PANTERA Cemetery Gates
Charlie Griffiths takes a fond look back at a classic track from everybody’s favourite Cowboy From Hell: Pantera’s Diamond ‘Dimebag’ Darrell.
A packed punch of a track from the muchmissed master of harmonic-infused metal riffs, Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell.
When Pantera released their breakthrough album Cowboys From Hell in 1990, it had a seismic effect on the metal world. By this point Pantera had already recorded four albums that were in more of an 80s hair metal style, but this album had a new sound with a perfect marriage of power grooves and virtuoso guitar playing, all delivered with a fierce, aggressive attitude. Pantera went on to release four more albums throughout the following decade and remained one of metal’s biggest bands until they eventually disbanded in 2003. Since his tragic and untimely death in 2004 Dimebag Darrell has become a legendary figure and his legacy continues to influence current metal bands such as Lamb of God, Trivium and Textures.
Cemetery Gates from Cowboys From Hell is one of the more dynamic tracks on the album, switching between ballad-like acoustic arpeggios and pinched, harmonic-infused metal riffs. The solo is both melodic and technically challenging and the final vocal and guitar screaming harmonic trade off between Phil Anselmo and Diamond Darrell (as he was credited) is the stuff of legend. All of Darrell’s main influences can be heard throughout the track; the acoustic arpeggios in the intro and verses are reminiscent of Randy Rhoads, the pinched harmonics hint of Billy Gibbons and the solo surely owes a debt to Eddie Van Halen. Dime’s riffing style is very percussive and focused and locks in solidly with his brother Vinnie Paul’s drumming.
To perform these riffs in the manner they were intended, you should hold your pick at an angle so that the edge hits the strings first to create a cutting attack and move your hand from the wrist while keeping your forearm relaxed. Daily practise for a few weeks will really help develop the stamina in your picking required for this type of aggressive attack. The solo contains a lot of techniques, but is essentially based on a blues style using primarily the minor Pentatonic scale b3- b7) b3(1- 4-5- and the Aeolian mode (1-2- 4b6-b7), 5- but also some chromatic passing notes. One of Dimebag’s trademarks is the wide-stretch three-notes-per-string Pentatonic shape, which he uses here towards the end of the solo. Arranging the scale as three-notes-per-string in this way means that a fast legato technique can be applied, creating a different sound than is possible with traditional two-notes-per-string shapes. Another feature of Dimebag’s lead and rhythm playing is his use of wide vibrato, which emanates from the wrist and effectively bends and releases the string by about a tone to produce a sustaining vocal sound. Be sure that your vibrato is not too fast as this can sound too ‘bluesy’ in style; metal vibrato is typically wide and slow.
Although the song is quite long, it has a fairly typical structure. First is the acoustic arpeggiated intro, which is the same as the clean verses. Riff-wise we have verse, bridge, pre-chorus and finally the melodic intro and the solo, which is clearly the biggest challenge. Finally, we have the natural harmonic whammy-bar screams. Break the song down into sections and work on them slowly and in isolation before connecting them all up and playing along with the backing track provided.
a feature of dime’s lead playing is his use of wide vibrato, which bends and releases the string by about a tone