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Editorial: The Pantera Reunion Won’t Happen Because Dimebag Was the One Who Would’ve Spearheaded It

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Let me begin by saying that I never met or spoke with Dimebag Darrell. I’ve never met any of the members of Pantera either; I interviewed Rex once about his book, and Phil about the Housecore Horror Fest, but we never talked at any length about Pantera. This editorial is written based on what I’ve read about the band in articles and interviews, specifically interviews with Dimebag.

Okay? Okay. So:

For years, people have talked about the possibility of a Pantera “reunion.” Mayhem Fest tried to make it happen. Zakk Wylde has been officially sponsored as the guy to step in on guitars, but drummer Vinnie Paul Abbot has made it clear that it’s still not going to happen. And this is because there’s bad blood between Vinnie and frontman Phil Anselmo.

The accepted rumor is that Vinnie basically blames Phil for his brother’s death, but even if we brushed that aside as melodrama, Phil left Pantera under questionable circumstances. It was a weird time — Reinventing The Steel had just come out, everyone was talking about metal being “back,” and Phil wanted to focus on underground musical endeavors. He talked a lot of shit about the band and the Abbott brothers, and Pantera’s overall legacy, and fled the group to pursue other projects.

What everyone wants now is for Phil and Vinnie to set aside their differences, take the stage with Rex and Zakk, and play old Pantera tunes together.

But that ain’t going to happen, because the person who would’ve brought these guys back together was Dimebag Darrell. And he’s gone.

It’s easy to give Vinnie and Phil shit for their stubbornness and determination, but that’s unfair. Those guys’ principles are also their strengths. The vibe I always got (again, just a vibe, never knew these dudes) was that Vinnie was the businessman of the band, the guy who knew where his bread and butter were coming from. Vinnie has maintained a careful public image, and has several non-musical money-making endeavors. Phil, meanwhile, was the lifer, the dude who thrived on vitality and raw energy and the ugly things he believed, even when that got him in trouble (which, you know, it did). They were the opposite poles of Pantera’s image, the put-together heavy metal dude who loved Van Halen and the snarling gritty misfit in the Venom shirt (Rex played bass).

This allowed Dimebag to be what he was — the laid-back metal hippie, the dude who could party to Slayer and dress as Ace Frehley for Halloween. With one guy handling the numbers and another getting his knuckles bloody, Dimebag could flourish on his own. Even his less seemly characteristics sound laughably good-natured; only ever having a dimer’s worth of bud on him and being dragged out of a casino sobbing, “YOU DONE TOOK ALL MY MONEY!” are hilarious and sweet. That’s why Dimebag’s passing was as tragic as it was — he was the innocent, the best of us, living proof that being a metalhead could be a beautiful, positive thing.

Dimebag seems to have been the kind of person who could have bridged the gap between Phil and Vinnie. Obviously, his loyalties would lie first and foremost with his brother, but Dime and Phil appeared to have their own personal relationship, bonding over thrash and partying. Anselmo’s dark aesthetic appealed to Dime in certain ways — you can hear it in the riffs on Trendkill. More so, Dimebag had a ‘Life’s Too Short’ sort of attitude, and we’re now far enough out from Pantera’s breakup that I can’t help but wonder if he would’ve made the first move and suggested that a reunion take place.

Let’s pull the sentimental rug out from under this argument, though: let’s say Dime was still alive, but he and Phil had been coworkers, nothing more. We are currently in the age of bands you thought would never reunite reuniting. If Dime’s death hadn’t thrown such a dark veil over Pantera’s breakup, maybe the financial benefits of a reunion would have won the guys over. I picture Dime talking Vinnie down: Yeah, Phillip sucks, he’s a drama queen, but why give up a fortune for water under the bridge? Phil, Dime, Vinnie, and Rex would have pulled a GN’R and politely shared the stage together, and that would have been that, because no one fucking died.

Of course, this is all conjecture. Dime did die, and it left a stain on Pantera’s history forever. And for all I know, he wasn’t the easy-going chill dude I imagine him to be. It’s all well and good to wonder what Dimebag would be like if he were alive today, but maybe he actually fucking loathed Phil, or hated band reunions. Maybe the idea of getting back together for money would’ve made Dimebag sick. Who knows? I didn’t know the dude.

But if even a third of what I’ve heard said about him by his bandmates, friends, and loved ones is true, then Dime was a thoughtful and big-hearted guy. He would’ve understood Anselmo’s displeasure with Pantera as the kind of confrontational acting out that it was. He would’ve let time heal wounds. And he would’ve extended the olive branch (or Black Toothed Grin) towards the other members of Pantera in the hopes of getting the band back together.

The world lost so many things when Dimebag was so senselessly taken from us. I think we need to count a Pantera reunion among them.

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