Hearing Chris Grube’s voice kinda shaky and fluttery has an unusually creepy and ominous quality to it. Not to say the guy is cold, but he is certainly stoic and very little phases him, so I knew when I answered the phone and heard ‘Man, this is fucked up’ coming from an unquestionably shaken Grube, I knew something terrible had happened.
“Man, this is fucked up.”
“Someone shot Dimebag…”
Amazing how 3 little words of such poignance could lay you out like a runway and land a 747-sized vehicle of disbelief on you like they did. I started scouring the news sites and making phone calls to get some kind of news that it was a mistake, or they had the wrong band (not that I wanted someone else to be hurt, I just didn’t want it to be HIM) or something to keep this nightmare from being a reality. Alas there was no solace to be found, my fears were founded, my hero was dead.
This isn’t a book report on Darrell ‘Dimebag’ Abbott. If you are looking for the life and times, this ain’t it. This is my tribute to him.
Some people can tell you the exact moment, where they were, what they were doing, what they were wearing when Kennedy got shot, or when the World Trade Centers were bombed, or when the Challenger blew up, etc… Those events don’t have nearly the sting to me as when Dimebag was slain. Of course I felt horrible for all of those people who died in the WTC bombings (and felt almost sorry for the bastards who did it at the vengence we would inact upon them), but I didn’t know them. I didn’t connect with them. They were just a mass of people whom I had never had the pleasure to meet or talk with, and certainly none of them changed my life for the worse or the better. I never got to meet the late Darrell Abbott and that pains me greatly, but I knew him.
The obsession started at Sweetwater Middle School, when we were moshing about and giving people shit while listening to D.R.I ‘Dealing With It’, ‘Thrashzone’ and Death’s ‘Leprosy’ and ‘Spiritual Healing’ (moment of silence for Chuck Schuldiner) I had heard that some new shit had dropped that would blow my mind. So I mowed someone’s yard and took my $9 bucks and bought Cowboys From Hell. About this same time my cousin Jason carved Metallica into his arm and it got infected, so my folks weren’t real keen on me listening to metal. I had to kinda sneak my Pantera fixes in when I could. That album alone changed my life forever. I mean I was already into metal, but not like this. Not a day would go by where Dave Bryant, David Wood, and I wouldn’t start an impromptu pit wherever we were and get others into it. Those future G-money pricks didn’t have a clue what we were doing (and probably still don’t) when we’d suddenly break into fits of violence on each other for the sake of fun and just went berserk. That’s what music you connect with does to you; it makes you let go and join in its mayhem. It’s spiritual. It’s emotional. It’s visceral… It’s metal.
We were more than fans: we were disciples. When Phil shaved his head, we shaved our heads. When ‘Diamond’ dyed his goatee, we wished we had facial hair (I’ve got that long damned goatee now). We would call WREKage (Atlanta’s Heavy Metal Radio on 91.1) every Friday and request some Pantera and Slayer. I got a guitar so I could learn to play CFH (as luck would have it, it was a lot harder to play than I first thought it would be, so I learned some Metallica instead and later got the knack of CFH).
I was a freshman in high school when a buddy of mine named Shane gave me a dubbed copy of Vulgar Display of Power that bumped Cowboys from Hell out of my tape deck. The tape was one of those shitty black tapes with a yellow label on it that simply said ‘PANTERA! VULGAR DISPLAY’ written haphazardly across it. The first side of it would play Walk, Mouth for War, A New Level, Fucking Hostile and cut out half of This Love right about the part where Phil would yell ‘NO… MORE… HEAD… TRI.’ *stop*. Hell, for about a year I didn’t know the song went any further than that, and I actually didn’t know the names of the songs until I bought my own damned copy when my tape had finally been played too many times.
I stayed up all night recording Headbangers Ball the night before the release of Far Beyond Driven. I saw when the fat guy lifted up his shirt to reveal the fresh lain ink with the skull with the drill bit being bored into it. I saw Phil’s little ‘I shaved my head for a reason’ speech while holding his big ass beer. I even saw the guys stomping around and trying to kick a football at Texas Stadium.
After that it was pretty much more of the same thing, they’d put out an album, we’d buy it, we’d listen to it till other people were sick of hearing it all the time and we’d do our thing. When we heard that Pantera had broken up, all of us were shocked but not surprised. We pretty much thought that was it, that was the end of what we held dear and we’d have to go out and find new stuff to occupy our cd players with. We bought ‘Down’ hoping it would click and didn’t. We listened to Necrophagia, it didn’t work. We listened to Superjoint and it was pretty damned good (and a great show) but it wasn’t complete and it wasn’t geniune ‘from the soul’ metal. It wasn’t until one day when I was surfing around the net looking for something to pass the time when I ran upon some talk of a new band with Vinne and Dime in it and ‘the dude who used to play guitar for Halford’ (Patrick Lachman). I was stoked! I recorded the debut on my Tivo when the guys were on Fuse with Juliya and watched it a dozen times right before I went and got ‘New Found Power. The first listen of Breathing New Life was all it took. I had found what I was looking for; it was metal with soul, it was metal with balls, it was Vinnie and Dime doing what they’ve always done so perfectly. I realized that it wasn’t the singer that made the music so geniune and personal, it was way deeper than that. So I went back and revisited my Pantera collection, listened to every song from Primal Concrete Sledge to 13 Steps to Nowhere and realized that what had been driving me the entire time was the music itself. It was a pair of brothers that seemed to play entirely out of each others’ heads instead of by ear. It was one of the most gifted axe men to ever walk the face of the planet. It was everything they did they did perfectly.
So when that phone rang and Grube told me the news, I felt like I had lost a very close friend.
I raise a shot of Jager up to you Dime, we love you and miss you…
Staff Writer – Music Incider Magazine