Dimebag’s death 10 years later: our staff reacts

Posted by on December 8, 2014

Photo of Dimebag DARRELLThere’s no other way around it. December 8th is one of the darkest days in music history, in which two of its’ biggest stars were assassinated. John Lennon and Dimebag Darrell Abbott’s deaths occurred 24 years apart, but are linked together by the tragedy and senselessness of how they occurred. While many elsewhere are having musicians recount their thoughts and memories of Dime, none will be able to do it better than Phil himself, so we’re just going to share the memories we have of Pantera and Dime in general on the 10th anniversary of him being cut down in his prime:


Bram: There are certain events, especially tragedies, that occur where you’ll always remember where you were when they happened. The older generation has Kennedy being assassinated, or the Space Shuttle blowing up. More immediately, everyone can likely recall where they were when 9/11 took place.  Likewise, I remember 12/8/04 like it was yesterday. It was actually a normal Wednesday night, and I was home, getting ready to go to sleep. A text message came in from my friend Zena at around midnight asking if I’d heard about the shooting in Ohio at the Damageplan show. I hadn’t heard anything about it, but assumed that there was no way any of the musicians were hurt. I’d seen Damageplan the prior week on tour with Shadows Fall and The Haunted, and remember Dime walking by me, so the only initial thought that went through my head was “another metalhead giving the genre a bad name.”


I was immediately glued to my computer screen, trying to find out more about what had happened, both as a concerned metal fan and a writer for Billboard Radio Monitor at the time. There was no word anywhere yet. Zena kept hearing more from her source, and eventually told me that Dimebag had been killed. I was in somewhat of a state of denial, and by the time I finally willed myself to go to sleep, the only official reports were murky, only stating that there had been a shooting at the Alrosa Villa. The next morning, everything was confirmed and it was an international news story. I went to work with the grim task of having to report about something that I was very close to. I spoke with a radio host that was at the show when it happened and he gave me his eyewitness account. Of all the stories I wrote that made it into Billboard, this one might have had the most emotional weight.



My personal memories of Pantera and Dime don’t have as much emotional resonance. I’d first heard about Pantera via “Cowboys From Hell,” which I played incessantly on my college radio show. I remember the ads that were in Hit Parader and Circus (the Revolver and Decibel of the time) saying “If you’re expecting something heavy from Pantera, you’re going to be crushed.” And we were. By the time Vulgar Display of Power came out, all metal fans had a new favorite band, even if they’d been a household name around Texas. I rediscovered Power Metal, which was in my station’s then-massive vinyl library (I know, i’m old as fuck), and while we made fun of them looking glam metal, it was undeniable that Dime had a signature sound. I’d seen Pantera countless times, with the last time being in February 2000, on tour with Black Sabbath and Deftones. I wish I’d known then that it was going to be the last time I’d see them.


Zach: I was still in high school when I first found out about Dimebag’s death, still living with my parents with posters of my favorite guitarists and bands plastered on my walls. I was struggling to wake up and get ready for school (like a true high schooler) when my mom walked into my room. She was telling me how The Today Show was reporting about a shooting that took place at a metal show, killing at least one of the musicians and multiple fans. She couldn’t recall which band it was, so I rushed to the TV and waited for The Today Show to re-air their report about this metal show shooting. After a few minutes, the anchor finally went back to the story… but suddenly everything went silent, as an image of Dimebag Darrell appeared on the TV screen. It suddenly hit me what happened. “Do you know this band?” my Mom asked, still trying to grasp what exactly had happened. That’s when I walked back to the doorway of my room, and pointed to the poster of Dimebag I had on my wall for my mom to see. Within seconds of looking, even my mom realized the impact this would have on many. I was in disbelief throughout the rest of the day, still trying to wrap my head around the events that occurred the night before. How could such a horrific thing happen at any show, and how could it have happened to Dimebag? How disturbed does someone have to be to inflict such violence onto others, let alone someone they supposedly idolized? Even after ten years, those questions still linger.


Chris: Dimebag’s death occurred on my first night ever working for WSOU as an official staff member. It was a pretty horrendous night for everyone at the station. I didn’t know much about Pantera at the time, but I could feel the gravity of the event because of the reactions of those around me. This was huge. It was the kind of event that impacted and reshaped more people than I could possibly grasp at the time. As the years have gone on and as I’ve become more of a Pantera fan, I now better appreciate Dime’s contributions to metal and the real tragedy behind his death. He was truly a unique talent that we are unlikely to see again. He died long before his time was up, and his presence is sorely missed in a metal world that needs someone like him more than ever before.


