Pantera was an American heavy metal band from Arlington, Texas. Often celebrated as one of the most influential heavy metal groups of all time, Pantera pioneered a unique style sometimes referred to as “groove metal” that features heavy guitar riffing mostly at mid-tempo (instead of breakneck) speeds.
Originally conceived as a glam metal act, Pantera changed direction in 1990 and found commercial success with a heavier and more aggressive sound, becoming one of the most well-known and respected heavy metal bands of all time.
The Texan band started as a glam metal band in the early ‘80s. After a couple lineup changes, the band found local success with the Abbott brothers Vinnie Paul and Dimebag Darrell (then known as Diamond Darrell) on drums and guitar respectively, Rex Brown (then known as Rex Rocker) on bass and Terry Glaze as lead vocalist. The band independently released three glam metal records from 1983 to 1985 which gained them some regional popularity), but no nationwide breakthrough.
In 1986 and 1987, thrash metal albums like Reign in Blood, Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?, Master of Puppets and Among the Living were released, which were dominating the metal scene, consequently making Pantera want to play heavier. Terry Glaze left the band with New Orleans native Phil Anselmo replacing him in 1987.
Power Metal, the band’s first album with Anselmo, was still not a full out heavy metal album, but was much heavier than the first three. Diamond Darrell auditioned for Megadeth shortly after and was offered the position, but he declined it because his brother couldn’t join.
The band’s next album, Cowboys from Hell, showed them leaving their glam roots behind in favor of a thrash metal sound. The band considered it their first proper album, as the previous four albums aren’t even included on the band’s website. Rex Rocker and Diamond Darrell changed their stage names to emphasize their shift away from glam metal; adopting the names Rex Brown and Dimebag Darrell.
Their next two albums (and perhaps their most highly successful), Vulgar Display of Power and Far Beyond Driven, showcased an even heavier sound and pioneered what became the ‘groove metal’ sound. Both albums were enormously successful, the latter debuting at #1 on the US Album Chart, one of the heaviest albums ever to do so.
The band’s last two albums, The Great Southern Trendkill (which was the peak of the band’s holistic heaviness) and Reinventing the Steel, despite not having as much of a beloved reception their previous three albums had, were still very successful. However, the band’s tensions continued to tear them apart. Dimebag’s alcoholism took its toll on Anselmo, who also began behaving strangely due to his back pain and subsequent alcohol overuse to quell it. The singer refused to get surgery, feeling it would take him away from the band too long, so he started to use heroin to fight the pain. In 1996, Anselmo nearly overdosed on heroin onstage. His heart stopped beating, but was revived and promised the other band members to quit using drugs. Anselmo also started doing a lot of side-projects around this time, which annoyed the other band members, who felt he should give his all to Pantera.
Following 9/11 and the resultant cancellation of their tour, Anselmo and Dimebag’s relationship got worse. Anselmo released 2 albums with his side-projects Down and Superjoint Ritual. The Abbott brothers were frustrated and decided to break up Pantera in 2003, concluding Anselmo had abandoned the band.
The brothers formed Damageplan, but a war of words between them and Anselmo continued, with the latter eventually telling Metal Hammer magazine that “Dimebag deserves to be beaten severely.” A week later, on December 8, 2004, while performing with Damageplan, Dimebag Darrell was shot and killed along with 3 others by a deranged fan. After this tragic event, any hopes for ever seeing a reunion of Pantera were destroyed.