Dimebag Darrell: Ten Years on

dimebag_darrell_Pantera_finger_live_gigAs I’m sitting here writing this, it’s ten years since Darrell Abbott, better known first as Diamond Darrell, then as Dimebag, died. As founding member and lead guitarist with thrash metallers Pantera, for a metal kid growing up in the 1990s, Dime was a bona fide hero. It’s not uncommon to hear about the death of a musician. When you hear that one has died at the age of 38, you automatically think drink, drugs, excess. What you don’t expect is to hear that he was gunned down on-stage, mid-gig, murdered alongside 3 others with 7 people injured. I remember the feeling of utter astonishment when I heard. It seemed such a horrible, unreal situation.

Going back 11 and a half years, Valentines Day 1993, and I’m on my way into the world famous Barrowlands for the first time. I had been to a few gigs before but nothing like this. Tina Turner and Eric Clapton don’t prepare you for the atmosphere of Pantera at the Barras. It sure as hell doesn’t prepare you for the volume when the band plowed into ‘A New Level’. Or the way the crowd moved to the riffs Dime was laying down. The dude was like a one-man guitar tsunami. Lead and rhythm seem to fly from his fingers at once. I don’t think I’ve seen a band since with one guitarist that have had quite such a complete, rounded guitar sound. That night solidified my love for metal, for guitar, for live music.

At that time they were touring their seminal Vulgar Display of Power album. Its follow-up, Far Beyond Driven, though was a remarkable success in its own right. Debuting at number 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart it became the first extreme metal album to do so. By 1997, both these albums had gone platinum in the US and in the process given heavy music a shot in the arm possibly not seen since Metallica fired out their first 3 albums.

The band maybe never quite hit the heights of these two albums again, either critically or commercially. Drug problems caused some inter-band acrimony and eventually this resulted in the band going their separate ways.

Looking at Dime’s other projects outside Pantera, he played with Anthrax and founded Damageplan after Pantera split. They released one album and it was very much in the same ballpark as Pantera. Despite being at the forefront of what became known as groove metal, he had country roots and played with some local, Dallas-based country musicians when he could. It seems that he just loved making music.

It’s hard to right a proper tribute to a guy you don’t know, all you can really do is look at the legacy that is left behind. And looking at it that way, then ten years ago we lost a giant of heavy metal. A man whose guitar sound defined a whole sub-genre and who has inspired countless numbers to pick up a guitar, turn it up and riff.

Graeme Campbell

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