Kodi: As a choir kid in a just-barely-suburban West Virginia high school, I had no idea what Pantera was like beyond a cool logo on shirts and the interviews I’d read with Dimebag Darrell in guitar magazines. He seemed interesting to me, but the idea of ever getting to see his band felt like just an idea, and no one I knew had any Pantera records to listen to. All of my friends were either into commercial hip-hop or Broadway soundtracks, and as a guitar-playing classic rock dork, all I knew then was that I wasn’t like them.


Then my best friend at the time burned “Cemetery Gates,” “Walk” and “I’m Broken” onto a CD-R mix he made me of a ton of stuff he liked – this was when Kazaa was still a thing, and I was still stuck with dial-up where he had new cable Internet – and I suddenly wanted to know way more about Pantera.


It wasn’t just the drama and unbelievable fretwork of “Cemetery Gates” that drew me in, though my friend wisely put it first in the track order. The other two had the biggest riffs I’d ever heard, and while I grew up on a serious diet of Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Van Halen, this was not a sound I was used to…and it was awesome! I got into Anthrax right around the same time, and then Metallica, but I wanted to get more Pantera to cross that off my list as I explored. So I ended up starting with a greatest-hits album in my freshman year of college – 2004, just weeks before Dimebag was killed onstage with Damageplan. I found out about it from reading CNN online in my single-room dorm, and as I put “Cemetery Gates” on for what must have been the 50th time at least, the world felt a lot colder.


Those songs set me on an incredible path, because when Dimebag was killed, I refused to believe that was the last of the guitar heroes. I started furiously learning about the bands he influenced, and that eventually led me to work backward and find Sweden’s underground metal history; within the next year, I was a full-blown metalhead.


I actually got so into metal that my old friend from high school and I didn’t have much in common anymore besides Pantera, and we fell out of touch for unrelated petty reasons. So when I found out my old friend had died suddenly a few years later, I came to feel an odd kinship to Phil Anselmo, estranged from Dimebag at the time of his death yet utterly broken down by it. I heard about my friend’s burial, but like Phil, I couldn’t go to the viewing. To me, Dimebag and my friend were inextricably linked – and if it wasn’t for either of them, I wouldn’t be the person I am now. RIP, to the both of you, and thank you.


Chip: So reading these other replies I’m clearly the old man of the group!  I met him twice, once here in Hartford after a show at the XL Center and once back stage at an Ozzfest.  Both times he seemed like a super chill dude, very down-to-Earth, happy to meet and greet the fans that came to see Pantera.  I will freely admit I didn’t like Pantera at first.  By the time they were becoming a mainstream band I was already deep into death metal, black metal, grindcore and anything else super extreme I could find. An album like Cowboys From Hell just didn’t do it for me at all.  But my senior year in high school when a buddy insisted I listen to Vulgar Display of Power I was hooked.  That record and Far Beyond Driven were in regular rotation for me personally for a couple years and we spun the hell out of Pantera at WFCS when I was there from ’95-’98.  While they were never my favorite band, after meeting them I respected them for being a bunch of solid dudes who just did their thing and seemingly didn’t care about the outside noise of it all.


Nick: I’ll say this much, at 12 years old at the time of his passing, I was just starting to seriously dive into metal. Even then, word got to me pretty quickly. I was too young and inexperienced with the genre to fully grasp it immediately; I knew Pantera was a huge band, but I had to work backwards to figure out why. Every one of the extreme metallers I was just beginning to worship were crushed by it. Later on that night, I heard Vulgar Display of Power for the first time, and this played a huge part in the sort of obsessive tracking of influences and styles that’s still a huge interest of mine to this day. Not a couple years later, stuff like Machine Head’s Burn My Eyes dropped some enormous Pantera influence and completely reinvented how I’d see guitar as a budding musician as well, kickstarting the passion I’d have for everything that came with it. Although Pantera wasn’t my gateway into metal, it’s what they did for metal that’s largely responsible for my being here at all. I’m a lot less long-winded than I usually am, just because it’s such a simple sentiment:  Pantera was largely responsible for the development in my love for metal before I even totally knew who they were. For that, I owe them everything.

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