“Pantera: Screaming Black Messiahs”: A “Metal Tribute” to Dimebag Darrell’s power groovers

By on August 23, 2018

Pantera: Screaming Black Messiahs — now streaming on Night Flight Plus -– tells the story of Pantera, “the loudest and most disturbing act ever to hit the Billboard charts.”

Clocking in at 60 minutes, this 2008 UK doc also pays tribute to lead guitarist “Dimebag Darrell” Abbott, who was murdered onstage on December 8, 2004.

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Screaming Black Messiahs features: “rare archive footage of the group; filmed interviews with band members and their legendary producer Sterling Winfield; contributions from original vocalist Terry Glaze; opinion, review and enlightenment from experts such as Dimebag’s biographer Zac Crain [former music editor at the Dallas Observer and author of Black Tooth Grin: The High Life, Good Times, and Tragic End of ‘Dimebag’ Darrell Abbott] and Metal Hammer editor Alexander Milas; location shoots; film of the annual ‘Ride for Dimebag’ event and a host of other features, all of which makes for the best documentary yet to emerge about Pantera.”

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Darrell Lance Abbott (b. August 20, 1966) and older brother Vinnie Paul Abbott (b. March 11, 1964) were raised in Arlington, Texas, a large suburb west of Dallas.

They were big fans of KISS, Black Sabbath, Van Halen and lots of thrash metal bands, like Slayer, Exodus and Megadeth.

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Darrell ended up winning so many local guitar-playing competitions that by age sixteen he was banned from entering any more of them.

Vinnie, meanwhile, played the drums in his high school band, which is where he met bassist Rex Robert Brown.

In 1981, Darrell (“Diamond Darrell”), Vinnie Paul, Rex (using the name “Rex Rocker”) and a lead vocalist named Terrence Lee, a.k.a. “Terry Glaze,” formed their first band, originally playing covers.

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At first they were called Pantego, after a town just over the Mexican border, but later changed it to Pantera — “panther” in Spanish — after the flashy two-door Italian sports car.

Their country musician/record producer father Jerry Abbott produced their first four albums, including Metal Magic (1983), Projects in the Jungle (1984), and I Am the Night (1985), which were all released on their own independently-financed label, Metal Magic.

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In 1986, Glaze left the band, which led to a series of singers auditioning and sometimes performing live with Pantera live, until the band found their new singer, Philip Anselmo (ex-Razor White, ex-Samhain).

Pantera recorded the last of their independent pre-90s albums, 1988’s Power Metal, which sold more than 30,000 copies and helped them gain a large underground following.

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It came out at just the right time, when many veteran bands had either lost lead singers (Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Anthrax) and/or lost their way (Metallica, Megadeth, Mötley Crüe).

It was soon clear to music critics that Pantera represented a new breed of metal band, playing heavy riff-driven songs with pounding rhythms and an aggressive vocal style that they called “groove metal” and “power groove.”

Read more about Pantera below.

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1990, Pantera signed with Atlantic/Atco’s East/West imprint, releasing Cowboys From Hell, which for many fans was the first Pantera album worth paying any real attention to.

Cowboys From Hell — and most of their ’90s studio albums — was produced by Terry Date, who’d worked with Metal Church, Dream Theater and Soundgarden.

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Pantera was soon touring with Suicidal Tendencies and Skid Row, and in ’91 released their first home video, Cowboys From Hell: The Videos.

It was during this period that Phil Anselmo got the initials “C.F.H” (for “Cowboys from Hell”) tattooed on the side of his head. Darrell would get a similar tattoo on his shoulder.

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Pantera’s reputation grew exponentially with each new release, beginning in 1992 with their second album for East/West, Vulgar Display of Power, which featured the #1 single, “Mouth For War,” the first metal single to top the Billboard charts.

Their next album, Far Beyond Driven, released in March 1994, debuted at #1 on the U.S. and Australian charts.

Around this same time, “Diamond” Darrell decided to change his nickname to “Dimebag Darrell.”

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Pantera’s next album, The Great Southern Trendkill — loaded with allusions to drug abuse and personal destruction — was released on May 7th, 1996.

That same year, they would earn their first Grammy nomination for Best Metal Performance (for “Suicide Note Pt. I”).

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In addition to now headling their own tours, Pantera also opened for a few of their childhood idols — like KISS and Black Sabbath — and they released a live collection, Official Live: 101 Proof, which featured two new studio tracks, the first recordings produced by Dimebag Darrell and Vinnie Paul.

They were also nominated for another Best Metal Performance Grammy (for their live version of “Cemetery Gates”), and were soon back in the recording studio again too, with Darrell and Vinnie Paul producing tracks for their album Reinventing the Steel, which wasn’t released until March 21, 2000.

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Reinventing the Steel would end up being the final studio album by Pantera, who were falling apart due to internal struggles between the Abbott boys and Anselmo, who was busying himself with side projects that kept him away from Pantera.

The Abbott brothers were also ready to move on to a new project, disbanding Pantera and forming a new band, called Damageplan.

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Tragedy struck, however, on December 8, 2004, when Dimebag Darrell was shot five times and killed onstage while performing with Damageplan at Alrosa Villa, a small metal club in Columbus, Ohio.

His murderer — a paranoid schizophrenic former U.S. Marine named Nathan Gale — was killed by a police officer. Gale also killed three others during the rampage.

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On June 22, 2018, drummer Vinnie Paul died in his sleep at his home in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was 54.

Watch Pantera: Screaming Black Messiahs on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.