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UNITED STATES, Texas, Arlington

Date Formed 1981
Date Disbanded 2002

Categories: Heavy Metal, Metal, Neo-Thrash

Biography

Highly influential Metal band. The Arlington based band would, at a mid point in their career, adopt an aggressive new musical direction of hardened Thrash which would see PANTERA becoming one of the major artists in the Metal field, enjoying Platinum sales status and a number 1 Billboard album. Such was their innovation that they would create a whole new genre in the Heavy Metal field and influence a plethora of artists that came in their wake.

Whilst the mainstream discovered PANTERA in 1990, on the back of the 'Cowboys From Hell' album, it came as a surprise to many that the group had been operational, and successful, for many years prior, holding major status in Texas and boasting strong cult appeal internationally. The band's former musical stance and image was wildly different to that portrayed from 1990 onwards and initially the record company attempted to bury these past achievements - to no avail.

PANTERA (Spanish for 'Panther') started life in 1981 on the Texan club scene performing cover sets of VAN HALEN and KISS songs. Founded in 11th grade, the very first PANTERA line-up comprised singer Donnie Hart, guitarists Darrell Abbott and Terry Lee Glaze, bassist Tommy Bradford and drummer Vinnie Paul. By 1982 Hart had exited, with Glaze switching from guitar to the lead vocal role, and Bradford had been superseded by Rex Brown.

Diamond Darrell's enthusiasm to pick up the guitar came from having witnessed Ace Frehley and he proudly sport an ACE FREHLEY tattoo and KISS emblazoned guitars. PANTERA quickly became cult favourites on the underground metal scene with fans being constantly bemused by the band's undoubted quality against a series of truly horrendous amateur album covers and PANTERA's inability to break into the big time outside of dominating Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.

Nevertheless, PANTERA soon became adopted sons on their home turf, supporting the likes of STRYPER, DOKKEN and QUIET RIOT promoting debut album 'Metal Magic' in 1983. Glaze was to change his surname to Lee for the 1984 'Projects In The Jungle' album, a record which captured PANTERA drifting away from the more obvious melodic influences.

'I Am The Night', emerging in 1985 and again produced by The Eldn' (in reality Darrell and Vinnie's father Jerry) at Pantego Studios, boosted the band's profile scoring many maximum marks in the world's metal press finding the band in a heavier mood. PANTERA were still suffering from poor distribution, many fans being forced to pay extortionate import prices for the album, consequently the album struggled to sell 25'000 copies.

Soon after 'I Am The Night's release Lee split from the band to form LORD TRACY (originally called TRACI LORDS) and PANTERA retreated into the shadows. A series of vocalists followed including Matt L'Amour, who later joined DIAMOND, and David Peacock. These liaisons were short-lived however and PANTERA eventually re-emerged fronted by Louisiana native and ex-SAMHAIN and RAZOR WHITE singer Phil Anselmo, the new singer's latter act also having in their ranks future CROWBAR man Matt Thomas and FALL FROM GRACE's Wil Buras.

Despite finding their frontman, PANTERA were still blighted by problems. Their new record label Gold Mountain, tipped off about the band's prowess by KEEL guitarist MARC FERRARI, having met PANTERA when KEEL had played in Dallas with LOUDNESS during 1985, trying to manoeuvre the band into commercial territory. Undaunted and unconvinced, PANTERA recorded their heaviest album to date, 'Power Metal', and negotiated for a release on their own Metal Magic label. KEEL guitarist MARC FERRARI guested on the album with PANTERA returning the favour by recording Ferrari's 'Proud To Be Loud'. Although 1988's 'Power Metal' was undoubtedly a much harder record than previous attempts it was nothing compared to what was to come...

PANTERA drew back away from the limelight, during which time the band came close to splintering. Darrell had auditioned for the vacant guitar position in MEGADETH and was reportedly offered the post. However, Darrell insisted that Vinnie was part of the package and MEGADETH, who already had a drummer in Nick Menza, backed off, recruiting MARTY FRIEDMAN instead.

Legend has it that Atco Records A&R rep Mark Ross discovered the band almost by chance, stranded in Texas due to the ravages of Hurricane Hugo. Having caught the band live and realising the significant fan base PANTERA already held, negotiations with Atco Records ensued and the musicians also placed their faith in new management, contracting with Walter O'Brien at Concrete Inc. in New York. Upon their re-emergence and PANTERA surprised many with a new look, Phil Anselmo now sporting a close shorn haircut and a patchwork of tattoos, and a radical change in direction. PANTERA's 'Cowboys From Hell' album, recorded at the band's own Pantego Sound Studios and delivered in July 1990, offered bludgeoning Hardcore riffs, the solid intensity of their new songs burying any comparisons to their more melodic predecessors.

