The A-Z Of Pantera

Pantera in 2001: from left – Rex Brown, Dimebag Darrell, Phil Anselmo, Vinnie Paul
Pantera in 2001: Rex Brown, Dimebag Darrell, Phil Anselmo, Vinnie Paul
(Image: © Mick Huston\/Redferns)

It’s more than a decade since Pantera officially split up - and nearly as long since guitarist Dimebag Darrell was tragically murdered onstage by a crazed gunman. But their towering legacy is as important today as it ever was. Which is why we’re presenting an alphabetical look at one one the greatest metal bands in history. From Black Tooth Grins to vulgar displays of power, we’ve got it all…

A is for Abbot

Born in Ennis, Texas in 1964 and 1966 respectively, Vinnie and Darrell Abbot would form the backbone of everything Pantera would ever stamp their name on. Sons of country music songwriter and producer Jerry Abbot, the boys would abandon their surname upon starting to play in Pantera.

B is for Black Tooth

Dimebag’s signature shot, this has been the cause of billions of hangovers the world over. To give the beast it’s full title, The Black Tooth Grin (named after the famous line in Megadeth’s Sweating Bullets) is a mix of Crown Royal or Seagram 7 whiskey with the faintest splash of cola. Getcha fucking pull and then getcha fucking head down the toilet.

C is for Cowboys From Hell

The moment that defined Pantera’s path for the rest of their days. After spending the best part of a decade letting their glam metal influences run rampant, Cowboys From Hell would see the band starting to form the nucleus of their often Xeroxed but never bettered power groove element (best captured on the title track and swinging yet disco Primal Concrete Sledge). Some of the band’s past tendencies would show through like on Anselmo’s high-pitched wailing on Cemetery Gates and Van Halen-esque rock ‘n’ roll swagger riffing on Psycho Holiday but, essentially, this was Pantera’s glorious rebirth. The track Domination is also one of the driving forces behind popularising the beatdowns you hear everywhere in heavy music in the modern era.

D is for Dime

Where do you even start? There’s a difference between legends and icons. Legends did something cool once or twice but you can’t imagine the world without its icons and nobody wants to imagine a world that Dimebag wasn’t a part of. There’s his signature Dime From Hell guitar, his unique and unapologetically Southern style of playing, the Black Tooth shots, the songs, the solos and more. Ever seen someone with a red beard and not thought about Dime? That’s an icon.

E is for Early Days

While most count Cowboys as the first ‘proper’ Pantera album (care to look for the early stuff on Spotify?), the Texans actually released their debut in 1983. Releasing five albums in four years, first with singers Donnie Hart (who never made it to being on a record) and Terry Glaze, the Abbots and Rex Brown (then the amazingly 80s Rex Rocker) made a noise that had far more in common with Kiss, Skid Row and Dokken than they did the albums that would go on to define them. Those early days reached their best when Phil Anselmo joined their ranks on the Judas Priest inspired Power Metal in 1988.

F is for Far Beyond Driven

“You take the sound of Vulgar Display Of Power and you take the knowhow and you create a better record,” was Phil Anselmo’s war cry prior to the record’s release in March, 1994. Following an album that was regarded as an instant classic is no joke and the fact that Pantera managed to at least equal said classic says it all about their quality. Packing the heaviest songs of their career at that point with the opening flamethrower blast of Strength Beyond Strength, the most experimental with the one-two of Good Friends And A Bottle Of Pills and Hard Lines Sunken Cheeks and a whole host of classics from I’m Broken to Becoming, this is a varied and vicious all-time classic. It is still arguably the heaviest album to ever make it’s way to Number 1 on the Billboard charts.

G is for Great Southern Trendkill

The most underrated album of Pantera’s entire career, The Great Southern Trendkill is even more remarkable considering the circumstances it was written in. With Phil and the Abbots becoming more detached from one another during the FBD touring cycle, Anselmo would record his vocals separately from the band in Trent Reznor’s New Orleans studio. Nevertheless, the end product remains Pantera’s heaviest record. Raw and with Dimebag’s definitive work in combining Southern flair with uncompromising metal, this is a take no prisoners showing that perfectly encapsulated Pantera’s penchant for baring their ass at any trends going on any-fucking-where.

