The 25 Most Important People in Metal: #11, Dimebag Darrell
As much as metal is a genre of music and a lifestyle, it is also a community. And like all communities, it has its leaders — men and women whose work, be it by design or circumstance, affects all lovers of extreme music on a regular basis.
Throughout November, MetalSucks will celebrate these industry leaders by counting down The 25 Most Important People in Metal one per day. To be clear, this is a list of the people we believe are most important to metal today, in 2016 — not necessarily the most important people overall in the entire history of the genre. Some of them are musicians. Many of them are not. Some of them are people you’ve heard of. Many of them work behind the scenes and do not routinely get to take a bow. But they all have one thing in common: more than just cogs in a machine, they are truly, undeniably irreplaceable.
SPOILER ALERT: Dime is the only deceased individual to make it onto this list. That’s because this is a list of the most important people in metal TODAY, in 2016, and as much as we love and miss Ronnie James Dio, Lemmy Kilmister, Jeff Hanneman, and any number of other great musicians with great import to the overrall history of metal, the shadow of Dime looms larger over modern metal than all others.
Obviously, this is, at least in part, due to the way Dime died. His assassination (which, we should never forget, left three other people dead in addition to Dimebag) is often referred to as “The 9/11 of Heavy Metal,” and while that seems a bit dramatic when you contrast the consequences of the two events, it’s easy to see why people make the comparison: every metal fan remembers where they were when they heard the news, and that news was wholly shocking because, unlike the aforementioned musicians, he was not struggling with any health issues at the time of his death. Death at the hand of Nature can be heartbreaking, but it’s never as tragic as death at the hands of Man. Dime would have turned fifty this past summer, and we have little reason to believe he wouldn’t still be with us today if not for the deplorable actions of one insane dickweed. The fact that Dime was murdered on the anniversary of John Lennon’s own death at the hands of a so-called “fan” almost seems too neat to be coincidental. That Nathan Gale took Dime’s life while Dime was on the stage — the metal lovers’ church — just makes the whole thing that much worse. It was a violation of the trust between musician and fan, and the fact that anyone even allows stage diving anymore despite this betrayal is something of a miracle.
But while a musician being killed in such a fashion would be appaling regardless of the victim, the loss hurt twice as much because at the time of his death, Dime had already carved a deep, deep, deep niche for himself in the metal history books. When MetalSucks polled the industry to determine The 25 Best Metal Bands of All Time in 2014, Pantera came in at number five… above bands like Megadeth (who had once nearly recruited Dime), Judas Priest, and Motörhead, and just one spot below Metallica. Pantera didn’t just impact metal — they left a massive goddamn crater in its surface, and Dime had as much or more to do with that than any other member of the band. He was a great musician, a true titan, and The People’s Hero to boot, known industry-wide for his pleasing demeanor and willingness to interact with fans.
And keep in mind, when Dime was killed in 2004, metal was still just starting to get the bad taste of the Limp Bizkits and Kid Rocks out of it collective mouth, so Dime was probably even more revered than he would have been had he come along later… although he really couldn’t have come along later — his playing and riff-writing style influenced the New Wave of American Heavy Metal as much as that of At the Gates or anyone else.
On top of all of that, Pantera were one of the last metal bands to get really big — like, household name big — before the music industry began to fall apart, and they did it without ever compromising their sound. The worst albums they ever made were still heavy as fuck and, honestly, pretty good, lacking only when compared to other Pantera albums. No one, anywhere, has ever dared to deny that this was largely because of Dime’s extraordinary guitar playing.
It’s all of these factors combined that keep Dime relevant more than a decade after his death. His playing continues to influence metal all these years later, and the mere act of invoking his name is a holy ritual — just look how people flipped out when whatever that band was called dared to desecrate his grave a few years ago. Dime has always inspired a cult-like devotion, and continues to do so today. And, we suspect, will keep on doing so long after most of us are gone.
THE LIST SO FAR
#25: Mark Riddick
#24: Robb Flynn
#23: Rob Scallon
#22: Kim Kelly
#20: Rob Halford
#19: Ash Avildsen
#18: Steve Joh
#17: Karim Peter
#16: Misha Mansoor
#15: Dan Rozenblum
#14: Joey Sturgis
#13: Randy Blythe
#12: Amy Sciarretto