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Members include Philip Anselmo, vocals; Diamond "Dimebag" Darrell (born Darrell Abbott), guitar; Vinnie Paul (born Vincent Abbott), drums; and Rex, bass guitar. Addresses: Record company--EastWest Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019.

In the 1980s, four heavy metal cowboys from Texas got together to form a band, creating their niche in the music world as Pantera, the Spanish name for "panther." Singer Philip Anselmo, guitarist Diamond "Dimebag" Darrell, bassist Rex, and drummer Vinnie Paul started out as a cover band in the bars in Texas, playing hits by Motley Crue and Bon Jovi, and went on to become one of the heaviest metal groups of the 1990s.

Brothers Paul and Darrell Abbott developed their interests in music while growing up in Pantego, Texas, where their father owned a recording studio. The boys were encouraged to experiment with the recording equipment and with music in general, which would eventually lead to Paul's influence as Pantera's co-producer. As Darrell recalled in Guitar World: "I can remember one birthday of mine where [Dad] said, 'Son, you can either have a BMX bike or you can have this,' and he pointed to a guitar. I ended up taking the bike, but he did plant a seed in my mind."

That seed blossomed into the sound bandmembers categorize as "power groove"; Village Voice reviewer Daina Darzin described Pantera as "an angry, cantankerous, ferally aggressive band that channels all the free-floating rage of their environment into a murderous, metallic growl."

Pantera released four independent albums before signing with a major label. In 1990, ATCO (now EastWest) released the group's Cowboys From Hell LP onto the streets with such vigorous force that it soared to gold status. Featuring metal radio hits like "Cowboys From Hell" and "Cemetery Gates," Cowboys From Hell gained most of its exposure from Pantera's live performances. The band kicked off its club tour in April of 1990, and from there moved on to supporting slots on other major metal tours.

"We just tour and tour," Anselmo told Billboard. "Our lives are on the bus, in the venue, and on the stage. It's with the kids you get to know along the way. That's what our lives are all about. Every night we play is Saturday night to those kids, and you've got to give it every drop you've got inside."

Pantera played the Monsters of Rock festival tour, where they opened for AC/DC, Metallica and the Black Crowes. Lasting throughout the summer, the 18-date tour reached 1.2 million fans throughout Western and Eastern Europe. And on September 28, 1991, the tour stopped at the Tushino Air Field in Moscow. "We were the smallest band on the bill," Anselmo told Metal Edge about the band's early achievements, "so our personal success could definitely be topped. We're always looking for a little bit more."

Pantera got their wish for "a little bit more" when they released their second LP, Vulgar Display of Power, in 1992. It reached Number 44 on the Billboard charts and sold more than a million copies. The cover of the album, which contained the band's hit singles "Mouth For War" and "This Love," fittingly depicted a fist smashing a face. "'This Love' alternates terrifying lyrics about a kidnapping/rape case with wrecking-ball drumming and an elegiac, poignant twine of melody that points to an infallible songwriting talent," a reviewer noted in Village Voice.

Once again, Pantera earned the respect, dedication, and admiration of heavy metal fans across the world with their live shows. They played 285 concerts in 17 months to support Vulgar Display of Power. Through their tours, the group established a public image with fans that combined honesty and angst. In celebration of their Vulgar Display of Power tour, Pantera released a home movie about their life on the road. Appropriately titled Vulgar Video, it featured live footage, candid travel and backstage footage with the band and crew, plus several fan encounters, including one confrontation with Christian fundamentalists in the band's hotel room.

Harry Palmer, president of EastWest, described Pantera's concert appeal to Elianne Halbersberg in Billboard: "There is such a passion, a dialogue, between the band and audience. From a musical and lyrical communication viewpoint, they are the real deal. There is credibility; they are totally believable.... With Pantera, it comes totally from the heart."

After recording their first two albums at the Abbott's studio in Pantego, Texas, Pantera moved on to the new recording studio Paul and Darrell's father opened in Nashville, Tennessee, for their third release. Away from their families and friends, with the exception of a two-week interruption to perform in South America, the band put all of their time and effort into Far Beyond Driven. As with their other albums, their first Nashville effort was produced by Paul and longtime co-producer Terry Date. Though the band at first considered letting Paul produce the album completely, they had worked so well with Date in the past that they wanted him back at the helm of their latest effort.

At midnight on March 22, 1994, Pantera launched the release of their third LP with an extensive record store campaign. They travelled to 12 cities in almost five days with MTV documenting their progress. Bandmembers signed autographs, met fans, and promoted Far Beyond Driven harder than ever. The band released "I'm Broken" as the album's first single; the LP also contained the first cover song on one of their major-label releases--Black Sabbath's "Planet Caravan." Pantera's hard work paid off; by March the LP had sold over 185,000 copies and had reached Number One on the Billboard album charts.

The success of Far Beyond Driven didn't come from any musical coercion from EastWest. According to Steve Kleinberg, vice-president of marketing for the record company, EastWest has never attempted to direct Pantera's musical direction. "Given their track record, it would be completely inappropriate for us to try and tell Pantera what to do," Kleinberg told Larry Flick in Billboard. "You've got to trust them to know what their fans want. The fact is that they have tremendous credibility and integrity out there. We don't want to get in the way of that.... Their direction is to get musically heavier as time goes on, and they want to be there with the kids who buy their records." As long as heavy metal fans want Pantera around, the band insists they will not let them down. They play the kind of music they would expect from their own favorite band, and release their aggression, honesty, and angst in the hopes that someone will listen.

by Sonya Shelton

Pantera's Career

Band formed in Pantego, TX, in the mid-1980s; played cover songs in area nightclubs; self-released four independent albums; signed with ATCO (now EastWest) and released first major-label LP, Cowboys From Hell, 1990; released video Vulgar Video, 1991.

Pantera's Awards

Platinum record for Vulgar Display of Power, 1990.

Famous Works

Recent Updates

December 8, 2004: Band member Darrell Abbott died of a gunshot wound on December 8, 2004, while performing with Damageplan in Columbus, Ohio, after a member of the audience fired a shot. He was 38. Source: CNN.com, www.cnn.com, December 9, 2004.

Further Reading


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