H is for Home Videos

Some of the most entertaining footage captured anywhere, yet again Pantera’s vision was to go against the grain by recording video/DVD releases in a style unlike anybody else. While the world had become accustomed to big budget concert videos and documentaries, Pantera simply used their god given talents for being crazy motherfuckers to their advantage by arming their road crew with handheld cameras and letting them film the mayhem of the day-to-day to life of Pantera. The end results were three timeless home videos (Cowboys From Hell: the Videos, Vulgar video and 3: Watch ‘Em Go), later put on one DVD, that perfectly capture the faces (be that band or crew) that made this band the people they were. Oh yeah and they smash LOADS of stuff up.

I is for Imprint

Imprint is the name of Vision Of Disorder’s kickass second album, released in 1998. Clearly taking influence from The Great Southern Trendkill, the track By The River features a sterling cameo from Phil Anselmo. Never heard this bad boy? Check it out and bang your head.

J is for Joe Giron

The band’s photographer and friend Joe Giron first met the Abbots when they were playing Van Halen covers in a bar in Texas and was with them until the 21st Century. Over the course of those years, Giron would take some of the most iconic metal photos of all time with the band. See that image on the back of Vulgar Display Of Power that you’ve seen everywhere from t-shirts to stickers and beyond? Yeah, 100% Giron, baby.

K is for Kiss

The Abbot’s love of the other-worldly rock icons is no secret. After all, Dimebag had a pic of Ace Frehley tattooed on his breast that he got the man himself to sign before getting the autograph tattooed underneath said portrait. Perhaps the greatest moment in the Kiss/Pantera axis comes on the latter’s Watch It Go home video. If you can watch Pantera supporting their boyhood heroes while dressed as them (including meeting the band in full regalia) and not feel your heart swell, you’re made of stone.

L is for Louisiana

The birthplace of Mr Phil Anselmo, New Orleans, Louisiana is core to the sound and mindset of Pantera’s fearless frontman. The birthplace of sludge and a constant source of inspiration for metal (have you listened to Goatwhore? FUCK!), Anselmo would relocate Texas at the age of 20 to join Pantera following stints in Samhain (not that Samhain, his own Samhain) and Razor White in his hometown.

M is for Megadeth

So the story goes, Dimebag Darrell was asked by Dave Mustaine to join Megadeth just prior to Anselmo joining Pantera. Darrell agreed in principle but, in true Dimebag style, he would only join the band if Mustaine would hire Vinnie on drums. He’d already hired Nick Menza so refused, Phil joined Pantera and the rest is heavy metal history.

N is for…er…Nickelback

Yeah. You may sneer at Nickelback but it’s well documented that the Abbots and Nickelback were brothers in arms. It’s pretty widely known that following Dimebag’s passing, Chad Kroeger would write Side Of A Bullet about his anger at the tragic events and Vinnie offered a posthumous solo of Darrell’s to be included on the track, but did you know that Dimebag played on a Nickelback and Kid Rock cover of Elton John’s Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting? No. Us neither.

O is for 101 Proof

The live album is not only a perfect capturing of what a unique live proposition Pantera were, it’s also one of the most quotable live albums of all time. “D’ya hear Rex’s bass?”, “Our hit? This is our hit…”, it’s the Anchorman of quotable one liners from a live album, courtesy of Mr Anselmo. It’s a trip to hear some of the earlier material from Cowboys updated with the band’s heavier late ‘90s sound, the setlist is flawless and somehow Fucking Hostile sounds even more furious here than on it’s studio version. A fitting tribute to one of metal’s greatest ever live acts.

P is for Partying

Just watch the home videos and see how it’s done. Drunk and high, Pantera looked like the most raucous and outrageous party band but not just because of their excesses. We’ve never seen a man be offered $5,000 to eat a cake the size of the average mammal or a man dressed as the Incredible Hulk tearing up a venue (literally) or a band letting off their own pyro in a car park but to Pantera, that was just a Tuesday. If there’s a band that has ever partied harder then we’ve never seen them.

Q is for Quit Whining, We’ll Talk About Floods

As we didn’t have room under F (and we’ll give you a high five if you can find something Pantera related beginning with Q), we have to talk about the majesty of this masterpiece. Every guitarist who ever meant anything has their signature and this is Dimebag Darrell’s. Voted the 15th greatest guitar solo ever by Guitar World, Floods is seven minutes awash (sorry) with expression, emotion, musicianship and drive all channeled through the brilliance of six strings, a stack of amps and one man’s expertise. It is, frankly, the shit.

