Headbangers’ Brawl is a weekly column where Metal Insider’s contributors take a moment to debate and analyze two opposing sides of a topical issue occurring in the world of metal and/or the music industry.
Talk of the surviving members of Pantera reuniting with Zakk Wylde filling in for the late Dimebag Darrell is nothing new. Yet Wylde’s recent performance of “I’m Broken” with both Philip Anselmo and Rex Brown has given those rumors new life. Before more people started to ask “Could Pantera actually reunite?”, Vinnie Paul stepped in with a big “no,” not only once again highlighting that there’s too much bad blood between him and his former bandmates but even saying that “a lot of people are selfish” for thinking a reunion could happen. With that in mind, we ponder in this week’s Headbangers’ Brawl whether we would one day want to see Pantera reunite with Wylde on guitar, and whether we’re “selfish” if we say yes.
Zach: On paper, Zakk Wylde definitely seems like the perfect candidate to fill in for Dimebag (both because of his personal connection to everyone in the band, and because we know he has the chops to pull it off). However, I wouldn’t necessarily want Pantera to reunite for a full tour, or even have one guitarist involved. If I had my way, I’d have the three surviving members reunite for only one show with multiple guitarists that were friends with Dimebag and/or were inspired by him to come up and play a song or two. It would be a great for everyone to pay tribute to Dimebag, and a nice way for Anselmo, Brown and Paul to come together and celebrate Pantera’s legacy.
But are we “selfish” for asking the three to put their differences aside for such a reunion? To a degree, yes. Given the circumstances behind Dimebag’s death, and how tensions between the Abbott brothers and Anselmo were extremely bitter to begin with, I could totally understand why Vinnie Paul feels such gossip is disrespectful. And I wouldn’t necessarily want Pantera to continue without Dimebag. That’s why I think a “one night only” show with multiple guitarists stepping up to play would be an ideal scenario for Anselmo, Paul and Brown, as well as the fans.
I’m taking Vinnie Paul’s side on this one. To me, a Pantera reunion with Zakk Wylde (or anyone else, for that matter) seems to be a cheap attempt at cashing in on the band’s fame, as well as acquiescing to the demands of fans that don’t have the right to dictate what the band members do. When you get down to the base of the issue, Vinnie Paul is the last founding member of the band that was also part of its final active lineup, and as such, it should ultimately be his choice as to whether the band does any reunions or not. If he says no, then Phil Anselmo and Rex Brown should be respectful of that and not try to force the issue, because they were both invited to join the band that Vinnie and Dimebag formed before they came along. The fans should also be respectful of that, given the fact that Dimebag is Vinnie’s brother, and it probably takes a heavy emotional toll on Vinnie to hear people talking about who could replace his brother in the lineup. Vinnie has made it clear that he’s moved on from Pantera, and it is selfish for fans to keep trying to bring him back to it.
Look, I’m as big of a Pantera fan as anyone else, and the fact that I never got to see them live in concert is an unfortunate piece of my reality. But I don’t want the band members to be forced into playing again when there’s animosity among them. Bands do not perform well when there is interpersonal tension, and forcing any fill-in guitarist to play in the middle of that tension is not fair. Additionally, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of bands with Pantera covers out there, each with their own unique take on the band’s style and sound. Some of these covers are even done by bands that include members of Pantera in their lineups. Yes, it’s not the same thing, but Pantera without Dimebag Darrell isn’t the same thing, either. I don’t understand why so many people are clamoring for a Pantera reunion that still won’t sound the same as the original, no matter who takes Dimebag’s place. In my opinion, the best tribute we can give to Dimebag Darrell and to Pantera, as fans, is to keep listening to their music and to encourage more bands to cover Pantera. Let the music continue to thrive among us as a community, and let it also take on new life in each cover that is performed. Anything beyond that, in my opinion, cheapens the legacy of one of the most influential bands in the history of metal.
Honestly, I could go either way on this one. First, I want to say that I don’t really see the point of mentioning the “cashing in” thing. Phil, Zakk, and Rex are going to make money with their own projects no matter what. It’s not like the three of them are washed up, and this is the only way for them to make a buck. If anything, this would just be a way to give older fans a smile again, and younger fans a chance to see something they never got to before, minus one very important member. With all of the other bands reuniting, for either one off shows, or a flat out reunion album/tour, it wouldn’t be a shock for the Pantera members to come together again.
At the same time, I guess the biggest question for me is…is a Pantera reunion even really relevant anymore? Yes, of course Pantera and all of the members in it are important musicians, and of course fans of the band are going to go “HELL YES,” but in general, I was under the impression that Pantera fans were, again, for the most part, pretty happy with the different projects each member had going on. I personally haven’t heard cries for a Pantera reunion above many, many other bands people seem to have or had wanted to reunite. More so I hear “imagine if Dimebag were alive” more than “wouldn’t it be great if the living three came back?” Maybe this might be something that is better off being left alone.
Either way, if they reunite, no harm, no foul. I’m sure fans of the band will adore a reunion, and those that aren’t a fan just won’t really care. Either way, some people are going to be extremely happy, and others will call them out for it.
The whole situation is pretty unfortunate. I can see why Vinnie Paul continues to refuse. The guy saw his brother get assassinated onstage, just after an article came out in which Anselmo said that Dimebag should be “beaten severely.”
The way that Pantera broke up is a sad footnote to the most beloved metal bands of the last quarter century. Of course, in the wake of the band breaking up, there was lots of bad blood, which might have been smoothed over in time. Of course, they never got the chance to make up.
Would Zakk Wylde playing Pantera songs with the three surviving members be a show that everyone would go to? Absolutely. Zakk has the expertise, the friendship and the charisma to pull it off. Pantera has the good will of the entire metal community, a catalogue of songs that hundreds of thousands of people know by heart, and three larger than life personalities if Zakk played (no offense, Rex). The whole thing would definitely seem a little disingenuous, though. It wouldn’t be just cash grab, but you can bet it would make a lot of money for everyone involved. The question is whether it would tarnish Pantera’s legacy. It definitely would change things.
As far as whether we’re selfish for asking, I don’t think we are. Again, everyone loves them, they’ve got a name guitarist that’s good to go, and it’s been over a decade since anyone’s gotten to see any incarnation of the band. Holding a grudge is a lot harder than letting things go, and while it shouldn’t be expected for him to just let things go, Vinnie Paul owes it to himself to at least meet with the surviving members of the band, who seem open to mending fences. If given the choice between Hellyeah and Pantera, just about everyone would choose the latter. And doing a tour wouldn’t necessarily mean that they were a band that would take away from everyone’s subsequent bands. If Paul looks at himself as an entertainer, he would make countless Pantera fans that have supported him over the years extremely happy, as well as give those that never got a chance to see them the first time to experience the closest thing they’ll ever get to seeing Pantera live again.