Casting a Final Shadow: Pantera’s Latter Years

“The shadows: some hide, others reveal.”

– Antonio Porchia

By Forrest Green

“What the actual fuck???” 

“This is fucking awesome!” 

These were the first two thoughts that went through my head the first time I heard Pantera’s The Great Southern Trendkill

I was 12 years old and hanging out with my best friend Sam. Sam was always cooler than me; he’s the reason I play guitar and fell in love with heavy music. Up until that point, most of what I listened to was whatever was on the radio, or rehearsing for the school band. Quick shout out to my middle school band teacher who had the balls to try and teach a twelve year old some Coltrane on the tenor sax.

I never got anywhere close to being able to emulate one of the greatest musicians and innovators of all time, but dammit I tried. In all fairness to me and my undeveloped skill set, I never did get to see how good I could get while on heroin. Maybe I’d be ripping Giant Steps right now if Mr. E had the hook up. 

Anyways… 

One Saturday afternoon while hanging out and generally being jackasses like twelve year olds are wont to do, Sam pulled out a few CDs and said, “You’ve got to check this out” 

The first thing that struck me was the rattlesnake on the cover. Fucking badass!

The Great Southern Trendkill. That’s right!

Then, he hit play

Again, what the actual fuck?!

I had never heard anything so heavy and intense. The title track hit me like a freight train. Phil Anselmo (and guest vocalist Seth Putnam RIP) spent almost the entire track shredding their vocal chords with some of the most primal screaming I had ever heard. 

And that fucking guitar! I had no idea who Dimebag Darrell was. But, from that day forward, he was my favorite guitar player of all time, and a huge inspiration in all of my musical endeavors. For many of the albums most abrasive tracks (uh, which is pretty much all of them as this album does very little fucking around), I think Dimbebag actually recorded his guitar parts with a chainsaw. 

Dimebag Darrell, RIP

After getting punched in the face for a few minutes by the psychotic title track, I had a few seconds to catch my breath before getting smacked again by “War Nerve”. 

Holy shit this album was unrelenting. 

The subtlety and delicate nuances of the lyrics caught my attention as well: 

Fuck the world, for all it’s worth

Every inch of planet earth

Fuck myself, don’t leave me out… 

Geez Phil, tell us how you really feel. Actually, maybe don’t; that usually just gets you into trouble. 

The Great Southern Trendkill was recorded during a pretty volatile time for the band, and most of the album’s lyrics follow this bleak trend (I know, I know).  The feud between the brothers Abbott and Phil Anselmo, which would eventually lead to the bands’ demise, was in full effect.

Anselmo actually recorded all of his vocals 500 miles away from the rest of the band at Trent Reznor’s studio in New Orleans. The other band members laid down their instrumentals in Dallas.

Pantera has often said that Trendkill was in response to the popular music of the 90s, and what was considered “metal”. 

Pantera. L to R: Vinnie Paul, Dimebag Darrell, Phil Anselmo, Rex Brown

In 1996, the Billboard charts were dominated by the likes of Hootie and the Blowfish, Dave Matthews, Alanis Morisette, and the Fugees. Heavy music for a lot of people was still defined by the “big four” of the grunge era. The “Cowboys from Hell” had deemed this all to be very unmetal, and wanted to release the most abrasive and obnoxiously heavy album they could. 

Mission fucking accomplished.

Later into the album, the track “10’s” finally granted my ears a brief reprieve, and is one of the rare moments where things chill the fuck out for a few moments. Trendkill has plenty of killer guitar moments, but Dime’s solo on “10’s” is simply legendary. Single-handedly, this convinced me even further that playing guitar is what I wanted to do. 

Vinnie Paul’s double kicks are thunderous throughout, and lay down a rock-solid foundation with Rex Brown to create their patented power groove. Dime’s southern fried riffs and licks kill on every song. Phil’s maniacal, screaming-bloody-murder vocals add a deeper layer of chaos to the already insane, face shredding madness underneath. I fell in love with this album instantly, and was hooked on heavy metal ever since. 

Four years later, Pantera would release their final, severely underrated album, Reinventing the Steel

Reinventing the Steel. Fuck yeah!

I will always remember the day I purchased this album, as it coincided with one of the biggest album releases of the decade. 

Bye, Bye, Bye!

One word, three times, that still annoys the living shit out of me. 

This fucking song was EVERYWHERE, ALL THE TIME. You couldn’t turn on MTV without seeing this video being played every hour. This song and accompanying video launched N-Sync into superstardom.

No Strings Attached would sell 2.5 million copies IN THE FIRST WEEK! This was the fastest selling album of all time, and would remain so for the next fifteen years. 

No Strings Attached was eventually certified platinum 11 times over. Who would have thought that being young and good looking would pay off? 

Timberlake and the other couple of fellas.

