Sunday Old School: Damageplan
Band Photo: Damageplan (?)
Today marks the ninth anniversary of the murder of former Pantera guitarist, "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott, one of the most shocking events to occur in the world of heavy metal. It sent shock waves throughout the music community, leading to almost everyone posting their respect online and led to tribute songs from bands such as Machine Head, Black Label Society and even Nickelback. To this day, many people posting their thoughts on a metal website still end their input with "R.I.P. Dimebag," a small but notable example of how the man is still missed by millions across the globe. Although he was known for his work with Pantera, it was with his new band, Damageplan that he was performing when he was killed and so to honour his memory, this week Sunday Old School will be looking at the formation, the tragic demise and most importantly, the music of Damageplan.
In the early 2000's, the condition of Pantera was something of a mystery. The Abbott brothers, Darrell and Vinnie Paul, were keen to get to work on a new record, though they were having trouble getting the same commitment from frontman, Phil Anselmo, who had begun occupying himself with numerous side projects including Down and Superjoint Ritual. Vinnie Paul also claimed that Anselmo's drug use was affecting his live performances. Eager to record and release new music, the brothers decided to form a new band, initially named New Found Power, though their moniker was soon changed to Damageplan. They recruited former Halford guitarist Pat Lachman to fill the vocal spot, after he received a demo of the song, "Crawl" and the lineup was soon rounded up with the addition of former Jerry Cantrell guitar player Shawn Matthews on bass, although he was soon replaced by Bob Zilla, a tattoo artist who had done several pieces for the Abbott brothers.
With all positions filled, the group retreated to the brothers' backyard studio in Arlington, Texas in the summer of 2003 to record their debut. It was notable for featuring several guest appearances from the likes of Zakk Wylde and Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor, as well as Alice In Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell, though the latter's contribution would not be recorded in time to make the album's final cut and thus was only released as a Japanese bonus track and via the soundtrack to the movie, The Punisher. The music itself was a little different from what Pantera fans were expecting, with some going so far as to accuse the brothers of jumping on the nu metal bandwagon, despite the fact that the genre was practically dead at the time. In spite of the criticisms and mixed reviews it would garner from the press, it was still a heavy, groovy record which, like their previous Pantera releases, contained a number of songs that were very catchy, as well as crushing. The album, whose title came from the band's original name, New Found Power, debuted on the Billboard charts at number 38 after selling just under 45,000 copies in it's first week.
To promote the album, Damageplan took part in the second Headbanger's Ball tour, joining forces with the likes of Hatebreed, Drowning Pool and Unearth, as well as taking a slot on the main stage of Britain's Download Festival, which was only in it's second year at the time. Although the response to the album had been varied, their live shows were met with highly positive feedback and they quickly became one of the acts to see in 2004. It is fitting then, though tragic, that the band would come to an end during a live show in Columbus, Ohio.
On December 8th 2004, Damageplan were booked to perform at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus. The group had barely begun the concert when a former U.S. Marine named Nathan Gale charged at the stage, firing shots from a 9mm Beretta, three of which hit Dimebag Darrell, the third killing him instantly. Chaos soon ensued and Gale shot and killed the band's head of security Jeffery "Mayhem" Thompson after he engaged in combat with him, before also shooting Alrosa Villa employee Erin Halk to death, as well as a fan named Nathan Bray who had attempted to perform CPR on the slain. Drum technician John "Kat" Brooks and tour manager Chris Paluska were also injured in the attack and may well have been killed too were it not for officer James Niggemeyer, who came through the back door of the stage and killed Gale with a single shot, right after the shooter spotted the policeman. He was later found to have done nothing wrong and that his use of lethal force was justified, marking one of the first times the heavy metal community had offered their full support to a police officer.
The shooting that night in Columbus effectively led to the instant breakup of the band. Vinnie Paul was unsure if he would ever return to the stage, feeling that doing so without his brother would seem empty, though he would later join a new band called Hellyeah with members of Nothingface and Mudvayne. Tributes poured in from a variety of bands, from Lamb of God to Queen, as well as a video message from the Abbott's former bandmate, Phil Anselmo, who was banned from attending Darrell's funeral by Vinnie Paul and Dimebag's girlfriend, Rita. Nine years later, the ill will towards Anselmo from Vinnie Paul continues, through Rita Haney has since reconciled with the singer. There was talk for a while of a second Damageplan album, given that there were a number of unreleased recordings from the band, although they have yet to be heard by the public and it seems unlikely now that a second album will come to fruition. Nevertheless, "New Found Power" remains a strong record, containing the groove laden heaviness one would expect from the masterful guitar work of Dimebag Darrell and Damageplan are most certainly a worthy, if not sad entry, in the archive of the Abbott brothers.
Damageplan - "Breathing New Life"
Damageplan - "Explode"
Damageplan - "Pride"
Damageplan - "Save Me"
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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