The intensity of tracks such as 'Primal Concrete Sledge' and 'Cemetery Gates' forced a keen impression on extreme music fans eager to find a replacement for the waning Thrash movement. In particular, Diamond Darrell, as he was then still known, had singlehandedly re-invented the art of Metal guitar playing, his unorthodox, yet highly rhythmic, stacking of non-conformist notes and liberal use of signature pinch harmonics engaging a whole new generation of budding six-stringers. Certainly transitional, Phil anselmo not yet having totally shed his former traditional vocal stylings, 'Cowboys From Hell' projected the band's new focus to such a degree there could be no turning back. MTV took to the group too, giving regular rotation to promotional videos for 'Cowboys From Hell', 'Cemetery Gates' and 'Psycho Holiday'. The "re-debut" had put PANTERA into a whole new league.

The 'Cowboys From Hell' tour opened in North America with a bill that saw the Texans sharing the stage with EXODUS and SUICIDAL TENDENCIES. Later dates had PANTERA alongside MIND OVER FOUR and PRONG. In the midst of a Canadian leg of dates, JUDAS PRIEST vocalist Rob Halford joined the band onstage for versions of JUDAS PRIEST's 'Grinder' and 'Metal Gods', a union that was to aid PANTERA later the same year as they performed their first ever European shows in 1991 opening for the British metal Gods. Bearing in mind JUDAS PRIEST's status future events became quite bizarre as PRIEST frontman Rob Halford seemingly metamorphosised into an Anselmo clone both vocally and image wise for his subsequent FIGHT project. Road work would be topped by an appearance at the Tushino Air Field in Moscow on September 28th 1991, featuring on a bill alongside AC/DC, METALLICA and the BLACK CROWES to a crowd of over half a million people.

Two and a half years on the road had convinced PANTERA to pursue their new found harder direction with even more vigour and the resulting February 1992 album, 'Vulgar Display Of Power', silenced all critics as it broke the band world-wide charting in both Britain, at number 64, and America, at number 44. These initial chart entries would prove deceptive though, as once the PANTERA machine had started to roll inexorably onward 'Vulgar Display Of Power's sales proved steady and strong for many years to come. The musicians also renewed their association with Rob Halford, backing him on a one off promotional single, 'Light Comes Out Of Black', featured on the soundtrack to the 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer' movie.

PANTERA were by now openly opinionating their desire to exceed any aural ferocity that had gone before. Many rock fans believed the band to have lost the essence of song-writing in their hunt for extremity but many, many more newer converts lapped it up. Quite remarkably, the band were confessing to recording albums almost spontaneously whilst under the influence. Whatever formula they had in fact adopted, PANTERA had turned the Metal world on its head. Whilst a succession of singles, 'Walk', 'This Love' and 'Mouth For War', blazed across radio and MTV, a gruelling schedule of concerts across the globe found the act sharing stages with MEGADETH on their 'Countdown To Extinction' dates, WHITE ZOMBIE, SACRED REICH, SKID ROW, and SOUNDGARDEN. PANTERA hit Japan for the first time in July 1992 and played the IRON MAIDEN and BLACK SABBATH headlined 'Monsters of Rock' festival in Italy on September 12th.

Incredibly for a record of such ferocity 'Far Beyond Driven', launched in March 1994 complete with a cover of BLACK SABBATH's 'Planet Caravan', entered at the hallowed number 1 position in the American Billboard album charts. PANTERA were quick to fling themselves headlong into a bout of touring with guests CROWBAR. South American shows were conducted to near ecstatic sold out crowds, dates in Argentina had ANIMAL and LETHAL as openers and in Brazil DR. SIN were the guests. July saw a strengthening of the touring package as PANTERA were now topping a bill comprising of SEPULTURA and BIOHAZARD before a June 4th Castle Donington 'Monsters Of Rock' performance.

The Donington show, headlined by AEROSMITH, was slightly marred by an ugly incident the night before at Nottingham's Rock City club where both Darrell and Vinnie were involved in altercations with journalists Morat of 'Kerrang!' and Paul Rees of 'Raw' publications respectively, the latter due to the drummer having once been portrayed by the magazine in cartoon form as Obelisk, Asterix The Gaul's stocky partner.

