its groovy sound for the next album, "Vulgar Display Of Power," which was released in February of 1992. It featured more songs which became staples of the band's sound such as "Mouth For War" and perhaps most notably, "Walk," in addition to the eerily beautiful, "Hollow" and the break neck attack of, "Fucking Hostile." While the album was able to do well commercially, reaching number 44 on the American albums chart, its sales pales in comparison to the next album, "Far Beyond Driven," which debuted at the top of the charts in both the United States and Australia when it was released in 1994. The single, "I’m Broken" garnered Pantera a Grammy nomination (losing out to Soundgarden) but problems with band members soon surfaced. The Abbott brothers were engaged in something of a feud with Kerrang! magazine while Anselmo began behaving strangely according to the other members, who he distanced himself from, so much so that when it was time to record their next album, "The Great Southern Trendkill," Anselmo decided not to record with the rest of the band in Texas, preferring instead to work in New Orleans. Anselmo's problems continued after the album was released, most seriously in Texas, when he overdosed on heroin, resulting in his heart stopping for five minutes. Despite apologizing to his band mates, he spent considerable time with side projects such as Viking Crown.
Eventually however, a new Pantera album was recorded and released in 2000. "Reinventing The Steel" was not quite as acclaimed as some of the band's previous releases, but was considered something of a return to form after "The Great Southern Trendkill," which was overlooked by many. Pantera toured all over the world in support of the record, including the likes of Korea and Japan, which would ultimately prove to host the last Pantera show on August 28th. As soon as the band arrived in Europe to commence a European tour with Slayer, the September 11th tragedy happened, leaving the band stranded in Dublin for six days. Although a new home video was planned, along with another album, neither materialized and Anselmo instead focused his energy first to Down, the supergroup which also consisted of members of Crowbar, Corrosion Of Conformity and Eyehategod, and then to the hardcore styled Superjoint Ritual.
With Anselmo so focused on other projects, the frustrated brothers decided to disband Pantera in 2003, forming a new band with former Halford guitarist Pat Lachman entitled, Damageplan. While the real reasons remain unknown, the Abbotts and Anselmo engaged in a bitter and venomous feud, with both sides accusing the other of dishonesty. Tragically, the feud was never able to reach a mutual and peaceful end, as on December 8th at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio Dimebag Darrell Abbott, along with security guard Jeff "Mayhem" Thompson, club employee Erin Halk, and fan Nathan Bray, were murdered by mentally unstable Pantera fan, Nathan Gale, who was in turn shot dead by policeman, James Niggemayer.
Dimebag's death sent tidal waves throughout the heavy metal world, as big as those that devastated the hip-hop world when Tupac Shakur was murdered in 1996. Tributes from dozens upon dozens of bands poured in, with everyone from Black Sabbath to Anthrax posting messages online, with Machine Head, Black Label Society, Nickelback and countless others writing songs in memory of the slain guitarist. Anselmo himself was barred by Dimebags family members from attending the funeral and has since found all efforts to reconcile with Vinnie Paul to be rebuffed. After the devastating day in Columbus, the band members took some time to gather themselves before releasing new music, with Anselmo and Brown going back to Down, while Vinnie Paul formed a new band with members of Mudvayne and Nothingface called, Hellyeah, which has been successful at least on a commercial level. Both Down and Hellyeah are currently working on new material, with the first of four Down EP's expected to be released in February.
Pantera - "All Over Tonight"
Pantera - "Domination"
Pantera - "Mouth For War"
Pantera - "Hollow"
Pantera - "Planet Caravan"
Pantera - "Revolution Is My Name"
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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