If you're reading this, you of course already know a lot about the man they called Dimebag. You know that he played lead guitar for Pantera. You know that he formed Damageplan after the acrimonious break-up of Pantera. And you know all too well that on December 8th, 2004, his life was brutally and senselessly taken away at a club in Columbus, Ohio.
There will be tributes aplenty for Dimebag and I feel no shame in adding Wormwood's thoughts and meditations on Mr. Abbott to the list. His accomplishments as a guitarist really need little repeating but let me say again that Dimebag's greatest feat was helping to keep metal alive in the early 90's. At a time when the entire genre of heavy metal was teetering on the verge of complete extinction. Darrell and the rest of Pantera sucked it up, dug in their heels and decided to fight. They chose the more difficult road, the path of true heaviness, of down-and-dirty punch you in the nuts Texas metal. And it is to the everlasting happiness of metal fans worldwide that they succeeded wildly. No record proved that the public still had a hunger for rough metal more than "Far Beyond Driven", which made the efforts of Metallica, Megadeth and even Slayer seem watered down.
That was the Pantera and the Dimebag we all came to know. That's not the way things started out. You see, I remember back as early as 1984, when I first heard rumblings in the late, lamented "Metal Forces" magazine of a popular Texas band called Pantera. Back then, they were not the scruffy thrashers of the 90's, but more in the commercial vein of a Motley Crue or the lighter Judas Priest. Darrell apparently favored precious gems over marijuana at that point, calling himself "Diamond Darrell". Along with his brother Vinnie Paul on drums, hilariously named Rex Rocker on bass and high pitched screamer Terrence Lee on vocals, Pantera released three records with some of the worst cover art in history. Despite that drawback, the band became a cult sensation and there was a buzz in underground circles about the frizzy haired Texan with such a unique style of playing.
Around 1988 or so, Terrence Lee left Pantera. Enter leather lunged Phil Anselmo and enter also a severe upgrade in the heaviness of the band. "Power Metal" saw them toughening themselves up quite a bit but nobody could have predicted the outburst of power that was "Cowboys From Hell". On a major label, no less. The Pantera renaissance was on... and heavy metal started to claw its way back up out of the abyss.
I won't bother to give the blow by blow on the band and on the newly christened Dimebag from that point. It's all in the heavy metal history books. But for sure, Dimebag injected a good dose of the old "guitar hero" ethic back into hard music. He was the latest in a line of flashy guitar screamers that included Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhoads. A guitar solo wasn't a dirty word to Mr. Abbott. No, indeed, the rowdy Texan thrived on coaxing an incredible variety of squeals, growls and fiery licks from his axe.
I never met Dimebag in person. I saw him numerous times, the last time with Damageplan in Davis Park. The crowd reacted well to Damageplan's material, but when Dimebag cut loose with the opening bars of "Walk", you could tell that Pantera would never be far from the heart of this American original. From all accounts, he was a kind and jovial man. No saint, I'm sure, and with a passion for strong drink, pretty women and the herb that inspired his nickname, but a guy who loved his fans and never failed to talk with them.
Now, thanks to the brainless antics of Nathan Gale, not only has the metal world lost a shining light, but Vinnie is missing a brother, Rita a husband, the other members of Damageplan their guiding star and a hell of a lot of people a good friend. No, I never met Darrell Abbott but he was still a friend of mine, one I could always count on when the going got rough and heavy metal was needed to pull me through.
God Bless You, Dimebag...may you shred forever in that big ol' titty bar in the sky...
On the evening of December 8th, 2004, while performing with most recent band, Damage Plan at the Alrosa Villa nightclub in Columbus, Ohio, Dime was gunned down by a coward who reportedly could not hack it that Pantera had broken up. The man reportedly ran past security posts and while being chased by venue and band security, made his way up until the stage, and proceeded to put 5-6 shots into the guitarist.
After killing 3 more (among them Damageplan’s head of security, a venue employee, and an audience member), and wounding two others, the man held another would-be victim hostage in a headlock while a lone police officer entered from the rear and engaged him. Dime’s assailant was struck down just as he had done to his sought-out victim.
Upon reading what must have been hundreds of different articles on it, I’m still incredibly saddened and angry, but I am also still left with many questions. I keep thinking that I am going to flip on the news and they will show footage of Dime’s funeral with him leaping out of the casket going “Ha ha, got you fuckers!!!” It just doesn’t seem genuine to me. It's like trying to imagine your own father dead or something. You know he’s gotta go sometime, but all the while you still see him as this invincible embodiment of strength and good heart. What an appropriate way to start describing Darrell.
I also keep going over in my head about what the coward’s mindset must have been. I want to look into the deepest pits of hell while they are ripping his soul asunder, and reach down to slap the asshole and just ask him if he even bothered to think about it. It is said that he committed this action out of anger for Pantera’s breakup, and what I keep thinking of is how many bands have reunited in the last year alone. I can’t even count them all. They say time heals all wounds, and if what we’ve seen from any of these other recent reunions is true, then my best estimate is that given 5-7 years, we would have had a new Pantera album out; I’m sure of it. I mean, we all had hope that Pantera would reunite eventually, and here everything was shattered by a coward who basically didn’t have the faith in the band that the rest of us did. He was selfish and impatient and for these minor character faults, we all now have to suffer this unimaginable loss.