The May 1994 single '5 Minutes Alone' came backed with a B side cover version of POISON IDEA's 'The Badge', the song originally having been cut for the band's contribution to 'The Crow' movie soundtrack. Back on the road, UK dates that September saw support coming from DOWNSET. By the close of the global trek, with final American shows having PRONG as openers, the band had put in some 90 dates.

1995 began with a continuation of live work but by March PANTERA had landed themselves in trouble when at a Canadian gig in Montreal a radio DJ perceived some of Anselmo's onstage raps to be of a racist tone. Anselmo was forced into issuing a public retraction purporting that his drunken remarks were off the cuff and ill advised.

1995 also saw the release of Anselmo's DOWN knockabout act's album 'Nola'. The front man had recorded a batch of brutal songs in some PANTERA downtime together with friends Pepper Keenan from CORROSION OF CONFORMITY, CROWBAR's Kirk Windstein and Todd Strange and EYEHATEGOD's Jimmy Bower. Although originally assembled as a jam session between friends, DOWN's debut rapidly gained acclaimed cult status. The advent of DOWN signalled a stream of extracurricular projects launched by the singer.

PANTERA bounced back in April 1996 with 'The Great Southern Trendkill', the music hewn out with Terry Date at Chasin Jason Studios in in Dalworthington Gardens, Texas whilst Anselmo put his vocals down at Nothing Studios in New Orleans. Additional "screams" came courtesy of ANAL CUNT's notorious mentor Seth Putnam. A more introspective, moodier affair than its predecessors the record caught some flak from some reviewers but garnered no such qualms from hardened fans. Taking the Metal to the masses once again, PANTERA launched into a US tour in August 1996 backed up by WHITE ZOMBIE and DEFTONES. As the live campaign rolled into 1997 the band then invited CLUTCH and SOILENT GREEN along for the ride.

1997 proved significant as 'Cowboys From Hell', 'Vulgar Display Of Power' and 'Far Beyond driven' all attained platinum sales status in the USA for one million sales each. That July the concert recordings 'Live 101 Proof', hosting two studio cuts 'Where You Come From' and 'I Can't Hide', arrived in stores, hitting number 15 in the USA. However, with rumoured dissent between factions within the band being seized upon by the media, PANTERA then took a lengthy spell away from the limelight.

Anselmo, billing himself as 'Anton Crowley' would also turn up as guitarist for the reformed NECROPHAGIA for the 1999 'Holocausto De La Morte' album. PANTERA's audio output that year would be restricted to a raucous rendition of TED NUGENT's seminal 'Cat Scratch Fever' included on the 'Detroit Rock City' movie soundtrack. Another cover the following year came with their take on BLACK SABBATH's 'Electric Funeral' on the tribute collection 'Nativity In Black II'. 2000 found Anselmo involved in the Black Metal 'star' side project EIBON. With a low key track inclusion on the 'Moonfog 2000' compilation album EIBON consisted of SATYRICON's Satyr Wongraven, DARKTHRONE's Fenriz, Maniac of MAYHEM and NECROPHAGIA's Killjoy.

PANTERA's 'Reinventing The Steel' album hit home in March 2000. With two singles being spun off, 'Goddamn Electric' and the Grammy Nominated 'Revolution Is My Name', the record fared well, impacting on the Billboard charts at number 4. 'Goddamn Electric' was of note due to its inclusion of a guest guitar solo dropped in by Kerry King of SLAYER, actually recorded onto a portable tape machine backstage at a Dallas 'Ozzfest' stop. Unfortunately, the anthem of brotherhood and longevity intended by album track 'We'll Grind That Axe For A Long Time' was to prove ill fated. PANTERA's 2000 European tour found SATYRICON acting as openers. American dates were curtailed when Anselmo broke two ribs at an early gig.

Another of Anselmo's 'Anton Crowley' side projects the Black Metal act VIKING CROWN also issued the 'Innocence From Hell' album the same year. A left of field diversion, dubbed REBEL MEETS REBEL, found Vinnie Paul, Dimebag Darrell and Rex Brown working with Country & Western musician DAVID ALLAN COE.

