As the shredder-in-residence for Texan metal heroes Pantera, "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott (1966-2004) had cemented a place in rock history long before his tragic murder at the age of 38.
After Pantera’s stellar 1990 release, "Cowboys From Hell" broke onto the scene, American metal was instantly redefined. Featuring a raw, dark sound, crushing riffs, and Dime’s gymnastic fretwork, the boys (including Dime’s brother, Vinnie Paul on drums, Rex on bass, and Phil Anselmo on vocals) became instant classics in the eyes of those who wanted their heavy metal to be a little more, well, heavy.
Not content to let their debut album become their defining moment, Pantera continued to refine and expand their sound and, unlike a lot of young bands, kept getting better with every release. Credit goes to the group as a whole, but Dime’s relentless excellence and uncanny capacity for constantly surprising fans who think "he just can’t get any better" was a major factor.
After Pantera’s break-up, Dime and Vinnie Paul formed Damageplan and plotted a triumphant return to the metal scene. Taking a slightly different track from Pantera’s southern-fried thrash, they expanded the signature "Dime/Vinnie" sound even further while staying true to their metal roots.
On Dec. 8th, 2004 (which is either a terrible coincidence or a sick cosmic joke), while Damageplan was playing a show in Columbus, Ohio, a deranged man stormed the stage shot Dime five times; three others, Nathan Bray, Erin Halk, and Jeff "Mayhem" Thompson, were killed and several people were wounded. As the gunman was holding a hostage, a police officer, James Niggemeyer, managed to come upon him unnoticed and killed him before he could execute the hostage or harm anyone else. Dime died soon thereafter.
I used to wonder how people could get so worked up about people they had never met or known dying. I was sad when I heard about Jerry Garcia, Phil Hartman, and Stanley Kubrick, but Dime’s death was much more devastating. As a long-time fan and tireless advocate of Pantera’s unique brand of musical madness, it really felt like I’d lost a family member or, at the very least, a close friend.
As Vinnie Paul said about his brother, he had a heart "twice as big as Texas;" he also had the talent to match.
Now that I’ve sufficiently bummed myself out, on to the miracles...
MIRACLE #1: According to legend, young Dime was banned from competing in guitar competitions in his native Texas because he was too good.
MIRACLE #2: Influenced and was revered by guitar idols who had influenced him. Dime was even buried with Eddie Van Halen’s iconic yellow and black striped guitar; the axe was placed there by Eddie Van himself.
So Damn Funky...
Pantera - "Cemetery Gates" (From "Cowboys From Hell")
A perfect example of how Dime can go from gorgeous to evil in an instant. "Cemetery Gates" has always been my favorite Pantera Cut, mostly because of Dime’s mind-blowing squeals. There’s one at the end of the song that’s so high-pitched, it’s a wonder he didn’t bend the strings slam off the neck of the guitar.
Dime was an amazing human being and a consummate musician; he will be missed greatly.