THIS MONTH IN METAL No. 8: Rest in Power, Dimebag Darrel

The Legacy

Music has brought icons upon icons to popular culture, but metal creates Gods.  There’s a certain calling to the heavier side of music that’s not unlike a new type of faith.  I could just be describing a cult following, but I bet every metalhead can admit that the influence was there from the beginning, before they even heard their first heavy record.  It doesn’t matter where you come from, the genre finds you, much like it did the son of a country music producer with a predisposition to shred his way to the God tier.  Pantera guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Lance Abbot brought a force of pure metal muscle to the earth that continues to violently throb.  Although he is no longer with us as of 15 years ago today, his energy smolders in all who ever made contact with his power.

Dimebag in 1991. Photo: Rik Goldman

December 8th, 2004 was a somber day for metal.  I hesitate calling this an “anniversary,” as what happened to was an immense tragedy that is still pretty sore.  Dimebag, Nathan Bray, Jeff “Mayhem” Thompson and Erin A. Halk were all shot to death by disgruntled fan Nathan Gale at the Alrosa Villa Nightclub in Columbus, Ohio.  Dimebag was playing a show with his newly formed band Damageplan after Pantera had since split.  Gale was killed shortly after the attack by Columbus officer James Niggemeyer.  Those are the facts, but there’s no point in celebrating a tragedy nor giving the killer any more attention.  Rolling Stone wrote an article detailing the event which you can read here if you feel compelled.  Metal Gods live forever, and Dimebag is no exception.

Dimebag in 1997. Photo: Vaughn Youtz

Forming Pantera initially as a glam metal group with brother/drummer Vinnie Paul (Who we also lost in 2018), Dimebag’s methods were inspired by bands such as KISS and Van Halen.  A talented guitarist from the beginning, his style developed through the glam phase into Pantera’s infamous pioneering style of groove metal.  Such a genre is heavily defined by the guitar, taking elements of thrash and occasionally slowing them down to a, well, groovier sound.  Southern influence shines through as well, Pantera being from Arlington, Texas and definitely not afraid to represent it.  Just take a listen to 1991’s Cowboys From Hell, you’ll get it.  His skills transcended the cult, however, as Pantera’s records reached gold and platinum status, even 1994’s Far Beyond Driven reaching no. 1 in the Billboard 200 as one of the heaviest, if not the heaviest record to reach such a degree.  Gibson, Rolling Stone and Louder have all included him in lists of the greatest guitar players of all time.  He was and is a true living embodiment of the metal spirit.  Today he rests in a KISS Kasket donated by Gene Simmons with one of Eddie Van Halen’s original guitars, also donated by the man himself.  Damn, that’s metal.  When I talk about that influence of metal in every fan’s life, the calling force that dares us to invite the heavier side in, there will always be a little bit of Dimebag in there.  His lifeforce is still in every fan, whether it be the creative inspiration, power of confidence or the rhythm in their steps.

Dimebag Darrell’s Eternal Fucking Reign

Commemorative artwork

Dimebag Darrell's Eternal Fucking Reign
15 years since the loss of Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell // December 2019

I love portraiture and I especially love illustrating my inspiration.  One of the first riffs I learned on guitar in middle school was Domination, also the first Pantera song I ever heard when my tastes were getting heavier.  As a result, this was a great opportunity to pay my respects to someone who left an imprint on me from a young age.  I will also say that even though I’m from the pacific northwest, I enjoy Pantera way more after moving to the south…  There’s power in images, and Dimebag was nothing if not sheer power in sight and sound.  Dimebag had a fierce look, the dyed red goatee, the big bushy hair and the snarl of a tiger.  His riffing is like the slithering of a snake on rusty metal.  Of course, one could also just take the snake as a reference to one of my favorite of Pantera’s discography, The Great Southern Trendkill.  He is still very much a cowboy from Hell, thus depicted ruling in the flames with his signature Dean guitar headstock piercing through the sockets.  He gazes you down through the sharp-edged cutout of a cow skull, another less-than subtle nod to the southern influence on his style.  There was nothing subtle about him, so with this commemorative representation I’m shoving it in your face.

I’ll say it again, this isn’t about death.  This is about the transference of energy to every living metalhead in existence, hence the title.  An eternal fucking reign.

See more heavy hitters in the MONTHLY METAL GALLERY

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Now walk on home.

–NCM