Following a batch of American headliners winding up in Anchorage, Alaska the band struck out to Seoul in Korea prior to Australasian gigs in May supported by CORROSION OF CONFORMITY and Australian act SEGRESSION. Not content to rest there, PANTERA assembled a billing entitled 'Extreme Steel' for a further American leg strongly bolstered by MORBID ANGEL, SLAYER, STATIC X and SKRAPE. However, European festival billings, dubbed the 'Tattoo The Planet' dates originally in alliance with SLAYER, BIOHAZARD, VISION OF DISORDER and STATIC X, were far from trouble free. Following the September 11th terrorist attacks PANTERA pulled out of the tour leaving SLAYER to remain behind as headliners.

Toward the close of the year Anselmo seemingly took his passion for side ventures into overdrive declaring a further two bands to his ever lengthening list of side projects. SOUTHERN ISOLATION, which featured Anselmo's girlfriend Stephanie Opal as lead vocalist, saw Anselmo acting as guitarist. The band was rounded out by CHRIST INVERSION keyboard player Ross Karpelman, Kevin Bond of CHRIST INVERSION, CROWBAR and SUPERJOINT RITUAL on bass guitar and Sid Montz on drums. A four track EP was issued in October 2001 on the Baphomet label. Anselmo also announced was another collaboration with Killjoy of NECROPHAGIA billed as ENOCH. This band also boasting the inclusion of Mirai from cult Japanese Black Metal band SIGH.

Vinnie Paul and Dimebag Darrell would pursue side activities too, although of a rather unexpected nature, as their ongoing affiliation with Country & Western artist DAVID COE ALLEN morphed into a Southern Rock venture billed as GASOLINE. It would also be discovered that Darrell had been in discussions with erstwhile ALICE IN CHAINS guitarist JERRY CANTRELL, NICKELBACK vocalist / guitarist Chad Kroeger and DEFAULT frontman Dallas Smith in regard to setting up a proposed band union.

Anselmo's DOWN project would resurface during 2002 touting a new album 'Down II: Bustle In Your Hedgerow'. Another of the singer's endeavours, SUPERJOINT RITUAL, would also announce an album 'Use Once And Destroy'. This band being made up bassist Hank Williams III, EYEHATEGOD guitarist / DOWN drummer Jimmy Bower, ex-CROWBAR guitarist Kevin Bond and drummer Joseph Fazzio of STRESSBALL.

During mid December it would be revealed that Dimebag Darrell had teamed up with KID ROCK and NICKELBACK's Chad Kroeger to record a cover version of ELTON JOHN's raucous 70s hit 'Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)'. Yet another PANTERA related project was unveiled in January 2003 as guitarist Dimebag Darrell and drummer Vinnie Paul united with DIESEL MACHINE and ex-HALFORD guitarist Patrick Lachman, taking on a lead vocal role, and erstwhile JERRY CANTRELL guitarist Sean Matthews as bassist in a project band entitled NEW FOUND POWER. By October Matthews was out of the project, which had taken on the new guise of DAMAGEPLAN. The debut album, 'New Found Power', shifted just under 45,000 copies in its first week of US sales to land at number 38 in the Billboard album charts.

Throughout 2004 Anselmo, promoting his SUPERJOINT RITUAL project and the DAMAGEPLAN members played out a very public, verbal sparring match. August saw the Recording Industry Association of America certifying the 1992 'Vulgar Display Of Power' album with double platinum status in recognition of two million US sales.

Despite ongoing bitter words between the SUPERJOINT RITUAL and DAMAGEPLAN camps, fans detected a cooling of tempers in the latter half of 2004, prompting renewed signals of a possible PANTERA reunion in the future. Tragically though, such hopes were dashed when the PANTERA family was struck the heaviest of blows. Upon closing their 2004 dates in December DAMAGEPLAN was set to round off their touring schedule with a set of headline gigs. However, on 8th December tragedy struck the band. Just as the band started their set with the song 'New Found Power' at the Alrosa Villa club in Columbus, Ohio a gunman, 23 year old Nathan Gale, got onto the stage and shot guitarist Dimebag Darrell with a Beretta 9 mm semiautomatic handgun a number of times at close range. Darrell was killed and the assailant also shot dead the band's technician Jeff Thompson, Erin Halk, 29, a club employee and fan Nathan Bray, 23. Two others were injured, one critically, Chris Paluska, the band's tour manager, and John Brooks, a drum technician. Having taken a further person hostage the shooter was himself killed by Columbus Police Officer James D. Niggemeyer.

