Pantera was an American heavy metal band from Arlington, Texas, active from 1981 to 2003. Your ass has been kicked by their music at some point in the past, whether you knew it or not.
The story of Pantera begins with two brothers from Arlington, Texas, Vincent and Darrel Abbott. The boys were surrounded by music from an early age, as their father was a country producer. These influences, along with bands such as KISS and Van Halen, would help shape their paths in life. Darrell picked up a guitar one day and there was absolutely no going back. He became better at the guitar than anyone had any right to be at that age, and would take his ball-searing talent to local competitions. Darrell won these so hard that he was banned from competing in them after a while so that other people had a chance to win.
Darrell's brother Vinnie was himself busy, taking to the drums like his younger brother took to the guitar. This was a relationship similar their music idols, Eddie and Alex Van Halen. The band would pay tribute to Van Halen in the future, albeit with the unfortunate absence of David Lee Roth.
Every woman viewing this is now pregnant. Most men, too.
The prizes that Darrell won from his competition days included a Dean ML guitar and a Randall amplifier, two pieces of gear that would go on to define the man in the eyes of metal fans the world over. Darrell and Vinnie set out for musical glory. However, they would have to undergo a rather horrifying endeavor first...
Okay, so a disclaimer: people make mistakes and bad things happen. This is a fact of life. Nowhere can this fact be more perfectly exemplified than the 1980's. There, we said it. Your parents are still trying to live this one down. Moving on!
Glam metal was big in the 80's. Most of the performers are still trying to cash in on their success, grasping at the slick and unforgiving straws of relevance. Pantera were once victims of this unfortunate movement. For a time, they were known as Pantera's Metal Magic, but dignity and common sense took hold for a brief moment and the name was shortened.
They would undergo a variety of lineup changes until vocalist Terry Glaze and permanent bassist Rex Brown joined the fold. They were popular in the South, opening for various metal acts of their ilk. Their early releases featured titles such as Projects in the Jungle and artwork such as this:
There was a joke here somewhere but we couldn't bring ourselves to make fun of something this badass.
Each consecutive album saw musical growth and progression for the band. 1986, the year that saw seminal thrash metal albums from Metallica and Slayer, was a huge turning point for the band's sound, and they decided on a more abrasive approach. Terry Glaze, who remained content with looking like an extra in a Poison video, left the band and hasn't really been heard from a whole lot since.
The next year the band would finalize their lineup with singer Phil Anselmo. It would still be a few years until the band would completely abandon the glam guise, though.
See that photo at the very top of the page? THESE ARE THE SAME GUYS. We're sorry you had to see this.
Power Metal, the group's first album with Phil Anselmo, would be the final nail in their respective glam coffin, and hinted at a much more agressive style to come. They were beginning to get a few more notices in the music world, but nothing too major came their way. Pantera were soon noticed by major label Atco Records, whose reps signed them almost entirely because of a hurricane.
Cowboys from Hell
Darrell, when given a shot at performing with Megadeth, decided to keep making music with his brother and in 1989 Pantera released their major label debut, Cowboys from Hell. The riffs were sludgy, the rhythm section was tight, the solos were fucking crazy, and the vocals were alarming in their power. The title track kicked more ass than any debut track should, and the seven-minute ballad 'Cemetery Gates,' had more balls than the entire glam movement. For the first time, a groove was introduced in mainstream metal, somewhere that groove ought not have got itself stuck inside.
The band became a hit. They were playing international festivals, sharing billings with bands they were idolizing only years earlier. This was the fucking big time.
The Greatest Album Art of All Time
Forget for a moment that 1992's follow-up to Cowboys upped the ante for heavy music. Forget that tracks like "Fucking Hostile" and "Walk" could trample your balls, blow up your car, and steal your dog in a matter of minutes. Forget that this album was truly frightening in its ambition and execution. Forget that it was truth in advertising, indeed a Vulgar Display of Power. Forget all of that and just take a look at the album art:
That sound you're hearing is you becoming a bit less of a pussy.
Has there ever been an album cover so perfect in representing its sound? It has balls, it's abrasive, it's exactly what you're getting yourself into, soncially: a well-deserved and lovingly-administered facecrush.
At this time, Darrell assumed his place in the pantheon of metal legends by dropping the 'diamond' from his name, dyeing his beard pink, and donning the name "Dimebag" Darrell. The band as a whole became more than a musical group and something of a force, with an increasingly violent presence in the media and on stage.
