December 8th is a bit of a dark day for deaths in the music world. There might be days that have a higher number, or more poignant to other people, but two guitarists who influenced two generations passed away on this day and both by deranged fans.
The most recent first. Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio, 2004. Darrell Abbott was one of four people killed by a gun man whilst on stage with his band Damageplan minutes into their set.
Better known as Dimebag Darrell, he will be remembered as the founder of Pantera alongside his brother Vinnie Paul way back in 1981. In their formative years they were very much a hair metal band until the thrash explosion of 1986/7. A change in direction resulted in a change in vocalist. With the introduction of Phil Anselmo they had morphed into a power groove band (mid paced thrash metal!) by 1990’s Cowboys From Hell album.
Pantera dissolved in 2003 under a huge black cloud between Anselmo and the Abbott brothers – who went on to form Damageplan. Less than a year after releasing their debut album Dimebag was gone.
Any heavy bands formed around 1990, or cutting their teeth at the time, and for the next decade or so would undoubtedly be influenced by Dimebag’s guitar work, as much as Van Halen and KISS influenced him.
I got to see the band live four times. The first time was on their Vulgar Display of Power tour, supporting Megadeth at the NEC Arena in Birmingham. I often found Pantera frustrating. Absolutely fantastic on album, but the live environment was the frustrating part. Musically superb, but often let down by poor, weak and often lazy vocals. To me, it seemed to depend on what mood Anselmo was in on the day.