Dimebag would have one of the most Rock n' Roll funerals to date. Not only was the guitarist buried in a KISS casket, donated at his family's request by GENE SIMMONS, but his coffin was filled with memorabilia from friends and bands including a Charvel guitar given for the occasion by Eddie Van Halen. BLACK LABEL SOCIETY would be played at the service and JERRY CANTRELL and Mike Inez from ALICE IN CHAINS along with Pat Lachman played a short acoustic set. Speeches came from ZAKK WYLDE, Rex Brown, Charlie Benante of ANTHRAX and Eddie Van Halen. A public memorial service, attended by thousands of fans, was held at the Arlington Convention Center. Significantly, Phil Anselmo was not invited to attend.

On 5th January 2005 Finland's Metal community gathered at Helsinki's Rock 'n' Roll Station to pay homage by forming up a one off PANTERA tribute band DIMEN NIMEEN ("In Dime's Name!"). Musicians featured in this collective included CHILDREN OF BODOM's Alexi Laiho and Roope Latvala, Atte Sarkima of AJATTARA and VERENPISARA, Tony Jelencovich from TRANSPORT LEAGUE, Petteri Hirvanen and Nicke of MONSTERBALL, Toni, Pete, Kride and Jukkis of NORTHER and Nico, Euge and OJ from GODSPLAGUE amongst many others.

On the 23rd February, a special show at Chicago's Aragon Ballroom was organised to cover bereavement costs for the family of DAMAGEPLAN security guard Jeffrey "Mayhem" Thompson and medical expenses for injured DAMAGEPLAN crew members John "Kat" Brooks and Chris Paluska. Those participating included SOIL, who covered DAMAGEPLAN's 'Save Me' and DROWNING POOL, whose set included a rendition of PANTERA's 'Message In Blood'. The closing sets featured ANTHRAX and DISTURBED, the former opening their show with 'Fucking Hostile' before delivering a take of 'A New Level' with Vinnie Paul and Pat Lachman, whilst DISTURBED took on PANTERA's 'Walk' featuring Vinnie Paul.

The drummer also joined BLACK LABEL SOCIETY on stage at the WAAF Indoor Beach Party on 9th April at the Tsongas Arena in Lowell, Massachusetts. Vinnie stepped up once more on 17th April for the song 'Suicide Messiah' during their performance at the House of Blues in Orlando, Florida and, naturally, PANTERA's hometown of Dallas.

Phil Anselmo, having virtually retired from public view in the wake of 'Dimebag''s murder, finally broke his silence, guesting as fill in guitarist for EYEHATEGOD's 15th August 2005 gig at New York's famous CBGB's club in New York City. Meantime, fans of Dimebag would learn that previously unheard guitar work was to be included on NICKELBACK's album 'All The Right Reasons' in the track 'Side Of A Bullet', composed shortly after the guitarist was killed. Not only did vocalist Chad Kroeger's lyrics deal directly with the loss of his friend but Vinnie Paul had donated unused guitar solo recordings, from the PANTERA albums 'Vulgar Display Of Power' and 'Far Beyond Driven' for use as the song's solo.

That same month a group of Italian Metal bands compiled 'This Love - A Tribute To Dimebag'. Featured artists included BY THE GRIEF 'Strength Beyond Strength', ATOMIC ANTS 'Mouth For War', SHELTER OF LEECH '5 Minute Alone', ELEKTRIK[H]ATE 'Cowboys From Hell', HAPAX 'Walk', DAY1DAY 'Cemetery Gates', SOWN 'Suicide Note (Southern Version)', ADDICTION CREW 'This Love', SHATTERED 'War Nerve', REMORSE 'Domination', IMODIUM 'Rise', SUFFERHEAD 'Fucking Hostile', ORIENT EXPRESS 'Planet Caravan' and EVILGROOVE with 'Suicide Note (Lysergik Version)'.

Vinnie Paul announced the formation of Big Vin Records in November, the first release on this new imprint, with distribution going through Fontana, being the REBEL MEETS REBEL project.

Phil Anselmo marked his return to public on a March 10th concert for VH1 Classic's 'Decades Rock Live!' tribute to HEART at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, performing with a reunited ALICE IN CHAINS. During August 2006 it was revealed that Vinnie Paul had teamed up with members of MUDVAYNE and NOTHINGFACE in a brand new project. This studio unit involved MUDVAYNE's vocalist Chad Gray and guitarist Greg Tribbett plus NOTHINGFACE's guitarist Tom Maxwell and bass player Jerry Montano. In October this unit, having commenced recording for its debut, was branded HELLYEAH.

Garry Sharpe-Young

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