Thinking about all that Dime has accomplished and could have accomplished, it makes it all the more hurtful. Forming
The following releases, a ’97 live effort entitled “Official Live: 101 Proof,” and 2000’s much-anticipated "Reinventing the Steel” only served the add fuel to the fire burning within every heavy music fan. While many never saw the 2003 breakup of Pantera coming, there were hints of tension in the air between the brothers Abbott and the singer, Anselmo.(It was a lot more than a hint when I saw them on the Extreme Steel tour with Slayer in Chicago. In another drunken blathering, Anselmo said "you won't be seeing Pantera for a long time""while Dime looked none too pleased.--Dr. Mality) While Phil went on to form a half-ass supergroup with Superjoint Ritual, Dime and Vinny hooked up with bassist Bob Zilla and former Halford guitarist Patrick Lachman (on vocals) to form Damageplan.
Throughout this span, metal died off quite fairly. The underground scene was still there, but due to over-saturation and lack of imagination, many bands were dying off as quickly as they were born, and many fans were being left disillusioned with the lack of activity from bands like Metallica and Slayer, and the questionable amount of substance in new material by Megadeth and Anthrax. The only real constant in the 1990s, were these four dudes from Texas.
Many can argue over what really drove Pantera’s music into the hearts and minds of countless heavy music fans, whether it was the intelligent and piss-injected vocals of Phil Anselmo, or the tightest rhythm section on the planet in the form of Rex Brown and Vinny Paul. Truth is, none of this would have even mattered without the incredible and immeasurable genius of guitarist Diamond/Dimebag Darrell. When you honestly think about it, an expert, logical argument can be formed to support the statement that Dimebag Darrell just about single-handedly saved metal music! Name a band who had a larger impact on the metal scene in the 90s. Ask 99% of the bands that were formed between 1991 and present day, and at least someone in the band will tell you that Pantera was an immense influence on them.
To paraphrase Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian, he was second only to Eddie Van Halen in the realm of reinventing rock and metal guitar. On a personal level, I remember the first time I heard “I’m Broken” on an episode of "Beavis and Butthead,’ and my jaw hit the damn floor before that intro riff had even been played the second time. The tone of his guitar hit like a brick in the face, and speaking as an accomplished guitarist myself who has heard countless other guitarists on thousands of other CDs, I’m telling you I can’t think of a single one as downright fluid on the fretboard as Dimebag was. When he played, it literally sounded like water running down the neck of the instrument with how well everything meshed together and flowed. His solos were expertly constructed, with enough tricks in there that it kept me glued to the headphones since 1996, and after hearing a million other guys, I myself can’t think of anyone who had more of an impact on my own playing than Dime did. He was in a league by himself.
Finally, speaking as a fan, I have never actually seen anyone be so friendly to his fans and his musician peers as he was. In a day and age where just because your album sells more than 20,000 copies you think you are a bona fide hit-maker, Dimebag went multi-platinum and it never went to his head, nor did it blacken his big heart. His craziness and whackiness wasn’t limited to his guitar antics and the stuff he’d do at after-show parties is the stuff of legend. All in the name of fun and metal.
We will all miss you.
I will miss you, Dimebag.
- Arnold “Thrash-head” Hablewitz
When I heard the news the next day, I was in complete shock. The first thoughts that raced through my mind were; "Oh My God", and "Why did This Happen?"
I became aware of Dimebag's amazing talent as a guitarist back in the early '90s. There was this metal program I listened to called G-Force. (That's still around to this day, now called "Rebel Radio"). Pantera played a show at a small club back then, that one of their dj's went to. Somehow he managed to get a tape at the show with a few songs on it. He brought the tape back to the station, and they started playing it on the air. As you can probably guess, the requests for more Pantera were overwhelming.
When they released their next album, "Vulgar Display Of Power", their popularity and fan base continued to grow, eventually making them one of the biggest metal bands of the decade. Pantera made such a impact, that by the time they released their third album "Far Beyond Driven", it went all the way to #1. That was a major victory for us metalheads, in a time when "Alternative" ruled the airwaves. Pantera proved that metal wasn't dead, they stuck to their guns, and didn't follow any trends.
I had the pleasure of seeing Dimebag play with Pantera four times. Two of them being on the Ozzfest, ('97 and 2000) and the other two times were their own headline shows. My favorite being the "Extreme Steel" tour. (with Slayer and Morbid Angel) Dimebag always looked like he was having a great time up there, shredding away on his beloved guitar, and head banging away while downing a shot of "Black Tooth" that one of the road crew would provide him with while playing!
I loved Dimebag's sense of humor. It seemed like everytime I saw Pantera play they would do the intro for "Cemetery Gates", and maybe the first verse. When you thought you would finally get to see them play it all the way through, They would be like nope, not this time! Sometimes he would drop "Sweet Home Alabama", or "Cat Scratch Fever" into a song, which gave me a chuckle. If you have seen the Pantera home video's, you probably know what I'm talking about, lots of hijinx, that always put a smile on my face.
I would say my best memory of Dimebag, will be that final tour he did with Damageplan. I was able to meet him after the
The metal community has lost another great legend, from the fans, to the many musician friends that Dimebag knew, to his family - we will all miss him.
Dimebag - You were an inspiration to us all, and we will never forget you
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