On March 21, 2000. N-Sync dropped their record breaking album the same day as Pantera’s Reinventing the Steel

So, there’s me and old Mr. Iron Veins himself on a cloudy Tuesday morning. I’d like to say I drove us to the mall but I’m pretty sure Mom drove us in her minivan. Is there anything more fucking metal than having Mom take you to the mall in a purple Dodge Caravan to buy a Pantera record? I don’t think so, friends. 

We rolled into the mall, and quickly noticed a long line had already formed outside of Camelot Records. We strolled up to take our place in the ever growing line of tweens ready to spend their babysitting money on N-Sync’s latest offering. 

“So uh, are you gals here for the new Pantera, too?” 

“Sir please don’t talk to my daughter. I will call security if I have to.” 

N-Sync would win the week by a long shot, as it debuted at Billboard’s # 1, breaking multiple records along the way. Reinventing the Steel debuted at a respectable # 4, but would later become the first Pantera album that failed to be certified platinum. Me and Iron Veins did our part. 

Five months later we would also get to see Pantera live for the first time at Ozzfest 2000. Man, did they fucking deliver!

In 1996, I had a chance to see Pantera with White Zombie supported by a little known, up-and-coming band named Deftones. Unfortunately, Mom wouldn’t let me go. 

Fuck

Oh well, I can’t be mad at mom. She let me do a lot of adult shit when I was a kid. She bought me my first George Carlin albums when I was only ten years old, and raised my siblings and I on Arnold movies; Predator, The Running Man, and Terminator were some of my favorites. 

One of my first concert memories was when Mom and Dad took me to see Dizzy Gillespie when I was only 8 or 9 so that’s pretty fucking legit. But, shit it would have been awesome to see that concert. White Zombie’s Astro Creep 2000 was another record that I played a lot in those days, and seeing those two share the same stage would have been amazing. 

Pantera killed at Ozzfest though, and it was definitely more than a suitable consolation prize. The band was as tight as ever, and the tracks from Reinventing the Steel sounded so much better live. And that fucking encore: “Primal Concrete Sledge” into “Cowboys from Hell”. 

Unreal

For some unknown reason, Trendkill and Steel aren’t typically as highly regarded as the band’s previous three records. 

Cowboys From Hell, Vulgar Display of Power, and Far Beyond Driven are considered among the best heavy metal albums of all time. If you wanted to claim Driven as THE best metal album of all time, I would not argue with you. 

Pantera’s last two offerings still capture some of the band’s finest moments. “Yesterday Don’t Mean Shit”, “Goddamn Electric”, and “Death Rattle” are classics.

“Revolution Is My Name” competes with any song in their catalog for being the band’s finest track. Metal has always been a genre that showcases some of the best ripping and shredding the guitar has to offer. Among a sea of badassery, a select few tracks stand out. Two songs that fit the bill for best metal guitar pyrotechnics for me are Megadeth’s “Holy Wars/The Punishment Due”, and Metallica’s “One”. But, “Revolution Is My Name” certainly has to be included among these all time great guitar songs. 

From the squealing pinch harmonic intro, to the groove-ridden main riff, and the multiple killer solos, “Revolution” rips from beginning to end, and lets Dime pull out every trick he ever had. I’d like to think I did the man justice when we covered it for our high school talent show. My shreds were still in their infancy, but for a couple of high school kids I think we ripped it alright. 

Fittingly enough, Reinventing the Steel ends with the track “I’ll Cast a Shadow”. 

The end will crush the light

And sends a message, It won’t please

The naked eye

Without and end there is no light

To foretell, to blind you

The law of the claw reigns on and after still

When I die, I cast a shadow

And I’ll rise, I cast a shadow

By the end of 2001, Pantera would be no more. 

Even more tragic than the demise of one of the greatest metal bands of all time, was the murder of Dimebag just a few years later. Few celebrity deaths have had a very big effect on me personally, but there were two from my youth that really shook me up. The first was Chris Farley. 

As a fat kid who loved comedy, Chris Farley was one of my biggest childhood heroes. I have seen Tommy Boy and Black Sheep about a million times each, and I was one of maybe three people in the theater the day Almost Heroes hit the big screen. 

Chris Farley, RIP

As a kid, I never knew about the demons that would eventually overtake Farley; to me, he was just the funniest guy in the world. Most importantly to me, he was a fat guy who was COOL

Dimebag’s death was even more devastating. I cannot begin to describe the impact he had on my love for heavy music and guitar playing. Dimebag was not only the best, but he seemed like a genuinely good guy who just loved tossing back some drinks and ripping shit on stage. The fashion in which he was killed made it even more surreal. 

From Cowboys From Hell until the end of the ride, Pantera never released a weak album. No bullshit filler or dull songs, just killer tracks from beginning to end. Pantera have cited legends like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Van Halen, and Kiss as some of their biggest influences. Slayer, Metallica, Anthrax, and Megadeth are known as the “big four” of metal, and deservedly so. Pantera casts just as big a shadow as any of these bands, and for me personally, they ignited a lifelong love of heavy music.

Published by Iron Veins

A fan of metal.

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