Den Headz, today marks eight years since former PANTERA/DAMAGEPLAN lead guitarist Dimebag Darrell Abbott was shot to death on the stage while performing with the latter group during the evening of December 8, 2004 at Alrosa Villa nightclub in Columbus, Ohio. He was only thirty eight years old.
Throughout the 90’s, Dimebag was widely considered to be the greatest living heavy metal guitarist in the world and generally one of the nicest people you could ever meet – which is extremely rare for someone of his stature. PANTERA sold millions of albums, toured the globe and basically saved heavy metal when it was at death’s doorstep thanks to glam almost stripping away all of its credibility and the overnight success of grunge. 1994’s Far Beyond Driven album scored a major victory for metal music at this time when its debut hit number one on the Billboard 200 chart. Dimebag was regularly named ‘best guitarist’ in all of the metal magazines throughout this period and even at the end of the decade.
A bitter breakup in 2003 that got played out in the media saw PANTERA members Philip Anselmo and Rex Brown split from the Abbott brothers to move on to other waiting projects, most notably all-star stoner rock group DOWN. It was the end of one of heavy metal’s most amazing bands ever.
PANTERA were undoubtedly the “Kings of Metal” at the time Reinventing The Steel album came out but unfortunately they would be embarking on their last tour to support it, which ended due to the attacks on 9/11/2001. It makes one scratch your head in wonder to think what this band could have accomplished with another handful of album releases – had they ever come back together after the ugly split.
On the night of December 8, 2004, Dime’s incredible musical talent got snuffed out in what remains the most horrifying onstage murder of a rock musician in history. He was shot at point blank range multiple times as his new band DAMAGEPLAN began to play for a packed crowd. His killer, Nathan Gale, 25, was a deranged ex-Marine who had been kicked out of the military for suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. He made claims to friends before the shooting that he thought PANTERA was stealing his own lyrics for their records. He had also been known to be stalking Dimebag and his brother Vinnie Paul at shows leading up to this night of horror.
The exact words Gale yelled out as he ran towards Dimebag with gun drawn were: “You broke up Pantera!”
Alrosa Villa nightclub bouncer Erin Halk and DAMAGEPLAN band’s personal head of security, Jeff “Mayhem” Thompson, along with a fan named Nathan Bray bravely died alongside Dimebag while trying to help save the legendary musician’s life. Each of these three men remains a hero to this day.
Perhaps the biggest hero of that night, however, is Officer James Niggemeyer – who had come through the back of the club – after hearing the emergency call on his police scanner in his squad car while on a typical night of patrol – and shot the gunman down in a seriously gutsy move so that nobody else could be harmed.
What have we learned from this tragedy? Rampage gun shootings in public places continue to occur all around us and ‘mental illness’ seems to almost always be found in the shooter’s makeup. So it’s safe to say that this sort of thing that happened to brother Dime – just as it did with John Lennon – can’t be stopped until we as a society determine a better way to deal with the mentally ill.
Let’s get down to the very heart of the matter, shall we? Dime’s life was not ended due to ‘feuding’ words said by vocalist Philip Anselmo or some ‘letter’ that Dime wrote that many feel angered the killer and pushed him over the edge. No, the killer was handed the gun that he used to go on the senseless killing spree that night of December 8th by none other than his very own mother.
Why if Dime’s killer was kicked out of the Marines for having mental issues wasn’t he put on some kind of strict monitoring to make sure he was taking his medication? If the guy was sick, why didn’t his mom get held accountable for giving a killing device to someone that was basically out of their mind and desperately needed help?
Authorities today throw parents in jail if their kids skip enough school, right? Point blank, do any of us feel any safer now when hanging out at rock clubs since brother Dime was killed? Think about that. Who’s to say that this sort of thing won’t happen again to another beautiful musician like it happened to Darrell?
Dimebag Darrell was an incredible person along with being one of heavy metal’s all time best guitar players and it’s such a shame that ‘the system’ failed him. He did not deserve to die being shot down in front of his fans on the night of December 8th, 2004… so we need to ask ourselves an important question: can we try and make a difference in this issue?
All these years later and Vinnie Paul still will not talk to ex-PANTERA band mates Philip Anselmo and Rex Brown, because he basically holds them both responsible for his brother’s murder. A couple years back some devoted Pantera fans united on Facebook to call for a reunion between the surviving members with Zakk Wylde filling in as guest guitarist.
In March of 2012, Vinnie Paul went on the record to confirm that he indeed still has in his possession the final studio tracks ever recorded by Dimebag – which were meant for the second Damageplan record that never got released. TMD has launched a brand new cause on Facebook calling for the tracks that are admittedly more ‘brutal’ – in Dime’s own words – to be used as the final collection of songs by CFH. All Dime ever cared about was PANTERA. How difficult would it be to just have Rex and Philip come in and lay down their bass/vocal parts separately in honor of their fallen brother? Vinnie wouldn’t even have to set an eyeball on either one of them.
People can say all they want all day long about Rex and Philip but the reality is without those dudes PANTERA is nothing more than a local bar band with only hopes of selling a few thousand self-financed CD’s.
Rex Brown even went as far to answer fan questions via Facebook this past September and among his comments, while he addresses the subject of doing some PANTERA reunion shows, he makes it perfectly clear that he and vocalist Philip Anselmo are totally into the idea. The bassist clearly stated for the entire world to see:
“Go to Vinnie Paul’s page if you want a reunion!! It’s his call… Philip and I would love to!! Never say never, right??? REX”
When will the fallout from the most horrifying and shocking moment in metal history ever be resolved?
Is that something that we fans need to just back off from and let a ‘reunion’ take its course in its own proper time… if and when it ever does?
Maybe we all need to just ask ourselves: What would Dime do?
DIMEBAG DARRELL ABBOTT
(August 20, 1966 – December 8, 2004)
“Bottom line: You’ve got Jimi Hendrix, you’ve got Eddie Van Halen, you’ve got Randy Rhoads and you’ve got Dimebag Darrell. His influence will be felt forever. And he was the most genuine, kindest guy you ever met.” – Zakk Wylde