Far Beyond Driven
1994 saw the release of Far Beyond Driven, an album so volatile that every other album in stores at the time would combust with unworthiness and shame. The groove was turned up 20 or so notches, drenched a nice coat of rust and Jack Daniels and then finally pummeled in the dick for good measure. Lead sing "I'm Broken" was a literal kick in the teeth, simply shaming all previous definitions of 'heavy.'
The original artwork for this album was supposed to feature a man being sodomized by a power drill. We're not going to show that here because our dick jokes are told with a measure of dignity, goddammit.
If you're hellbent, however...
Live shows became increasingly more lawless, with the Abbott brothers quarrelling with members of the press and Anselmo being arrested for beating a security guard.
The Great Southern Trendkill
1994 saw tension within the band. Anselmo was becoming withdrawn and insolent. It was revealed that a chronic back injury from years of touring and performing was crippling the singer and causing him great pain. A doctor advised him to get surgery and stay off the road for a year. In what can be described as either the dumbest decision ever or the epitome of the rockstar lifestyle, Anselmo decided to dull his pain with booze and heroin and keep trucking.
Due to this, his stage presence became increasingly bugfuck in its insanity. One night he would be drunkenly screaming how "rap advocates the murder of whites" and the next he would be urging the audience to 'drink acid' or 'smoke heroin,' getting into fights and getting more drunk as the show progressed. This is not unlike the life of a Cracked writer, but with a considerable absence of balls.
The only role model you'll ever need.
Pantera would release The Great Southern Trendkill in 1996, with its dark subject matter and instrumentation mirroring tensions within the band. The vocals weren't even recorded in the same state as the music; Anselmo was in New Orleans and the rest of the guys recorded in Dallas. "Floods," the seven-minute epic that spoke of human extinction, was the perfect example of where the band was at the moment.
After a performance in mid-1996, Phil Anselmo overdosed on heroin. He was technically dead for five minutes before he was given the Nikki Sixx treatment and was revived with prejudice. Phil's subsequent attempts to stay clean were not successful, and the band grew further apart.
Needless to say, shit was getting real. The band released a live album/video compilation in 1997, and would continue to tour for the next few years. There were several side projects formed at the time, such as Anselmo's Down and the Abbott brothers' Rebel Meets Rebel.
Anselmo's overdose did nothing to stop the band's rock star ways, however. The band had always had a penchant for playing hard both on stage and off. Dimebag would constantly partake in his own personal drink, the Black Tooth Grin, on stage and with fans. There are countless accounts of booze-fueled dumbfuckery on the band's part, including a particular tale where they had a hand in ruining the Stanley Cup.
Nowhere near metal enough for this shit.
Reinventing the Steel, and the End
Pantera would release their last official studio album, Reinventing the Steel, in 1999. Mounting tensions, disagreements, and the September 11th attacks would all play a significant role in the downfall of the group. Phil would constantly be absent or injured or too fucked out of his gourd when Pantera were slated to record new material. The end was soon near.
The Abbotts and Rex began to notice that Anselmo was lending more of his time to sideprojects when he was supposedly on hiatus. The band's tensions would never alleviate, and they would formally disband in 2003 after releasing a 'Best Of' album. Rex was neutral in the continuing conflicts between Anselmo and the Abbott brothers. There were death threats, attempts at reconciliation, name-calling, and general ego stroking. Run-of-the-mill rockstar bullshit, honestly.
Anselmo was focused on Down and SuperJoint Ritual during this time. Dime and Vinnie would go on to form Damageplan, their primary project after Pantera's dissolution. The band was performing on stage in Ohio on the night of December 8th 2004 (the 24th anniversary of John Lennon's death) when a crazed fan rushed the stage and shot Dimebag at point-blank range with a rifle. He was killed instantly, along with three others at the gig. The gunman was later killed by responding police officers. Given the gravity of events, it would seem that reconciliation would be the first thing to happen between the surviving members of Pantera; this couldn't have been more wrong.
Dime's death was tragic, senseless, and in almost every way sickening. However, he died doing someting he truly loved, melting faces with his music to the bitter fucking end. Needless to say, the world will never see an original Pantera reunion. Let's just hope that they work something out one day, because all of this back-and-forth bullshit is getting too fucking old. Dime and fans deserve better.
This man's life and death were more hardcore than you could ever hope to be. Rest in fuckin' peace, Dime.