R is for Reinventing The Steel

It’s not one for the fainthearted because it’s so aggressive and stock but RTS is still a full-blown classic. If a new band arrived today with a riff the size of Yesterday Don’t Mean Shit, we’d all lose our fucking minds. See also: Goddamn Electric, Revolution Is My Name, Uplift etc. The groove is less subtle and more like a steam train running over your head but that’s no bad thing whatsoever if you like your metal a little more gritty. It flows perfectly and, from the canon blast intro of Hellbound to the final eclectic end to I’ll Cast A Shadow, this is a rager.

S is for Stronger Than All

It was more than just a catchphrase, it was a mission statement. Taken from FBD’s opening salvo Strength Beyond Strength, it’s been emblazoned on numerous Pantera t-shirts and is probably the most accurate way of describing Texas’s finest.

T is for Texas

You can’t talk about Pantera without mentioning The Lone Star State. Before the band had even taken off, Dimebag had begun cementing himself in local legend by the end of his teenage years, being moved to being a judge in local Dallas guitar contests because if they didn’t, he’d continue to turn up, whoop everyone’s ass, and win all of the prizes. Listen to Pantera and sit in the knowledge that it wouldn’t have had the same perfect sound without their home state. If ever there was a reason to truly not mess with Texas, that’s it.

U is for Under The Covers

If you’ve not recovered from the Kid Rock/Nickelback cover we mentioned earlier, just know that Pantera were involved in some kickass cover versions. The most famous is perhaps their take on Black Sabbath’s Planet Caravan from Far Beyond Driven (they also do a hella badass version of Electric Funeral on the second Nativity In Black collection) but there’s also a killer version of Ted Nugent’s Cat Scratch Fever from the_ Detroit Rock City_ soundtrack and Dimebag has covered Ace Frehley’s Fractured Mirror for the tribute album Spacewalk and Believer in 2000 for a tribute to Randy Rhoads. If you’re a YouTube hound, check out Phil doing Would? with Alice In Chains too. Man alive…

V is for Vulgar Display Of Power

We love a pub discussion/Royal Rumble at Hammer and one that crops up is the difference between heavy metal and metal. A large argument comes in the form of this seminal record, that represented a new twist on a classic sound that changed the face of heavy music forever. Was this the moment heavy metal and metal became two separate things? It can definitely be argued. You can count on your fingers the albums that have had as much influence as this within heavy music. Pantera perfecting their power groove, it took the principles and ‘fuck the rules’ approach of heavy music to new heights and helped to modernise the sound we love today. Name a heavy band that have formed since that moment. Chances are, they wouldn’t sound that way if it wasn’t for this record. The songs speak for themselves but the influence of this bona fide masterpiece just can’t be measured.

W is for Walk

Smoke On The Water. Enter Sandman. Paranoid. Whole Lotta Love. They’ve all got that big timeless riff that, whether people know the song or not, everybody has heard at some point. It’s a tiny list but it’s one that Pantera’s most famous track belongs on. It’s lead riff is always the go-to element of the song but there’s so much. The swing of those drums, a pre-chorus as good as any you want to mention, the insane solo, “walk on home, boy”…the full nine yards. A classic metal anthem by one of the best to ever do it.

X is for Heard It On The X

Recorded for the ECW wrestling organisation’s Extreme Music compilation (future wrestling Hall of Famer Rob Van Dam used Walk as his entrance music for the federation), Vinnie, Dime and Rex recorded this ZZ Top belter under the moniker Tres Diablos. Hey, YOU try and find something for X and see how you get on.

Y is for Yeah, We Didn’t Have Room To Talk About Damageplan and Down On D So…

As well as Pantera, the members of this band went on to form two other kickass bands. Originally just a side project, when Down released their stoner metal classic debut NOLA, it sent a shockwave through heavy music that would help legitimise stoner as a relevant and blossoming genre. The lines between their duties in Pantera and Down beginning to blur for Phil Anselmo and Rex Brown, as well as Phil’s work on his turbo heavy ‘other’ band Superjoint Ritual, is often cited as a reason for the band ceasing to be. After Pantera, the Abbots joined forces with bassist Bob Zilla and former Halford guitarist Pat Lachman on vocals, Damageplan would continue Vinnie and Dime’s penchant for power groove on the band’s only album, New Found Power. A decade on from its release, it still slams.

Z is for Zakk?

Those rumours just won’t go away, will they? Even though Vinnie’s quotes seem to suggest there will never be a ‘reunion’ that will include his former Pantera bandmates reforming with Zakk Wylde playing guitar, the rumours pop up every single year. File it under severely doubtful but never say never.