Wednesday, July 25, 2007

History of Hard Rock/Heavy Metal: Pantera

No band affected the metal world more than Pantera during the early to mid-'90s. As a matter of fact, in the face of Brittany Spears, N'Sync and the like, Pantera, more than any other band kept metal from extinction in the 90s.

Pantera's beginnings date back to the early '80s when the Texas-based band began releasing albums on the Metal Magic label. Originally, the band featured then-teenaged brothers Darrell Abbott (aka Dimebag Darrell and, for a short while, Diamond Darrell) and Vinnie Paul Abbott (aka Vinnie Paul), as well as Rex Brown (aka Rex Rocker) and Terrence Lee (aka Terry Glaze).

While these '80s albums are no doubt curious to hear, it's fairly evident that this was a much different Pantera. For the most part, fans and surely the band treat Cowboys from Hell as Pantera's "official" debut album featuring the group's longtime lineup: Anselmo (vocals), Dimebag (guitar), Vinnie Paul (drums), and Rex Brown (bass).

This album put Pantera on the national metal map, particularly thanks to songs like "Cemetery Gates" and the title track. Two years later, Pantera returned with Vulgar Display of Power and solidified their status as an up-and-coming metal band with a unique sound. It took a little while, but Vulgar Display of Power made serious waves among metalheads.

When Far Beyond Driven hit the streets in 1994, Pantera had become the most popular band in the metal land. The album debuted atop the Billboard album charts — quite a feat for such extreme music! — and the band continued its seemingly never-ending string of tours, packing sports arenas across America.

When Pantera returned in 1996 with their next album, The Great Southern Trendkill, quite a bit had changed. They'd begun experimenting with their sound, slowing down their tempos and moving away from the relentless heaviness of Far Beyond Driven.

It would be four years before Pantera released another studio album, releasing a stopgap live album in 1997, the fierce Official Live: 101 Proof. During this long interim, rumors swirled and Anselmo further distanced himself from the band, participating in various side projects, among them Down, with which he experienced quite a bit of success.

Pantera did reunite, however — one last time — for Reinventing the Steel, which was released in 2000 and, like The Great Southern Trendkill, didn't come close to matching the impact of Far Beyond Driven. By this point the band's following had dwindled, and the metal landscape had undergone serious changes with the emergence of alt-metal bands like Korn and Tool, not to mention the likes of Marilyn Manson and Limp Bizkit.

Pantera would dissolve later with Anselmo releasing material under the Down and Superjoint Ritual monikers.

Meanwhile, Dimebag and Vinnie Paul formed Damageplan, a fairly stable band that sought to pick up where Pantera had left off. In fact, they even played some Pantera songs during their live shows.

Following the release of their debut album, New Found Power, and some club shows, Damageplan met a tragic end on December 7, 2004. That night — 24 years after John Lennon's shooting to the day! — a homicidal fan shot Dimebag at a small club show in Columbus, OH. The band hadn't gotten more than a song into its show before the murderer breached security, jumped on-stage, and shot the guitarist numerous times at point blank, murdering a few others in the process.

Despite the tragic slaying, the legacy Pantera left behind will last a lifetime. They were one of the greates metal bands of all time.

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