Outside of the occasional viral clip where a dude plays Slayer on a banjo (or the crew from Slayer adopts a kitten), metal news tends to stay out of the mainstream. That tendency was out of effect, today (December 8), as publications such as Billboard remembered the tenth anniversary of "Dimebag" Darrell Abbot's murder onstage.
The guitarist, best known for his work with Pantera, was performing with his new band Damageplan at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, OH when a gunman rushed the stage, killing Abbott and three others, before being killed himself. The reasoning never became clear. Maybe he was upset about Pantera's dissolution, perhaps he believed Abbott had "stolen" one of his songs. We'll never know.
Dimebag's status as an icon has only solidified in the years after his death, praised as one of—if not the—most influential guitarists in metal history.
Music Times offers its own tribute with a showcase of his five most notable performances.
We'll get the obvious entry out of the way first: "Walk" tends to be the go-to selection when praising Abbott's style, and boy do people ever go to it: The heavy, walking riff is often featured among the "best riffs" of all time in a multitude of music publications. We'd disagree on it being labelled his "best" but there's no doubt that "Walk" showcases Dimebag's riffing ability like few other Pantera tracks. The simplicity in both the playing and the writing of the guitar part proves just how effortlessly Abbott could whip up riffs. It's rumored that he played the repetitive hammer-ons during a soundcheck and his bandmates couldn't get enough of it, leading to it being featured on Vulgar Display of Power. Rock fans haven't been able to get enough of it either, as it's easily the band's most popular song.
"I'm Broken" (1994)
Abbott may have needed chords to emphasize the riff from "I'm Broken" upon us (unlike "Walk") but, in our debatably esteemed opinion, no song has better summed up Dimebag as a guitar player. The chorus riff combines the best of both sides of Pantera's world: a crushing, heavy metal banger while maintaining the bluesy groove that led to the band being noted as the patron saint of groove metal bands. Throw in one of the best solos of his career and "I'm Broken" may be the best song in Pantera's catalogue. There was a time when "heavy metal" meant splitting from blues rock...Dimebag brought the two back together here.
"5 Minutes Alone" (1994)
Although Pantera could carry a groove to match many a dance-rock band, it was equally noted for moments of heavy-fisted head-banger moments, which fans affectionately refer to as "ass-stomp" riffs now. That term comes directly from "5 Minutes Alone," a song where vocalist Phil Enselmo lets some violent feelings out of his system. Dimebag interjects with an excellent, tremolo-heavy air-raid-siren solo, the rest of the band rejoins for an obvious build-up to...something. At its peak, Enselmo yells "ass stomp!" and Abbott joins his brother, drummer Vinnie Abbott, for one of the most stomp-worthy moments in music.
"A New Level" (1992)
The Pantera most people know is from the second half of the band's career. Up until 1990's Cowboys From Hell, Pantera had played a brand of heavy metal that bordered on hair/glam (seriously...check out the album to its 1983 debut Metal Magic). Cowboys introduced a new animal but Vulgar Display of Power grabbed critics and listeners by the throat. Although great single "Mouth For War" kicked off the album, we'd argue that "A New Level" best impressed the new ideology upon the world, stomping on small cities like a kaiju monster while Enselmo's lyrics of "a new level of confidence" seemed to apply to the band's sound as well.
"Yesterday Don't Mean S--t" (2000)
The band's last full-length, Reinventing The Steel, was far from its best songwriting to be sure, but it's tough to hate any guitar line played with as much authority as Abbott projected. One of our favorites from this album wasn't a single at all. Many reviewers commented on the throwbacks to the heavy metal influences of the band throughout the album and "Yesterday Don't Mean S--t" seems to be a big-time shout-out to Iron Maiden. Dimebag tends to get more recognition for his slower, lumbering riffs, but he could operate at a quicker pace as well. Although the lyrics are totally outside of the British metal world of Maiden, the gallop at which Abbott rides through the verses brings happy thoughts of "The Trooper" to be sure.