Pantera were a four piece American groove metal band from Arlington, Texas. The band were responsible for rejuvenating the heavy metal scene in the early 90’s with their albums Cowboys From Hell, Vulgar Display of Power, and Far Beyond Driven. They are best known for their songs “Cemetery Gates,” “Walk,” “I’m Broken,” “This Love,” and “Cowboys From Hell.”
Pantera started out as a glam metal band, called Pantera’s Metal Magic. The band would eventually consist of Vinnie Paul Abbot, “Diamond” Darrell Abbot (later “Dimebag” Darrell), Rex Brown (then Rexx Rocker), and singer Terry Glaze. After three albums with their glam singer Terry Glaze, they slowly started to produce a slightly heavier sound, but still didn’t manage any major success.
In 1987, the band parted ways with singer Terry Glaze and found New Orleans native Phil Anselmo. The new lineup had great chemistry, and released the much heavier Power Metal in 1988. You can hear some heavy Judas Priest influence, along with thrash metal, which was growing in popularity at the time. This is the final album before Pantera’s move to groove metal, when they experienced their highest charting albums.
Guitarist Diamond Darrell tried out for the vacant lead guitarist slot in Megadeth between Power Metal and their next album. Darrell insisted Vinnie Paul also be recruited into the band, but Dave Mustaine refused because the slot was already filled by Nick Menza. The band regrouped and focused on recording their next album, which would become their breakthrough success.
Cowboys from Hell was released on July 24, 1990, led by the release of the song “Cowboys from Hell.” It was followed up by the successful single “Cemetery Gates.” Cowboys from Hell eventually went on to reach Platinum certification status. The album was critically well received, and featured unique solos from Diamond Darrell, power metal falsetto vocals from Anselmo, and thrash influenced tracks that remained live concert staples. The album took two years to reach its peak Billboard 200 chart position.
Following the success of CFH, the band went on to record their breakthrough album, Vulgar Display of Power. Released on February 25, 1992, Anselmo changed his vocal style from power metal with thrash influences to thrash mixed with hardcore, a much more aggressive style that won over a lot of new fans. Their new sound would be coined “groove metal,” and would go on to influence other genres of metal like nu metal, alternative metal, and metalcore . Eventually the album would reach Double Platinum certification in the USA. The lead single for the album was “Mouth for War,” followed by “Hollow,” “This Love,” and “Walk.” In 2012, an unreleased recording called “Piss” was released from the Vulgar Display of Power recording sessions. Cowboys from Hell also received a boost in album sales following the release of Vulgar Display of Power.
By the time VDOP was released, Diamond Darrell was now known as “Dimebag” Darrell, and Rexx Rocker as Rex Brown.
On March 22, 1994, Pantera released the album Far Beyond Driven. The album debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, an interesting statistic considering the popularity of grunge at the time. The lead single was “I’m Broken,” which received a Grammy nomination for “Best Metal Performance.” Other singles from the album included the Black Sabbath cover “Planet Caravan,” “5 Minutes Alone,” and “Becoming.” During the touring for Far Beyond Driven, Anselmo began to use painkillers to self medicate degenerative disk disease. This escalated into alcohol and eventually heroin, which would affect his live performances and isolate him from the rest of the band.
In 1995, Anselmo collaborated on the supergroup metal project Down. The album was a success, and featured members of Corrosion of Conformity, Crowbar, and Eyehategod.
Band tensions continued to escalate based on Anselmo’s on stage behavior and drug abuse in 1995. Pantera released their next studio album, The Great Southern Trendkill, on May 7, 1996. Anselmo’s vocals were recorded separately from the band at Trent Reznor’s Nothing Studios in New Orleans and sent back to the band in Chasin Jason Studios in Dallas, Texas. The album contained the single “Drag the Waters,” and the acclaimed “Floods,” which Dimebag Darrell has been posthumously awarded for his complex guitar solos.
On July 13, 1996, Anselmo’s heart stopped beating for five minutes due to a heroin overdose. He made efforts to become sober at this point, and toured with the band in 1996-1998. Anselmo and other band members had various metal side projects in the works during this time.
On March 21, 2000, the band released Reinventing the Steel, which would incorporate more classic heavy metal elements. It reached #4 on the Billboard 200, and was led by the single “Revolution is My Name.” Pantera would tour throughout 2000-2001, including dates on Ozzfest. Their final performance together as a band would be August 28, 2001.
In 2001-2003, Anselmo would be involved in many side projects, while Pantera released a “best of” compilation album. Pantera officially broke up in 2003, while the Abbot Brothers formed the new band Damage Plan.
In 2004, Phil Anselmo gave an interview on Metal Hammer and would make remarks about the other band members, including “Dimebag deserves to be beaten severely,” which resulted in much back and forth fighting between the band members. On December 8, 2004, in Columbus Ohio during a gig at the Alrosa Villa, Dimebag Darrell was shot to death on stage by a crazed fan, Nathan Gale, just one minute into their set. Also shot and killed were three other people, including a fan, a club employee, and Pantera security official. Others were also injured by the unstable fan.
Anselmo was barred from the funeral of Dimebag Darrell, while Vinnie Abbott has not reconciled with Anselmo. Vinnie Paul went on to form Hellyeah, a group consisting of members of Nothingface and Mudvayne.
Pantera have influenced countless bands in nu metal, metalcore, and other metal genres. Dimebag Darrell is consistently pointed to as having one of the most recognizable guitar sounds.
- Metal Magic (1983)
- Projects in the Jungle (1984)
- I Am the Night (1985)
- Power Metal (1988)
- Cowboys from Hell (1990)
- Vulgar Display of Power (1992)
- Far Beyond Driven (1994)
- The Great Southern Trendkill (1996)
- Reinventing the Steel (2000)