The Tragedy of Pantera
December 9th, 2004.
I needed to take my Jeep to the service station for a routine maintenance that morning. After I handed the mechanic the keys, I walked over to the waiting area. As I approached the waiting room, in the distance, I could see the TV. They had on the local morning news show. As I got closer, I could see the headline. It said, “Rock Guitarist Shot Dead.” Before I could even ponder which guitarist died, I saw on the screen “Dimebag Darrell Abbott”. I saw his trademarked dyed red goatee. I saw his mane of long, dark curly hair. It was Dime who was shot and killed in a Columbus, Ohio night club. My eyes popped out of my head simultaneously with my jaw dropping to the ground.
I sat there in a stupor as the story unfolded.
Just as Dimebag’s band, Damageplan, took the stage that ill-fated night in December of 2004, a former Marine named Nathan Gale came up on stage and shot Dime three times in the back of his head. Audience members initially thought it was part of the show. Once Gale starting shooting other people, everyone at the Alrosa night club realized they were witnessing a tragedy of epic proportions. Several members of the band’s road crew and Alrosa security tried to subdue the gunman but the former Marine kept shooting and killing. In total, four people were killed and seven were wounded. The crisis ended when a policeman entered the club, clicked the safety off his shotgun and blew Gale in to the next world.
The great Dimebag Darrell was dead. I was devastated. I was only five years old when John Lennon was killed. I have no recollection of his murder but if I did, I would not have realized the gravity of the killing. Dimebag Darrell’s original band, Pantera, is one of the greatest metal bands of all time. When Metallica went soft and commercial in the 1990s, the world of metal was left with a Grand Canyon sized void. The heavy metal ship was without a Captain. Everyone was cutting their hair and changing their sound to fit what was popular at that time. The metal look and sound was considered a taboo. If you wanted your records to sell and if you wanted your videos played on MTV, you had to channel your inner Kurt Cobain which, sadly, most bands did (including Metallica).
The one band that stayed true to their metal roots was Pantera. In 1994, right in the thick of the Grunge Movement, Pantera released ‘Far Beyond Driven.” Never before had I felt beaten up by song or by an album. After listening to I’m Broken and 5 Minutes Alone, I felt like I needed an ice pack and some Advil. It’s predecessor, 1992’s Vulgar Display of Power was metal at its best. Cemetery Gates, This Love, Mouth For War, and of course, Walk made Pantera a force to be reckoned with.
As the 90s moved forward, Pantera went though many of the same obstacles that virtually every successful band has to endure. Infighting, drugs, egos and lead singer Phil Anselmo’s back surgery forced Pantera in to a hiatus. Anselmo went on to start other bands while Dimebag and his brother, Vinnie (Pantera’s drummer) started a new project of their own called Damageplan. As is always the case when band members go in different directions, we held out hope that one day they will reunite. Well my friends, that hope ended on December 8th, 2004.
No one knows for sure why Nathan Gale killed Dimebag. People at the scene said that Gale also wanted to kill Vinnie but security had successfully whisked him away. The speculation was the that Gale was despondent about the Pantera break up and he blamed the Abbott brothers. According to VH1’s Behind The Music (a documentary) Gale may have been inspired to kill from a magazine article in which Phil Anselmo suggested violence towards Dimebag. Anselmo claimed to be misquoted and his words were taken out of context but Vinnie Paul says he received the transcripts of the interview and he was not misquoted at all. Because of this, Vinnie Paul says he would never, ever share the stage again with Anselmo.
The senseless murder of Dimebag was a double tragedy. Not only did we lose a great human being and gifted guitar player, we also lost one of the last great heavy metal bands. Because of the understandable and unbreakable grudge Vinnie Paul holds towards Phil, Pantera will never again look to reunite. Guitar players like John 5, Zakk Wylde and Scott Ian were mentioned as potential replacements for Dimebag but his brother put those rumors to bed rather quickly. He says Pantera died when Dimebag died and, as much as I love Pantera, I respect Vinnie Paul for being so resolute on this issue.
Virtually every rock band feud, eventually gets settled. Steven Tyler and Joe Perry ended their stalemate. David Lee and Eddie Van Halen agreed to disagree. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards kissed and made up. Slash and Axl Rose put their differences aside. Heck, Ian Gillan of Deep Purple said, “I’d rather slit my throat than join Purple again” . What’s he doing these days? Yup, he is fronting Deep Purple again and last I checked, his throat did not have any scars. They usually do it for the money or boredom or simply to get back in to the spot light. That is why I respect Vinnie Paul for wanting to keep Dimebag’s and Pantera’s legacy where it is. He won’t bastardize it for a few bucks.
Now, there is another way for the remaining members of Pantera to reunite without tarnishing the memory of Dime. They could do what the musicians of Rage Against the Machine did when they brought in Chris Cornell to sing and they called it Audioslave. Brian May and Roger Taylor of Queen brought in new lead singers so they could tour. They called it Queen plus….They left the legacy of the legendary Freddie Mercury in tact and they were able to bring new generations of Queen fans some great live shows. I think Vinnie Paul, Phil Anselmo and bass player Rex Brown could do something similar. They could bring in a guitarist who has the chops to match Darrell but not call it Pantera and they can write some new music so it isn’t all just a set of Pantera songs.
It has been over 12 years since the tragic death of Dimebag. Every time a Pantera song comes on the radio, I get nostalgic. I am reminded of how great that band was and how much the music world misses Dimebag’s talented fingers. You know how I feel about today’s hard rock and metal. I often wonder if Dimebag wasn’t killed, would metal be in the sad state that it is? They say time heals all wounds. Will Vinnie Paul ever reach out to his former Pantera band mates for some sort of reconciliation? Well, we all thought Axl and Slash would never bury the hatchet and re-form Guns N Roses. They did. I can only hope Vinnie, Rex and Phil get together at some point while they can still play and try to find a way to give the fans one last taste of the great Pantera.
Two of my biggest passions are sports and rock music. Both of which, I have many strong and at times provocative opinions on.
My favorite bands are AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Pantera, and 80s Metallica and well, I have to admit I listen to a lot of Kiss, too.
My teams are the Mets, Jets and Rangers(I know, they all suck)
I've never met a place for buffalo wings that I didn't like.
I am a customs house broker by trade but I have this yearning to express my views on a variety of topics and blogging has become a great outlet for my voice.
In the words of the immortal Bon Scott, "Lock up your daughter and lock up your wife. Lock up your back door and run for your life. The man is back in town, so don't you mess me around"